Thursday, June 05, 2008


Movie Review: The Onion Movie


Random, frequently vulgar sketch comedy that satirizes the news, the media, and American culture.




Two and a half or maybe three stars on a five scale. Fans of the website will enjoy much of it.

Extended Review:

As I recently mentioned in a comment to Rhodester, I can't imagine going back to life without the internet if only for two reasons: my addictions to the IMDb and The Onion. The IMDb, of course, is the Internet Movie Database, a film-lovers invaluable resource. The Onion, a news-parody website, is consistently the funniest, best written humor site on the internet.

In 2003, the good folks behind The Onion website made The Onion Movie, a sketch comedy film in the meandering, crude tradition of films like The Kentucky Fried Movie or the mid-80's cult hit, Amazon Women On The Moon. Like those movies, The Onion Movie is extremely adult fare, with most of the sketches involving crude language and/or visual gags. And, like those two older films, The Onion Movie doesn't have quite enough good material to stay consistent for it's entire running time. It's a little better than either of those films, though, because the parts that are funny are howling, knee-slapping, tears-streaming funny. Credit the writers who make the website such a consistent joy.

The film sat on a shelf from 2003 until earlier this year (when it was released on DVD), apparently because it's distributors had no idea what to do with it. The movie is said to have offended a number of test audiences, and I'm not surprised by that. Much of the humor here is intended to fly in the face of political correctness. Gags involving minorities, women, terrorism, religion and even the handicapped are here by the ton.

Like 2006's Borat, another crass and random comedy that I loved, The Onion Movie holds nothing sacred. Anything and everything is plucked for parody, especially those people and institutions that take themselves very seriously. The Onion Movie doesn't deliver as much yuck-for-the-buck as Borat, but when this movie made me laugh, it made me laugh really, really hard.

Some of the sketches are dead-on. One of my favorites involve an armed gunman who goes into a bank to steal a job. Then there's a young pseudo-urban white guy who wants to come off black, until he's actually mistaken for a black man. I laughed at a parody of Stephen Seagal films (staring Seagal himself). Best of all, a running segment during which film critics dissect the movie itself while it's in progress really takes the vinegar out of movie critics. Even amateur ones like me.

Other sketches don't really work. A Britney Spears send-up is soooo ten minutes ago. A sketch about home computers just seems as outdated as the older PCs it mocks. A running gag wherein the Onion's TV news anchor does battle with his parent company, ala Network, is just a reminder that the classic Network is a MUCH smarter, MUCH funnier film. And, to be honest, even that funny Steven Seagal sketch is revisited a few too many times.

The movie's big ending, an attempt to tie all the disparate elements together into something that makes sense, doesn't work very well either. But the film's brief running time (about 80 minutes) didn't give me time to really get bored, and the brilliant sketches are spaced fairly evenly, insuring a big laugh every ten minutes or so. If you're a fan of the brilliant Onion website, this one is worth a rental. It's not as good as the Onion website at it's best, but it's probably better than whatever sitcom you might otherwise watch tonight.


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