We came so close.
Following years of Blood Dolls and Dangerous Worry Dolls and Doll Graveyard, it seemed like 2013's Shortening was finally going to bypass the endless ouvre of Charles Band. As much as the man has had his name as producer on some of cinema's greatest vertically challenged hits (Dolls, Troll), his full-out directorial efforts generally leave something to be desired, primarily, the very idea OF effort.
Hey, if I could make a killer doll movie with the same amount of work it takes to cook a burrito, I'd have 35 credited to my name too.
Goobers came my way via my esteemed colleague and pal, T.L. Bugg, the keeper of the splendiforous blog, The Lightning Bug's Lair. Considering this is the man I once made watch The Nutcracker In 3D, it's only fair that he eventually pay me back with the kind of cheapie kids movie that feels akin to a flea bite.
Quick Plot: A boy named Tommy starts a new job working on a children's show about a wacky sea captain and his band of ugly puppets. Little does he know, the ugly puppets (seriously: they're hideous) are actually alien slaves to a cruel alien queen named Mara (one name, "like Roseanne") who's returning to earth to claim them. Meanwhile, Tommy decides to investigate the ugly puppet mystery while his female costar chides him for being unprofessional.
Let's get one thing out of the way: the puppets are positively disgusting.
There's Squigby, whose name sounds like what you'd call the geeky dirty kid at summer camp
Esmerelda, who constantly moans as if dubbing a softcore porn
And Blop, whose name and appearance suggests the thing that happens when you sit on a toilet
It all makes perfect sense for a kids movie, right?
Ever buy a Barbie wannabe from a dollar store? They're dolls that hold a vague resemblance to Mattel's famous blond, except the construction seems to be made from the kind of plastic packaging that holds Barbies in place in boxes. Their legs are hollow, arms only move up and down, and faces seems as if they were made by photocopying the blueprints for a more expensive toy, then morphing it over a bouncy ball and adding a nose. The point is, they’re cheap and ugly...much like everything about Goobers.
This is not to say the movie is completely without fun. As Queen Mara and her evil henchman, Caroline Ambrose and Sam Zeller make a campy pair who have no shame going for the broad humor. The younger actors are passable, even when they’re stuck interacting with some of the ugliest art projects ever assembled for the camera. For whatever reason, there’s a subplot involving Tommy’s dad having a baseball card collecting addiction, which seems strange even for 1997, but if it helps Band achieve a 75 minute running length, I guess that’s all that really matters.
While none give Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards-level performances, the young cast is sufficiently tolerable with material that isn’t always up to par
Much like the similarly clueless Kazaam, Goobers seems to have no idea what kind of stories kids actually want to watch. Whereas Shaquille O’Neal’s genie had to battle evil concert bootleggers, the major climax of Goobers relies on reading the fine print of contract negotiations
For a child actor, nothing is more horrifying than the Big P
Chekhov’s Law of Baseball Cards: If you feature a rare one, you best have an ugly poop-looking puppet destroy it
Superior beings fart a lot
Goobers (aka Mystery Monsters) is streaming on Netflix, which is the only way you should watch it. Fans of Charles Band’s style (i.e., cheap production values, grotesque little things, and scant running length) will find this a minor dose of something new, as he uses his quick tricks for a so-called kids film.
It just happens to involve a dose of torture.
And LOTS of farting.