One has to tread softly when taking on the action adventure genre. Where once this noble motion picture category delivered thrills, chills and spills, it's now become a perplexing parody of itself. Explosions have gotten bigger and more unbridled, car chases defy both the laws of gravity and the mandates of mechanical realism. Men will fire off endless rounds of ammunition, or use their fists to mercilessly pummel a foe, achieving a level of ludicrousness unseen in previous motion picture eras. As a matter of fact, Michael Bay has made an entire career out of cranking up the chaos in the standard blood and bullets extravaganza. So how then do you make a mockery of this already anarchic arena? Well, if you're Roy T. Wood, you ratchet up the raunch and go for the gratuitous. That's a perfect description for his insane animated feature Disaster! The Movie. It's like the ultimate Tinsel Town blockbuster on crack.
A massive asteroid is threatening the Earth, and it is up to a ragtag team of specialized specialists to save the planet. The government recruits a deep oil driller, his slutty daughter (who is also familiar with profound probing), her stud muffin boy toy friend, a bad ass weapons expert, and a ditzy blond rocket scientist. The team will fly to the rapidly approaching rock, bore several holes near the base of its active volcano and fire off several megaton warheads. The blast will hopefully jumpstart the lava, rocketing the sphere away from the planet. But there's just one catch – our heroes are less than focused on saving the world. There is so much infighting, lovemaking and basic belligerence between the crew that it takes an effete French astronaut and a gay robot to set them straight – and even then there's no guarantee that the plan will work. All these individuals have is their bravery and their ball...ballistics. As the entire population waits and worries, it is up to this intrepid team to save us all from Disaster! The Movie.
Is a filmmaker tempting critical fate when they call their effort Disaster! The Movie? Are they equally enticing decisive destiny by taking on subject matter that shows like South Park and Robot Chicken do a heck of a lot better? And what about the basic bathroom humor level of the comedy? Does a stop motion animated action adventure featuring caricatures of the genre's greatest hits lose some of its lampoon luster thanks to non-stop references to BMs and other bodily fluids? The answer, fortunately, is no – at least in the case of director Roy T. Wood's anarchic Armageddon send up. Overloaded with cartoon T&A, non-PC puppeteering and about every Hollywood cliché the apocalyptic thriller has to offer, this cornball cavalcade doesn't have a big political point to make. It's not out to take on certain celebrity targets and merely wants to reference big screen blockbusters, not rip them a new bunghole. While he fails to reach the levels of creative artistry achieved by Claymation king Will Vinton, Wood's approach is more scatological in spirit. He wants to explore the more exploitative areas of animation, making sure we see lots of plasticine poontang and a healthy collection of handmade mammaries.
If taken at face value, Disaster! The Movie is like Airplane! made by the adolescent equivalent of the ZAZ team. This is a narrative obsessed with at least four of Freud's five stages of psychosexual fixation. When our animated African American team member meets the blond bimbo nuclear scientist, all the couple want to do is copulate – and Wood finds as many ways as non-humanly possible to make sure the duo diddle away. Similarly, the Ben Affleck/Liv Tyler inspired material in the movie is made all the more hilarious by the girl's admission that she lost her virginity decades before. Perhaps the best riff comes at the expense of The Terminator. Once the team meets the deadly android, they decide to reprogram him. Unfortunately, it appears the data used to restructure his make-up had a decidedly rainbow bent, and before you know it, we have the first swishy automaton ever to grace an interstellar mission. Throw in a little gratuitous gore – when asteroid shards bombard the earth, the unsuspecting victims die in a particularly juicy manner – and a brief cameo by Motley Crue (looking far healthier than they currently do in real life) and you've got a sensationally stupid spoof.
There will be those who argue that the film fails in one of its primary mandates, that is, it fails to fully skewer the whole Michael Bay idea of cinematic extravagance. Even landing on a cosmic rock which features nonstop natural disasters – hurricanes, tidal waves, tornadoes, earthquakes, lava-spewing volcanoes – Wood seems to avoid the spectacle to focus on the fecal. Then there is the rather random nature of the government and military men. One moment they're straight as freshly formed arrows. The next, they're as deviant as liquored up frat boys on Spring Break. Indeed, one has to look hard and deep to find some of the satire, and even then, it's usually buried under mounds of mindless goofiness. Besides, Wood never avoids the obvious joke or retarded take. But in an arena (cinematic comedy) that is slowly dying week after week, especially when left in the hands of the hilarity bereft big budget studio films, Disaster! The Movie is like a bawdy breath of stinking silliness. If you check your sense of decency and decorum at the door, and open yourself up to a really idiotic entertainment, you'll be pleasantly surprised by what you find here.
Though the cinematography is a little sloppy and the image is less defined than some might like, Disaster! The Movie actually looks very good in this 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The colors are bright and vibrant, the contrasts carefully controlled. All in all, this is a professional DVD presentation. The only quibble? The inability to skip a pair of previews that play before the main feature.
Attempting to create a multi-channel mega-budget mix on a tiny toons ticket may not be the wisest aural strategy, but Wood and his crew do a fine job of filling out the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround soundscape. Naturally, all the stunt work loads the speakers with deft directional details, and all the dialogue is easily discernible. The cock rocking theme song is equally impressive. Indeed, all the technical elements here are very well done.
Fleshed out quite nicely with an interesting array of added content, Disaster! The Movie features a fun Behind the Scenes featurette, a hilarious audio commentary, and a collection of Wood's previous work. Among these amazing short films are Star Trak (the Enterprise must traverse...wait for it...the Turds of Uranus), Wheelchair Rebecca (a mother explains a handi-capable doll to her daughter) and two silly Forrest Gump parodies – Forrest Dump and Foreskin Gump (both fairly self explanatory). All are offered in 1.33:1 full screen transfers and contain the kind of toilet humor highlighted in Disaster!. It's the same with the alternative narrative track. Director Roy Wood is joined by animator Morgan Hay and Production Designer Jim Towler and all three men are in a very frisky mood. They joke incessantly throughout the discussion, dropping names of famous 'friends' who lent their voices to the film, and arguing over the smallest mistakes. It's a hilarious supplement, almost as funny as the film itself. Finally, the Making-of material is intriguing, since we get a chance to see how massive even this kind of independent undertaking can be. When you add in the aforementioned trailers, you've got a terrific bit of digital packaging.
Disaster! The Movie is the kind of entertainment you have to be prepared for. If you're hoping for the sharpest satire, the cleverest wit and the height of motion picture mockery, you better stick with a more mature kind of comedy. But if you don't mind ravenous squirrels stripping a man of his flesh, if you enjoy silly slapstick riffs repeated over and over again, if the very sound of the word "butt" sends you inner Mike Judge into fits of teenage snickering, then this film is for you. Easily earning a Highly Recommended rating, this is one film critic clearly in touch with his inner middle schooler. In the world of cinema, there is always room for something as mindless as Disaster! After all, if $200 million can be spent on a storyline where unaware clones discover that they are really organ depositories for the super rich, when Miami vice cops use South Beach as a setting for their OK Corral like gunplay, or to foster a sci-fi spectacle with 'robots in disguise' battling for supremacy with Earth as their playing field, then why can't some dude make fun of all that. While it appears to undermine the action film, Disaster! is actually dissing the action filmmaker. And it's ripe territory for their riffing.
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