Three Comedies from Paramount
The Blue Iguana (November 3/08)
An unusually irritating misfire, The Blue Iguana transpires within a surreal alternate universe populated almost exclusively by sleazy thugs, double-crossing vixens, and hopelessly over-the-top heroes. The aggressively off-kilter storyline follows bounty hunter Vince Holloway (Dylan McDermott) as he's blackmailed into stopping an illegal money transfer by a pair of eye-rollingly quirky tax agents (Tovah Feldshuh's Vera and Dean Stockwell's Carl), with the bulk of the film subsequently revolving around Vince's various misadventures within the seedy border town of Diablo. Filmmaker John Lafia's efforts at sending up the film noir genre fall uniformly flat, as the writer/director consistently places the emphasis on elements of a distinctly (and egregiously) silly nature. This is certainly reflected in the almost uniformly broad supporting performances; Lafia has, with very few exceptions (ie Pamela Gidley's unexpectedly compelling turn as a femme fatale type), extracted some seriously obnoxious portrayals from otherwise capable actors, with Feldshuh and Stockwell's nails-on-a-chalkboard work certainly standing head and shoulders above their less-than-enthralling colleagues. It would, of course, be a whole lot easier to accept the rampantly inept atmosphere if Lafia were able to elicit even a single laugh from the viewer, yet the filmmaker's incompetence extends even to the movie's so-called humorous interludes - as The Blue Iguana suffers from an influx of lame, woefully unfunny instances of comedy (ie a gun battle is punctuated with shooting-gallery sound effects). Lafia's dogged efforts at transforming the movie into a cult classic subsequently fall entirely flat, and it's ultimately difficult to envision a more unpleasant and flat-out annoying contemporary comedy.
Though hardly as awful as one might've expected, Drillbit Taylor suffers from an aggressively bland modus operandi that slowly-but-surely transforms it into the cinematic equivalent of background music (ie the movie passes the time in a completely non-threatening, entirely forgettable manner). The film follows a trio of put-upon high schoolers (Nate Hartley's Wade, Troy Gentile's Ryan, and David Dorfman's Emmitt) who decide to hire their own personal bodyguard after running afoul of two particularly nasty bullies (Alex Frost's Filkins and Josh Peck's Ronnie), though - unbeknownst to them - the man that they've chosen for the job (Owen Wilson's Drillbit Taylor) is actually a scheming hobo. Screenwriters Kristofer Brown and Seth Rogen have peppered Drillbit Taylor with a number of admittedly humorous asides and references - ie the inspired use of a music cue from Cape Fear - and yet the eye-rollingly familiar trajectory of the film's storyline does prove effective in negating its more overtly positive attributes. Having said that, Brown and Rogen deserve credit for ensuring that the inevitable discovery of Drillbit's true identity isn't handled quite as melodramatically as one might've anticipated - with the fake break-up that occurs between Drillbit and a fellow teacher (Leslie Mann's Lisa) handled especially well. This is hardly enough to forgive the oppressively innocuous atmosphere, however, and Drillbit Taylor ultimately lives up to its reputation as a rare misstep for producer Judd Apatow.
The Love Guru
There exists the very real possibility that The Love Guru might just be the most puerile mainstream movie ever made, as the proceedings have been jam-packed with a whole host of exceedingly silly and downright vulgar jokes and gags (ie two characters battle it out with urine-soaked mops). The wafer-thin premise - which revolves around legendary self-help guru Pitka (Mike Myers) as he attempts to cure a famed hockey player's (Romany Malco's Darren Roanoke) disastrous dry spell - has been stretched virtually to its breaking point, with screenwriters Graham Gordy and Myers generally content to eschew plot in favor of loosely-strung together comedic vignettes. It does become clear that those attuned to Myers' off-the-wall sensibilities will find more to embrace here than others, although even the comedian's most ardent devotees will be hard-pressed to overlook the increasingly hit-and-miss nature of the film's structure. Myers' expectedly effective performance does go a long way towards keeping things tolerable, yet there's little doubt that his ferocious mugging does tend to leave his co-stars in the dust (Justin Timberlake's scene-stealing work as Roanoke's cocky rival Jacques Grande proves to be the sole exception to this). The end result is an effort whose overtly juvenile modus operandi will undoubtedly thrill and delight pre-pubescent boys, while leaving most other folks with little choice but to roll their eyes at Myers' relentlessly broad shenanigans.