Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Disaster! The Movie

Parody. When you take something serious, and make something comedic out of it. In the disaster movie world, parodies have been done before (Airplane and Airplane 2), and especially with Airplane, even nearly 30 years later, it still holds up as a funny skewering of the Airport movies of the 1970s. Today, I look at a parody called "Disaster! The Movie." It calls itself "More thrilling than Armageddon, and raunchier than Team America." We shall see.

If you've ever seen the show on Cartoon Network "Robot Chicken" then you get the idea how this movie was made. Claymation is the order of the day. I give them definite points for choosing this very different method for making this movie. The models look nice, and are almost always animated well. It's an impressive effort on a purely technical level for what they do with simple clay figures. Unfortunately, the novelty of the claymation figures can't hide the fact that the script is sophomoric at best, although there are glimmers of a top notch parody buried in there.

The basic story is the same as that of "Armageddon": a big planetoid is heading to Earth so the Space Agency... ASSA (at this point, you have just seen the level of humor this movie goes with) needs to get the best disaster specialists together to (everyone say it with me) detonate a nuclear bomb to save the planet.

So, we meet our team of brave disaster specialists: Harry Bottoms (Bruce Willis type experienced soldier type), V.D. Johnson (cowboy), Major Sandy Mellons (Harry's daughter, V.D.s girl), and Donkey Dixon (who of course specializes in "deep drilling" if you haven't guessed the character's race by this point, I cannot help you). I did rather enjoy each character's "intro scene." They are each fighting their respective disaster specialties...and in all cases, the humans are completely wasted in order to save the cat, child, old lady...only to have said target save die messily anyway. Pretty funny stuff there. As you can see here, this isn't exactly deep comedy here. You can pretty much shut your brain off, and get most of the jokes.

So, the crew takes off, and almost immediately finds out they are out of rocket fuel, turns out Dr. Stephen Hawking (like-character) took the rocket for a ride to impress some chicks, and forgot to fill the tank. So, they have to dock with the French space ship (just work with me here) to refuel. Hey, did you know the French eat a lot of cheese? And guess what happens when you eat a lot of cheese? Oh yeah, high hilarity. 20 minutes of gas jokes. That's just the one scene. They bring the French guy with them, so every time he ends up on screen, there's going to be gas. If you can sit there, holding a whoopee cushion in your hands, and laugh every time you squeeze it. This is your Citizen Kane.

Finally, we make it to the planetoid. And the filmmakers again, show a flash of pure genius. We now see why these certain disaster specialists are truly needed. The planetoid has an atmosphere which contains a giant tornado, right next to a gigantic tidal wave which is blocking them from drilling the holes near the volcano so they can make it erupt violently enough to deflect it away from Earth. Of course, these aren't the only obstacles in the way...oh no. There's earthquakes! And big giant space apes! I really appreciated this section of the movie. They didn't just give us one disaster to deal with, they gave us all of them. They truly lived by the motto "Go big, or go home."

Now, pop quiz time, what else can go wrong at this point? If you guessed "They left the remote detonators on Earth, and have to leave someone behind to manually detonate the bomb," you win. Now, again, they get really clever. As soon as someone says "We have to decide who to leave behind" a clay Jeff Probst walks out, and a full Survivor vote off session starts. This is absolutely brilliant, and I had no idea this scene was coming. Sadly, the greatness of this scene just makes you realize how pedestrian the rest of the movie has been.

I would be completely remiss if I didn't describe the biggest "huh?" moment of the movie. Motley Crue. The real Motley Crue is in the movie. They have a 20 second scene near the beginning where they proclaim they are going to play the last concert on Earth, at the spot the planetoid is supposed to hit. The next time we catch up to this storyline is the 20 seconds near the end when they realize the Earth isn't going to be destroyed, and they play a song anyway. I just have to ask why? They could have been completely eliminated...and the movie would be unchanged. Their "story" went NOWHERE AT ALL. Oh, Kickstart My Heart plays during the credits...ooh ahh.

So, in total, it was a pretty unremarkable experience. Sure they referenced Armageddon, Deep Impact, The Right Stuff, Alien, Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, Men in Black, and probably lots of other movies (they owe a large debt to 80's screwball comedies because of all the random female characters shirts coming off for no reason). but all those references were just that. References, not jokes skewering those movies...which is what I think you need for a successful parody. The last 20 minutes or so, however, are way better than anything in the previous hour.

As it was, Disaster! The Movie wasn't a horrible watch, just an ultimately forgettable one. C-.

Now, next time...I don't know why I'm doing this to myself...I'm going to watch "Disaster Movie" the 2008 "parody" movie. I've heard it's awful...and given the track record of movies like "Epic Movie" Superhero Movie" etc etc. I am not expecting very much at all. We shall see.