Sometimes a video sweeps you away into it's magical world of visual narration. Other videos beg you to come along with them in spite of your better judgement. There are even some rare videos that would force the most inert couch-dweller to bathe the room in silent darkness and venture into the bright sun of the video-free outdoors.
These three videos are all good to watch, and their relative ratings have to do with the ease with which I was carted up into their comedic realms. Did the phone ring? Did the sun set? Did my famous yam lasagna burn? The degree to which I was helplessly enthralled by the pretty pictures informs this review.
BASEketball is the unlikely tale of two losers who invent the next national pastime, a game of the same name. The "two crass losers make it big" story is entirely appropriate to writers and stars Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of TV's South Park, the latest rude cartoon craze, as if you didn't know. In fact, one of the thrilling moments in BASEketball is seeing Trey Parker speak like Cartman by lifting his shoulders up to his ears and puffing out his face-I always wondered how he did that voice!
The new national pastime is an unlikely mix of HORSE, baseball, and juvenile name-calling and gross-outs. The distraction factor in this video is high for the first 30 minutes of narration as BASEketball goes from driveway play to national pastime in five story-years. The rest of the plot depends upon this steep ramp-up, so it's necessary when viewing not to let anything else call your attention. During this first crucial act, you may be tempted to blow off the entire movie as patently ridiculous and not worth the low-brow yuks. But if you manage to get to act two, you will find yourself in a state of having accepted the purely fanciful premise and can settle back to enjoy all the low-brow yuks. And you'll be treated to the Hollywood-style denouement at the end: 30 bonus minutes of wacky outtakes.
Pratfalls, visual gags, sick tricks, slams, cuss words, anxious sexual innuendoes, morgue laughs, and groaners are plentiful enough for any Airplane or Naked Gun afficionado; and Stone and Parker carry off this style of comedy like trained professionals. Since berating the opponent is part of game play, opportunity abounds for humorous slander-why, it's almost like watching South Park!
Which brings us to SouthPark, Volume 7-or was it 8? One episode has the redoubtable Chef leading the tots on a world dodge-ball tour against their will. Meanwhile, back home, the entire town celebrates the deformity of the school nurse, a quiet woman who has a dead, desiccated fetus attached to the side of her face. It's full of funny lines and zingers. The other episode has hunters Uncle Jimbo and his sidekick hunting the Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka or something to that effect. The jokes in these episodes are strangely telegraphed, or perhaps the humor becomes altogether too predictable after seeing a dozen of them, plus a feature-length film, plus spin-off films by the show's creators.
Anyway, let's turn our attention to the one and only Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers stars in The Party as an Indian actor, who I'll call Harun because I can't quite recall the character's name. Harun has come to Hollywood and although he ruins the film he has been invited to America to star in, he still manages to get invited to a swank Hollywood party by the picture's producer. The story is an exploration of awkwardness as our friendly but way-out-of-place protagonist manages about every faux pas possible, from accidentally flinging a whole cornish game hen into the hairdo of a fellow diner to clogging the toilet and then destroying a large section of the bathroom floor. Each time something spills, falls apart, or misfires, Harun can be seen standing at the far end of the swimming pool, the furthest point from the scene of the crime.
Amazingly, the Party shifts. Other characters become the epicenter of boobery, especially a drunken waiter who carries the panache of Buster Keaton to the role. Slowly Harun manages to loosen up and enjoy himself, adding life to the festivities. At last his Indian nature comes through-especially after an elephant shows up at the party-and his laughter loses it's desperate quality, becoming heart-felt and genuine. And he gets the girl-in a very gentlemanly way.
Sellers is excellent here. He's a master of the lost art of subtlety in comedy. He is able to twidle his comedic adjustor from overt to subtle with ease, blending flavors of comedy from slapstick to wordplay and everything in between.
Not to sound like a curmudgeon-because I do like insensitive cartoons-but it's hard to beat some of those classic comedies.
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.