Science fiction and geeks just seem to go together, kind of like the whole "chicken and the egg" argument, except with more protractors. Thanks to endless games of Magic: The Gathering and that most demonic of all RPG experiences, Dungeons and Dragons, fantasy has also found itself buried deep inside the dorks wedgie-ready waistband. Peter Jackson's perfect Lord of the Rings trilogy aside, the movies can't make up their mind about the genres. All sci-fi is either rendered from the future shock remnants of the replicants in Blade Runner, the sloppy space opera antics of George Lucas's Star Wars saga, or a wire-fu filled trip into virtual reality ala The Matrix. Truth be told, what the stalled cinematic category needs now is a good infusion of nerd – not in the audience, but behind the camera. Leave it to Troma to grant our wish. They offer up the first certified classic of feeb filmmaking. Rock and Roll Space Patrol: Action is Go is a humungous slice of speculative spectacle. And it's loaded with wall to wall 'tard.
There are two ways to describe the storyline of Rock and Roll Space Patrol: Action is Go! Here is the summary provided by its creator on the Internet Movie Database:
The Planetary Outposts in Space Sector 219A have one by one fallen prey to a baffling infection. Inhabitants have given up their scientific and knowledge gathering initiatives and have instead resorted to mindless rampant consumerism & corporatised servitude culminating in the terrible and mega-ultra-destructive "Mighters March". Super Silver Base Alpha has sent their top space agent, Bronco Cedar, to investigate the latest outbreak on Outpost 11. Now he's gone missing, so as a last resort they've sent Buck Fiesta, their B-list agent with an itchy trigger finger and a chronic case of sarcasim, to sort things out. Along the way he'll enlist help from Zen master teleporter, The Red Arrow, obtain vital information from Agent Unknown, and confront an army of Temporal Ninjas led by the sassy evil mastermind of icebox fusion, Dr. Spider Jones. It will take 2 times the action, 2 times the special effects, and 2 times the rock `n' roll to win the day.
Here's another way of putting it:
A bunch of community college students get together and decide to make an epic space saga about evil scientists, robotic martial artists, interstellar heroes and beings with special powers. Unfortunately, they only had a budget big enough to make a movie of them talking to one another. So they did.
Rock and Roll Space Patrol: Action is Go! is the motion picture equivalent of fan fiction. It's a labor of love for anyone who ever got their slide ruler shoved up their butt in high school home room. It's a ballad to Roddenberry and a sloppy French kiss for individuals obsessed with their multi-sided dice. Writer/director/Jack Off of All Trades Jim Bultas has done an amazingly ingenious thing here. He created and entire alternate reality, filled with mad scientists, evil temporal ninjas, interplanetary space bases, environmental outposts and gravity defying turbo jets. He then realized he had NO money for special effects, and decided to make Middle America – Springfield, Missouri, to be exact – his stand in for outer space. All the mini malls and shopping centers? All part of a hideous man-made virus that corrupts via "consumerism". An old, abandoned drive-in, complete with decrepit screen? Why, that magically becomes the lab of Dr. Spider Jones, complete with oversized "energy shield". And what about all those junk heap '80s cars populating the roadways. Well, they become the infamous aircraft mentioned before, complete with taped on control panels, joystick weaponry in the glove box, and a floorboard 'Roboputer" (really a gloved hand writing on a piece of paper).
As a matter of fact, everything about RNRSP:AIG! (every good sci-fi fantasy film deserves the LOTR/POTA/AOTC treatment) is DIY and duct tape, from the Amiga level CGI to the use of a refrigerator as the storage compartment for Jones' experiments in "ice box fusion" (which makes sense, come to think of it). With a cast consisting of a long haired zen headbanger, a portly Firefly fan, and some bearded freak with Charles Grodin's demeanor and line delivery, RNRSP:AIG! is a lot like watching the Three Metaphysical Stooges spoofing Star Trek. As our glorified glass pipe fan, Mike Oettle is amazing as the Red Arrow. Looking like he should be sitting in with Lynrd Skynrd, not saving the known universe, Oettle uses his dense dialogue loaded with sci-fi psychobabble as a kind of comic coat of arms. This senseless sensei is part teacher, part party animal and all Clariol Herbal Essence (gotta love the long flowing locks, dude). As Buck Fiesta, Alex Warren is cheese doodles and portly hit points personified. He's the perfect poster boy for any A/V club. With his toy laser pistol and his Fisher Price voice recorder "telecommunicator", this husky hero is just as content saving the universe as he is shooting cows with his Buick Century car "canon". Add in Idan Flasterstein's nebbish as nogoodnik, the could-be-Cat Stevens Dr. Jones and you've got a triumvirate to the tacky, a celebration of the athletically addled and socially dateless.
Realizing that his actors are top notch in the area of self-delusion, Bultas then gives them reams of ridiculous dialogue to recite, monologues loaded with ludicrous science speak and faux futuristic falderal. During the movie's opening moments, it is up to Warren to sell us on all the outer space/outpost jazz, and his delightfully demented diatribe, filled with arcane names and nonsensical statistics is simply amazing. Even as we see Missouri passing by his sedan windows, we actually start to believe his BS…if only just a little. The same thing happens when Dr. Spider Jones creates his temporal ninjas. Conceived out of Play Doh and baked in a kitchen oven, these bowling ball mask wearing warriors are all named after their specific super power ("Mule Kick") or designer garb ("Purple Chriple", "Green Fling"). While this all may sound silly – and frankly, it's goofier than a grade schooler strung out on raw rock candy – RNRSP:AIG! has something that other so-called sci-fi epics fail to offer, and that's absolute faith in its material. Someone once said that successful speculative fiction must be based in real rules and limits. Then as long as you follow the facets with 100% belief in their existence, even the most outrageous narrative will hold up under serious scrutiny.
Now, it may be hard to believe that a stoner, a stock boy and the president of the Math Olympians could construct realistic futurism. But Bultas creates a complete and whole reality, addressing every possible flaw and filling in all but the most glaring gaps. In addition, everyone here plays it completely straight. They have full conviction in their cause and treat the mundane terrain like a well-crafted construct by the most talented F/X technicians. Sure, it's all a big retarded ruse, but it works. We buy into their genuineness and eventually 'play pretend' right along. There are some nice touches here – the bluescreen work with several "clone" versions of Dr. Jones, and the light beam battles between laser guns, ninjas and car cannons look almost professional. The humor is never forced or frivolous, though the movie obviously gets off on the campy, kitschy nature of its narrative. While it can't deliver the endless eye candy we've come to expect from the genre, Rock and Roll Space Patrol: Action is Go! can sure bring the inspiration and imagination. Frankly, had the film been able to afford the scope and grandeur the script describes, we'd probably find it all as unsettling as The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Instead, Bultas and his crackerjack team have too much invested in the sci-fi cinematic catalog to undermine it with stupidity. This is an incredibly smart and satiric film. It just looks like it was made by a bunch of losers.
Considering its certified camcorder creation, Rock and Roll Space Patrol: Action is Go! looks pretty darn good. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image has excellent color control, a wealth of details, and a complete lack of digital defects. We do get some very minor grain during a couple of scenes, but that may be something director Bultas was aiming for. He does fidget with the image on occasion, hoping to add a little optical spice to his space spectacle.
Thankfully, Troma's losing streak when it comes to bad audio transfers seems to be over. Indecipherable dynamics like those found on something like Dumpster Baby are now a thing of the past. Rock and Roll, Space Patrol: Action is Go! has a wonderful Dolby Digital Stereo mix, melding conversation, sound effects and ethereal music into an atmospheric aural element. While it's not some THX treasure, this is still a good sounding DVD.
Troma really piles on the added content here, doing more for this movie than several others in their library. First up, Uncle Lloyd Kaufman delivers his typical intro, and it's an odd one. It deals with time travel and skanky girls, which may or may not be a good thing. Then there are two fantastic audio commentaries. The first features head honcho Jim Bultas himself. The second is a "video" cast commentary featuring Bultas, and actors Jake Speed, Chris Stewart, Mike Oettle and Idan Flasterstein. Seen across the bottom of the screen, semi-MST3K style, these guys obviously get along great, and add a new level of laughs to the already funny film. Bultas is a little more hands on, talking about his inspirations and how he funded the project. Along with a similar discussion on the bonus featurette entitled "Weiner, Cosmos, Plastic" (a fantastic ersatz-sequel showing what happened to the characters after the end of the film) we get a wealth of inside information on the production. Add in outtakes, trailers and an Easter Egg of bloopers, and we have a superior selection of complementary elements.
But that's not all. Troma also tosses in the surreal short Hick Trek 2: The Next Aggravation. More or less a hillbilly take off on a certain sci-fi classic, the plot revolves around the neverending battle between the rednecks of the Starship Bovine and a race of shape shifting dogs. Oddly enough, writer/co-director Tony Trombo avoids the obvious buck toothed clichés of the Confederacy and, instead, stays centered in the trailer trash ideal of the inbred. Most of the jokes hit their mark, and the homemade special effects are wonderfully bad. When you consider that you already have a full length film, another substantive mock-documentary, and a trio of commentaries , this is just the sweet, sweet icing on the supplemental strudel. Add in the typical Troma merchandising and trailers, and this is one of the best DVDs the company has released.
When you think about it, it's amazing how inspiration can overwhelm presentation. For all its digital bells and whistles, the Star Wars prequels are a horrendous waste of computing time, as underdeveloped and self-serving as a supposed entertainment entity can get. Frankly, there is more fun in the first fifteen minutes of Rock and Roll Space Patrol: Action is Go! than in the entirety of Anakin Skywalker's transformation into Darth Douche Bag. Not only that, but Troma tricks out the DVD in such a way as to guarantee hours of replay value. Therefore, this release easily earns a Highly Recommended rating, and proves that money and F/X mean nothing when you don't have a solid foundation of imagination behind them. Jim Bultas and his fellow fantasy geeks can stand up and be proud. This is, without a doubt, one of the funniest, freshest and most freaked out releases of 2006. If you ignore its lo-fi sci-fi fun, it will be you whose considered the dork.
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