Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Onion Movie: Grade B

The Onion Movie (2008)
Len Cariou, Scott Klace, Larissa Laskin, others, and Steven Seagal; Directors Tom Kuntz & Mike Maguire.

A long series of satirical sketches is loosely tangled into a story stabilized by a news anchorman (Cariou) who reports bogus news in the style of Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show. He becomes “mad as hell” (as in the movie Network) when advertising intrudes on “hard news”. Just as he is about to give an on-air scathing denouncement, the studio is attacked by terrorists. He is saved when the terrorists are distracted by “Cherry,” a popular singer who does thinly disguised pornographic videos, and that gives Steven Segal, gamely appearing as himself, who is the hero in the blockbuster action movie, Cockpuncher, an opportunity to save the day by doing what you would expect a character with that moniker to do.

The quality of the humor is wide, from stupid, childish and vulgar, to sharply cutting social satire of news reporting, politics, popular music, terrorists, cultural values, social attitudes, and even, preemptively perhaps, film criticism. The sketches are all very well-acted, well-directed; most are well-written, and all are shot with high production values and good attention to detail. Even lazy, prurient sketches like an ad for a gay cruise on the “Queen Nathan II” are produced with fine visual satire of ads of that type, even though the gay jokes are unimaginative and unfunny.

Other jokes, such as the porno-denying sexy pop singer are only slightly less sophomoric, but again, done with spot-on visual satire of the genre. Some sketches are just silly, like the failed automobile safety device, the neck-belt. The writers obviously took lessons from SNL, and Monty Python, and from movies like Idiocracy and the National Lampoon series. The quality varies about as widely as it does on The Onion itself ( But despite the uneven quality, I spent a lot of time laughing and hooting.

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