Monday, May 30, 2016

Run, Ronnie, Run (2002) - David Cross #15

Director: Troy Miller
Runtime: 86 minutes 

This is it people, David Cross's time to shine as a leading man.  This actually isn't the first time Cross has played the titular Ronnie Dobbs, as he was a recurring character on Cross and Odenkirk's HBO sketch series, Mr. Show (1995-1998). The sketch show origin of the character makes itself felt, as numerous brief sketches are interlaced throughout the film.  In fact, the film starts with two sketches, the first a cartoon parodying the famous "Let's All Go the Lobby" bit, where everything, including the toilets, are smiling and anthropomorphic. 

The film is then introduced by the "film valedictorian of Hollywood," who later interrupts the film.

We meet Ronnie, a southern redneck who wants to get back together with Tammy (Jill Talley), his ex-wife and the mother of his children (named Little Ronnie, Middle Ronnie, and Little Middle Ronnie).  But he ends up getting arrested on an episode of FUZZ (basically COPS), leading Tammy to reject him.  Meanwhile, struggling Hollywood producer Terry Twillstein (Bob Odenkirk) discovers that Ronnie has been arrested on FUZZ numerous times, in fact, Ronnie has a unique talent for getting arrested wherever he goes.  So Twillstein goes to Ronnie's hometown, and makes a deal with the Sheriff and soon-to-be Governor (M. C. Gainey), to release Ronnie into his custody in exchange for promising that Ronnie will never return to the state.  From here we have the rise and fall of a celebrity narrative, frequently interlaced with sketches, ranging from a scene from a Survivor parody to a music video by Cross and Odenkirk's Mr. Show R&B group, Three Times One Minus One:

As much as I enjoyed this movie, it's become a bit dated.  When this came out, reality TV as we know it was in its infancy, with only a couple competition shows (most notably Survivor, which gets parodied more than once in Run Ronnie Run) having large audiences.  The idea of an entire tv series based around one person doing stupid things was just a funny concept, as opposed to an accurate description of numerous popular programs.  A lot of content that was original in 2002 has become so overdone in the last decade and a half that it loses some of its humor.

That said, the movie is a lot of fun, especially if you're a fan of Mr. Show.  There are cameos by Jack Black and Jeff Goldblum, and appearances by all the Mr. Show regulars.  In addition to a number of actual sketches, much of the movie is structured like a sketch show, with a lot of scenes being somewhat self-contained like the new age therapy session:

So if you like good 90s sketch comedy, give Run Ronnie Run a watch.


The Cross Section:

This doesn't really apply, as this is probably the only film where Cross is the lead actor.  He plays Ronnie Dobbs for the most part, as well as brief stints as other characters (like the R & B singer in the above picture).  


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Scary Movie 2 (2001) - David Cross #14

Director: Keenen Wayans
Runtime: 83 minutes        

As a teenager I watched the first four Scary Movie installments, and I remember thinking that Scary Movie 2 was the worst of the lot.  Rottentomatoes suggests I'm not alone in this judgment. (The first four films are rated 53%, 15%, 36%, and 37%, respectively.)  The first Scary Movie (2000) brought the genre spoof back into the limelight.  While of course genre spoofs existed before (and perhaps hit their zenith with Airplane! (1980)) the modern terrible genre spoofs, from Not Another Date Movie (2001) to Meet the Spartans (2008) owe their existence to the massive financial success of the first installment of the Scary Movie franchise.  

The sequel has some of the characters reprising their roles from the first film, which mostly parodied I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and Scream (1996).  Anna Faris plays Cindy, Regina Hall plays Brenda, Marlon Wayans is Shorty and Shawn Wayans is Ray.  This film is largely based on 1999's The Haunting, which was a remake of the 1963 film, which was itself based on Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel, The Haunting of Hill House.  Anyway, the aforementioned characters, along with a few newcomers (Kathleen Robertson, Tori Spelling, and Malcolm in the Middle's Christopher Masterson), are college students tricked into helping summon the spirits at a haunted house by the pervy Professor (Tim Curry) and his assistant Dwight (David Cross).  Obviously, shit gets out of hand.  

What makes this installment so much worse than the others?  Well, most of the jokes aren't jokes.  There are a couple scenes with an obscene parrot that don't work at all, because what the parrot is saying isn't funny.  Jokes about weed can be funny, but instead we're expected to laugh because weed is being mentioned.  The creepy butler's gross deformed hand is good for a joke or two, but not for gags that last several minutes.  

I have no problem with dumb humor, but there needs to actually be humor in it.

If you want a fun movie that you don't have to take seriously, some of the movies in this franchise are good for that.  But not this one.


The Cross Section:


David Cross plays Dwight, the Professor's assistant.  While the professor is concerned about making sure there are enough cameras in the sexy co-eds' bedrooms, Dwight is pretty serious about proving the existence of the supernatural.  He's wheelchair bound, but determined not to let that slow him down. Whether it's passing out papers or being fellated, he always refuses offers of help by declaring "I can do it myself!"  The character is surprisingly fun, and Cross delivers a good character performance.


Cross gets a good amount of screentime as part of the ensemble cast.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Pootie Tang (2001) - David Cross #13

Director: Louis C. K.
Runtime: 81 minutes

Pootie Tang is based on a sketch from the Chris Rock show, a parody of blaxploitation films, starring the eponymous Pootie (Lance Crouther), an actor, musician, and role model for all children, who fights crime with the power of his daddy's belt which can "whoop anyone's ass." Pootie, who was born too cool for words and speaks in a bizarre slang of his own making, has made an enemy of corporate America, especially LecterCorp CEO Dick Lecter (Richard Vaughn) who plots to steal Pootie's belt and turn Pootie into a shill for LecterCorp's products.  With the help of his friends (including characters played by Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes) Pootie must fight off Lecter and his henchmen, (including future The Wire star J.D. Williams).

Pootie Tang's reputation precedes it, and rightly so.  The pacing was all over the place, the plot jumped around haphazardly, characters appear and disappear without warning.  Which would seem odd, considering that the movie was written and directed by none other than Louis "Louie" C. K.  But as Louie has explained in interviews, he was removed from the project in the editing stage and had no say over the final product.  Yet the final product is still bizarrely fascinating.  The film has a cult following and much of it seems like something that could be made for Adult Swim.  The film isn't so bad it's good, because there were too many talented people working on it at some point or other.  Rather, it's so dumb that it completely removes itself from comparison to other films.  I can completely understand someone hating this movie, but it's strangely engrossing. That said, I still give it one star, because it is a very stupid movie, whose particular brand of stupidity happens to resonate with me.


The Cross Section:

David Cross plays Dennis:

Dennis is one of the actors hired by Dick Lecter as part of his plan to co-opt Pootie's fame and influence by producing his own legion of Pootie Tangs.  He shows up twice in the film, once as part of a training video for prospective Pooties, and again at the opening of the flagship Pootie Burger.  This is a great character for Cross, a nerdy white wannabe actor trying to play a guy who's too cool for words.  I can't help but imagine the blackface scene from Silver Streak as his origin story.


Cross has one brief appearance and one solid scene.  People have won Oscars with less screentime.