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Hacks (July 3/04)

Hacks is a faux documentary that makes Christopher Guest's films look bland and innocuous in comparison. The term "politically correct" clearly means nothing to writer/director/co-star Glenn Rockowitz, who peppers the film with jokes guaranteed to offend viewers that don't share his offbeat sense of humor (ie if you're a big fan of Everybody Loves Raymond, this probably isn't the movie for you). But if you're willing to go with Rockowitz's brave approach (and you've got to be brave to make incest jokes), there's no denying that Hacks is one of the funniest movies to come along in a long while.

Starring a number of real-life comics as comics, the film follows two somewhat inept talent agents - Lucius Diamond (Rockowitz) and Baxter Hutz (David G. Cohen) - as they attempt to prepare several of their comedians for an outdoor comedy show. In the mix are: Otis Jackson (Victor Varnado), a black albino with an unfortunate tendency for alienating his audience; John "Roachy" Galt (John Roach), whose act seems to consist entirely of impressions nobody under the age of 30 will get; Slappy (Angela Muto), the group's lone female comic who relies on her husband to let her know how a joke is going; and Dhrupick (Mark Yuhasz), a bizarre Andy Kaufman imitator who doesn't even speak.

Though the film is meant to play as a phony documentary, Rockowitz doesn't entirely stay within the confines of that genre (this is made fairly obvious once the first flashback shows up). However, it's clear that Rockowitz has done this just to throw in more gags and jokes - and given that the majority of them are quite funny, it's easy enough to forgive him for deviating from his own structure. Likewise, the grainy and gritty look of the movie does take a while to get used to, though it's probably a safe bet this was necessitated by the obvious low budget.

But really, who's watching a movie like this for interesting stylistic choices? All that really matters is whether or not the film is funny, and it's there that Hacks excels. Thankfully, Rockowitz doesn't concern himself with giving the audience sympathetic characters to relate with - a fact not lost on the various actors, who are clearly reveling in the ability to be as offensive as they'd like. This is particularly true of Roach, who has a hilarious scene in which he's playing to a group of kids (though his crowd typically consists of retirees). After spotting a young girl, he tells her, "if you were my little girl, every night would be bath night" - a comment that understandably angers the audience, and is fairly indicative of just how far the film is willing to go.

Hacks obviously isn't for everyone, but for those willing to embrace the film's subversive attitude, there are plenty of genuine laughs to be had.

out of

© David Nusair