Apparently, Hollywood thinks its time for Iraq War films. In the next few months, as Fall 2007 plays out, we will have Lions for Lambs, In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, The Kingdom, and (indirectly) Charlie Wilson's War. While one is assured that most of these movies will be anti-incursion and pro-peace, the notion that our nation seems ready to confront the conflict on any cinematic terms is tenuous at best. The events of 9/11 occurred over six years ago, and only two major works have been brave enough to even approach it (United 93 and World Trade Center). But in the case of Bush's bungle (or whatever you see fit to call it), we've got a half dozen determined takes. Heck, the summer even started with a dofus comedy based on our military's current mobilization. Naturally, the only apparent politics were Red State sanctioned, but it's still odd that Larry the Cable Guy's Stripes by way of Three Amigos, Delta Farce, would use the war as a framework for funny stuff. It's not the only unusual decision this uneven comedy makes.
Three weekend warriors - the slightly psychotic Everett, the picked upon house husband Bill, and the sweet but stupid franchise manager Larry - are corralled into serving their country when their Reserve status is revoked. Under the mean mannerisms of Sgt. Kilgore, the trio prepares for a trip to Iraq. Somewhere along the way to Bagdad, however, their cargo carrier is accidentally dropped. The boys wind up in Mexico, yet mistakenly believe they are in the Middle East. A trip across the countryside to a little town called El Miranda confirms their worst fears - terrorists (or in this case, a clan of bad ass banditos lead by the cruel if considerate Carlos Santana) have taken over, and are wrecking havoc. It is up to these less than stellar soldiers to restore order and bring 'freedom and democracy' to this appreciative backward burg. While it may not be Fallujah, and the enemy may not be part of the axis of evil, this is one insurgency guaranteed to cause a Delta Farce.
Though it starts off with as much potential as a greased pig contest, the latest Larry the Cable Guy bumpkin patch, Delta Farce, is actually not that bad. Now, before you go ballistic, there are several dozen caveats that go along with that statement. There is nothing very original or inviting here - just a simple set of boneheaded barbs accented by sequences of stool sample slapstick. The premise is preposterous, especially when you consider the casual way in which the Army recruits its so-called fool-based fighting force. As actors, DJ Qualls is a weird one note wonder, constantly referencing Iraq and Al-Qaeda long after the Mexican mix-up is discovered. And Bill Engvall has his own singular performance mode - call it squint eyed head turning 'huh?" Oddly enough, the pork rind rounded shoulders carrying this possible disaster is none other than Mr. "Git-R-Done" himself. Larry's not a lovable loser - he carries too much of his trailer trash tendencies to elevate his game. But if you give into his Boone's Farm buffoonery and enjoy the mindless mockery he is making of all cinematic convention, you may actually like this Joe DeRita era Three Sons of the Soil Stooges. For everyone else, this is a well meaning mess that won't deliberately destroy your expertly honed motion picture mentality.
Granted, director C. B. Harding, who got his training guiding Ozzy Osbourne and his sponge bobbing crew around the MTV hit, does little to help the humor. His style can best be described as compact and chaotic. He does toss in a few establishing shots, and some attempted iconography, but the majority of this movie resembles a sitcom that accidentally stumbled into the Cineplex. He's worked with Larry and Bill throughout much of their Blue Collar career, so he at least has a handle on how to present their individual personas. Still, the script by Bear Aderhold and Tom Sullivan (screenplay novices - oh joy!) careens wildly between dumb and daring - usually winding up on the far side of illiterate. The word "retarded" is used at least a dozen times, and Engvall's status as the world's most henpecked husband is mentioned a million more. Larry's badly broken heart generates very little laughs, and the sight of Keith David in a frilly negligee will give knowing viewers I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry nightmares. And yet Danny Trejo's villain, named Carlos Santana for obvious effect, gets off a few great lines, including a speech about tolerance and diversity, and a warranted moment of ventriloquism ire. But this doesn't really combat the nonstop ethic slurs - mostly aimed at Mexicans - and the reliance on gross out gags involving numerous bodily functions.
Still, something saves Delta Farce, a mysterious quality of endearment that drives us past the project's pathetic qualities. In fact, it walks a weird balance beam between unconscionable atrocity and work of outright genius. It's not as good as Larry's previous Health Inspector gig, but definitely sustains its silliness longer than current cretins Mr. Woodcock and Mr. Bean combined. Just like one of those live concerts where fellow rube Jeff Foxwothy pulls out the retro redneck jokes and has the converted rolling in the aisles, this is the kind of preprogrammed crowd pleasing Country Music Television has been milking for nearly a decade. Similar in stance to Wild Hogs, a completely braindead biker drone that makes this movie look like Animal Husbandry House, what we have here is hilarity for those who don't want to work for their amusement. Give it to them sloppy but straight, no complicated comic chaser or satiric sidecars, please. It's enough to make you wish the South would indeed rise again, if only to be blasted off the planet by an excess of friendly fire. And yet, for some reason, you just won't hate Delta Farce outright. Oh, the ire will definitely come - it just has to be tempered by a few sh*ts and giggles along the way.
Lionsgate has decided to do something very odd with the aspect ratio of this film. Conversations with fellow critics and research on the Web seem to indicate that the DVD version of the title has been "opened up" to provide a more "family friendly" take of the image. What that means to all you non-marketing types is that Delta Farce's theatric OAR of 1.85:1 (an industry standard) has been modified to 1.78:1. While it may seem like a minor adjustment, it does mess with the 16x9 transfer of the visuals. As for the picture itself, the colors are clear and the details distinct. This is not some kind of artistic accomplishment, however. It's merely a perfectly professional presentation.
The Dolby Digital audio tracks - one in 5.1 Surround EX and the other in standard 2.0 Stereo - do a decent job of delivering the sonic situations here. The back channels only come alive during music montages and the mandatory battle sequences. The rest of the time, the aural elements are reserved for the front end of the speaker system. As with any major motion picture, the dialogue is easily discernible and there's a standard lack of atmosphere and ambience.
Divided up into four sections, the behind the scenes material provided as part of the DVD's added content offers some amazing insights. The dynamic Danny Trejo gets a solo piece ("The Man Behind Carlos Santana"), and he opens up about his previous life in prison and his decision to become an actor. During their sitdown ("Hacienda Confidential"), DJ Qualls states to his fellow castmates that the film he just finished before this one - Hustle and Flow - was since nominated for two Oscars, implying something everyone more or less ignores. The location for the Mexican village, a small town in California, gets its own EPK exposť ("All the Way to...LA?") and crude comic Lisa Lampenelli discussed her 15 seconds of cameo fame ("The Queen of Mean Gets the Last Word"). In addition, Lionsgate gives director Harding a chance to speak for himself, and his full length audio commentary is quite interesting. Besides patting himself on the back for a job well done, he drops anecdotes about the actors and discusses his history with Engvall and Larry. It makes for an interesting overview of the movie and its making.
Clearly no classic, Delta Farce is also not the worst movie made in 2007. As a matter of fact, the list of potential candidates for that ignominious title would be too long to mention here. Instead, it's clear that somewhere between the good and god-awful lays this amiable if average effort. Easily earning a Rent It rating, it will be up to individual fans to gauge their need for such war-torn wackiness. If you believe that the Blue Collar Comedy Tour symbolizes everything doltish and uneducated regarding the current cultural climate, then by all means, avoid this film. Everything here will simply stir your hillbilly hatred. If, on the other hand, you don't mind a single digit IQ entertainment that's not too painful in the process, and actually prefer your humor aimed directly at the balls, not the brains, then Delta Farce will probably ring your ding-a-ling. It's a harmless, hokey bit of moronic moonshine.
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