terrible movies

31

If Malcolm McDowell (no stranger to terrible movies) heeded the advice of the film agent he played on Entourage…well, he’d have told himself to pass on Rob Zombie’s 31, a boring, ugly, stupid, awful misfire that makes RZ’s Halloween reboot look like the summit of achievement.

31 sees Rob Zombie channeling Quentin Tarantino with another number— the 70s — rehashing the sepia and grunge that gave his earlier works their Texas Chainsaw Massacre aesthetic, + slick QT-talk like “the dirtier the work, the luckier you get.”

To quote Steely Dan’s Dirty Work,
“Times are hard
You’re afraid to pay the fee
So you find yourself somebody
Who can do the job for free…”

It’s pretty pathetic for someone as rich and successful as Rob Zombie to crowd-fund their art, essentially double dipping as it’s getting people to pay for a finished product, not once, but twice. Thankfully, this reviewer happened upon 31 through a library digital streaming service, Hoopla.

But no fanfare for this tale, about a bunch of carnival freaks in a touring van who are forced to fight to the death in a game of the same name — 31.

It’s painstakingly drab, cheap-looking, and not even juiced by the presence of a wrinkly, baked-in-the-hot-sun Meg Foster or a neo-Nazi midget (if you can’t shock with a neo-Nazi midget, then it’s time to find another line of work).

One thing 31 has going for it, sorta, is McDowell camping it up like a powder-wigged Amadeus harlequin, the Svengali figure who goes by the name of  Father Napoleon-Horatio-Silas Murder…Why? It’s just pseudo-smart syllable multiplication, speaking of numbers…

Harlequins, carny folk, big tops…It’d be nice to see RZ put aside his clown obsession. Then again, it’s even bled into his other business as well: he and his band performed the Grand Funk Railroad classic rock radio chestnut “We’re an American Band,” on Kimmel, bedecked in clown make-up, which provided more frights than this.

Variety nailed it with their take: [31 is a] “fanboy’s highlight reel of homages, without any of the credibility or context that made most of the films he’s inspired by so fine.”

*1/2 (out of 5)

[Listen to us talk House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects!]

The Love Guru

There are two directions a film called The Love Guru can go: either a send-up of easy answer self-help inspirational culture of the kind that’s infested Instagram, or a satire of cults and their acolytes (interestingly, the line between these is often blurred).

When you don’t delve deeply enough into either, you’re stuck in a comedy middle ground, a laugh-less purgatory.

The indelible pop culture juggernaut that is Austin Powers could make sport of his own sexual inadequacy, toy with action film convention, and of course, mine the wealth of material that is the James Bond franchise. However, Guru Pitka, the title character in The Love Guru, is as under-developed as some of the Saturday Night Live-character-based full-length features.  In fact, even though its genesis is elsewhere, the bearded guru character feels like it was workshopped in front of Lorne Michaels, and kiboshed before making it to air.

The Love Guru is pretty grim stuff indeed, and a shame too as it’s unabashedly Canadian, peppered with arcane references to a storied (well, infamous and perpetually terrible) Toronto hockey team (and its owner) and featuring our national game in all its glory. And there’s a wealth of supporting talent in the form of Stephen Colbert, Justin Timberlake, and others.

The Guru is brought in to help one of the Leafs’ star players reconcile with his wife, who’s left him for a French-Canadian goalie. He figures this will catapult him to the top of the self-help heap, currently occupied by Deepak Chopra.

This threadbare plotting paves the way for loads of Myers’ cheeky innuendo and awful punning, the kind that a character as lovably lecherous as Austin Powers could get away with — but not so here. Especially when he’s laughing at his own tepid jokes.

Vern Troyer (as Coach Punch Cherkov…yep, that’s the kind of humor we’re dealing with) is the subject of a terrific gag involving his scaled-to-size office, however that’s possibly The Love Guru’s sole guffaw.

And with an 87-minute run-time, it still feels heavily padded (there are three, count ’em three, musical numbers, none of which is inspired).

Painful stuff.

*1/2 (out of 5)

[Be sure to check out our podcast of The Love Guru on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]!