Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another Buggish Swap, This Time With 2x More Jan Brady

"Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."--Someone

"Writing about bad movies is easy. Writing about comedies is hard."--Me

The only people that challenge us more than our enemies are generally our dearest friends, and that's probably why the one and only T.L. Bugg used this month's movie swap to assign me Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury. It's not that it's not my KIND of film--a meta movie-within-a-movie lampooning made-for-cheap '80s action romps? Sign me up!--but more the fact that I find reviewing comedies to be incredibly difficult. Sure, if we're talking about unintentional comedies--Twilight, Cool As Ice, and the like--then the words seep through my MacBook like a blue liquid in the offbrand maxipad on a commercial for Kotex. But straight-out humor is hard to discuss. Over at The Lightning Bug's Lair, I've repaid my debt by sending the Bugg to Instant Watch for the 1993 ...And God Spoke, an underrated mockumentary with juicy cameos from Soupy Sales, Andy Dick, Lou Ferigno and more. To find out if he had as hard a time writing and as good a time watching, head on yonder.

But enough stalling. Let's get wet.

Quick Plot: Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury is essentially presented as the special edition watching experience of Poolboy 2. Are you confused yet?

Our director, writer, producer, dubber, and occasional actor Saint James St. James (ACTUAL writer Ross Patterson,  a game performer with an eerie vocal resemblance to Will Arnett's GOB Bluth) serves as our narrator of sorts, announcing we’re about to watch the long out-of-print film he made as an entitled one-eyed 10-year-old in 1990. Throughout the main narrative of Poolboy 2, St. James interrupts to give us some behind-the-scenes tidbits, such as why one character in a group shot was shot on green screen (because he was in prison), why flubs weren’t edited out (because a non-actor pulling a gun on your crew sells tickets), and why there’s not much nudity (St. James didn’t understand that “more nudity” didn’t mean “more penises” to the studio).

As you can probably guess, Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury is not a traditional film. It’s a fictional making-of detailing a fictional Rambo knockoff about a Vietnam vet (Kevin Sorbo as John Van Hammer playing Sal Bando—got that?) who promised his fallen soldier friend that they would open a pool cleaning business together, only to return to California to discover all such companies are now owned by—gasp!—Mexicans. In a sort of reversal of Machete, Bando becomes a crusader for white American rights, eliminating anyone who steps in his way with EXTREME prejudice.

Sure, the Mexicans in town aren’t innocent, having murdered his cheating wife and sorta son (or at least, drowned dummies that vaguely resembled them). Under the control of—whaddya know! --Machete and more importantly, 7 Mummies’ Danny Trejo, Bando’s town becomes a hotbead of violence as he skims some pools, goes to parties hosted by Children of the Corn’s grown-up Malachai, and has sex with inflatable dolls/neighborhood blonds. One of whom is played by…


I’m not embarrassed to say I saw 1995’s The Brady Bunch Movie three times in the theaters. I found and still find it to be insanely enjoyable, as is its slightly lesser followup, A Very Brady Sequel. One of its secret weapons was Jennifer Elise Cox’s charmingly mad performance as Jan and thusly did it bring a Marcia Marcia Marcia bright smile to my face to see Ms. Cox show up as one of Bando’s most loyal clients.

But guess what? It gets better!

You see, the gods of movie recommendations looked upon we two bloggers, one from the northern Bronx hood and the other strumming a banjo made from dead pool cleaners' skin on his South Carolinian porch (that's how I imagine he spends weekends not spent at HorrorHound) and bestowed upon us a gift: TWO JAN BRADYS! As Cox costars in Poolboy, so does the original Jan Eve Plumb playing Noah’s wife (actually, playing Eve Plumb PLAYING Noah’s wife) in …And God Spoke.

So that's exciting. At least if you're me.

But back to Poolboy! Or the making of Poolboy 2! I'm still confused!

Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury (the real one on Instant Watch) is a fun, deliberately goofy homage of sorts to the kinds of filmed-in-the-Philippines action romps you now find rusting in the gray market. If you don't have much love for that sub sub sub genre, I don't imagine you'll find Poolboy overly amusing, although much of its randomness might work for the kinds of comedy fans who dug Wet Hot American Summer before it was cool to do so (or maybe I just like to use that comparison because I'm one of the few truly cool people who did and I like to brag about it).

I found Poolboy an odd viewing experience because initially, it seemed positively genius. As the film went on, the hit vs. miss percentage of the jokes became a little more evenhanded. For a lot of them, the idea of the joke was amusing--terribly dubbed actors, for example--though the final execution felt a tad off. I won't say it was director Garrett Brawith's fault necessarily, especially since he demonstrates a wonderful strength with getting his actors (be they Jason Mewes or Courtney Gains) to nail the tone to near perfection. Maybe the new filmmaking team just need a little more time in honing style, but it's a minor criticism for something that proudly declares itself wacky and follows up on it in every scene.

High Points
One of the biggest faults of so many spoofs is that they cave in to tradition and try to force actual heart or development on their not-supposed-to-be-real characters. Poolboy thankfully avoids such a trap and instead, everybody and thing onscreen exists solely for our laughs. Sure, not all of them work, but I admire the filmmakers' spirits in going all out

Kevin Sorbo has a fairly thankless role here in playing a mediocre action star that deliberately lacks the charisma or talent of his more famous peers. When you think about how he downplays it, his performance here is actually incredibly generous, letting both Sal AND John come across exactly as they should

Low Points
As explained above—including my own inability to write well about comedy—there are simply some jokes that, well, don’t quite work

Lessons Learned
Nobody hates Menudo. Everybody in the world loves Menudo!

The present participle of ‘rap’ has two p’s

Answering the phone a thrust before orgasming will have serious effects on a man

Comedies are perhaps the hardest types of films to recommend or warn against because even if I KNOW you, it doesn't NECESSARILY mean I'll know what makes you laugh on any given day. Poolboy made me laugh, then made me not, then made me laugh again. I think some film audiences--particularly those with a soft spot for third world country '80s action cinema--will appreciate a lot of the jokes in Poolboy simply from a movie fan point of view, even when plenty of them don't really snap as sharply as we’d like. If nothing else, you can thoroughly ravage IMDB spotting all the cameos, with everyone from Richard "Al" Karn to Ahmed "JarJar" Best popping up in small roles. 

Want more meta comedy about the making of a low budget bad film? Head on over to The Lightning Bug’s Lair for T.L. Bugg’s thoughts on …And God Spoke. It's guaranteed to have equal parts Jan Brady!


  1. I definitely plan to watch this movie soon enough!

    By the way, did you know that there was a SECOND Bollywood Nightmare on Elm St? Well there is, and it has the same problems that Mahakaal does, from it's happy and ssuperfluous (and six minute long!!!!!) musical numbers to it being over two hours! And it does the tv death scene, the tongue-tied one, and a hilariously scaled down version of Glen's liquidy demise!


    (I'd have had a review of them both up already, but I have to wait for May, because of May Monster Madness!)

  2. There's a Mahakaal 2? Does it have as much amazing gay subtext as Freddy's Revenge (my new favorite of the series, btw). More importantly, does Freddy finally SING?

    I anxiously await your review.

  3. It's not actually a sequel to Mahakaal, but it's a separate movie, made a few years prior. There's no homoerotic subtext and the make-up for 'Ranjit' looks like a burnt fish. As for Ranjit himself, he tries the tried and true Shakal method!-or it's the Ranjit mmethod, this was made first-all he does is laugh! But dayuum he racks up a huge body count! (At the end of Dream Warriors, was there a big showdown with several remaining teens against Freddy while Nancy destroyed the bones?)

  4. While Nancy's boyfriend destroyed the bones, yes. RIP the Wizard Master!