Wednesday, January 24, 2024

#2,945. National Lampoon's Movie Madness (1982) - 80s Comedies


In his book A Futile and Stupid Gesture (a biography of National Lampoon founder Doug Kenney), author Josh Karp called 1982’s Movie MadnessA cocaine-fueled fiasco”, adding “nobody had a sense of structure or how to write a screenplay”.

He let this movie off easy.

As much as I love National Lampoon’s first movie, Animal House, which I rank as one of the all-time great comedies, that is how much I dislike Movie Madness. This is a film devoid of laughs. An anthology featuring three movie “spoofs”, I smiled twice, and kind of chuckled once. And all during the same segment.

The first entry, titled Growing Yourself, is a spoof of such divorce-themed weepies as Kramer vs. Kramer and An Unmarried Woman. It stars Peter Riegert as Jason Cooper, a husband and father of four who convinces his wife (Candy Clark) that she needs to leave him, and explore her full potential. Now a single father, Cooper embarks on several new career paths, losing track of his kids along the way and entering into affairs with a series of women, including a 14-year-old high school sophomore (Diane Ladd) and a flighty opportunist (Teresa Ganzel).

Next up is Success Wanters, which takes a few jabs at daytime soap operas. Recent college graduate Dominique Corsaire (Ann Dusenberry) moves to Los Angeles, hoping to make a name for herself. Landing a job as a stripper, she is assaulted by a group of butter executives, and looks to take her revenge by rising to the top of the cut-throat margarine industry. In a matter of days, Dominique manages to seduce a margarine executive (Robert Culp), a Greek Tycoon (Titos Vandis), and the President of the United States (Fred Willard).

The third and final segment is Municipalians, a parody of TV cop dramas. Naïve rookie policeman Brent Falcone (Robby Benson) wants to make a difference, much to the chagrin of his experienced partner Stan Nagurski (Richard Widmark), who refuses to so much as lift a finger in support. While searching for a serial killer (Christopher Lloyd) who leaves a copy of his drivers license on every victim, Officers Falcone and Nagurski encounter a number of lowlifes and degenerates, all of whom slowly chip away at Falcone’s cheery disposition.

Let me say up-front that the lone sequence I reacted to was the third, Municipalians, and the reason why was the performance of Robby Benson, who here portrays the kind of happy-go-lucky character he played in movies like Jeremy and The End. Watching Benson’s cop deal with all the trials and tribulations thrown his way (including getting shot… which happens to him maybe a half dozen times) was mildly entertaining. Yet aside from a few chuckles, even Municipalians was mostly devoid of laughs. Damn near every joke misses the mark, including the running gag of a killer who leaves his I.D. on his victims, yet is not considered a viable suspect.

Still, as unfunny as this third segment was, it pales in comparison to the pathetic Growing Yourself (I dare you not to cringe when Riegert’s character romances a teenage Diane Ladd) and Success Wanters (Dusenberry is likable as the lead, but there isn’t a laugh to be found in this misfire).

As quoted in A Futile and Stupid Gesture, Shary Flenniken, one of five writers who penned Movie Madness, said of the movie “We cut stuff and boiled it down. It lost its purpose and just became a bunch of crazy crap”.

I half agree. A bit of focused “crazy” could have actually helped this disaster. But it is definitely “crap”.
Rating: 2.5 out of 10

No comments: