Some movies fight for theatrical release and miss, landing instead on DVD. Some opt to go straight-to-DVD on purpose, as a way of breaking in. If I'm not too late, I'd like to create a new category, 'straight-to-YouTube,' for movies like the Chevy Chase headliner Bad Meat. I guess BitTorrent would be a better option, but you get my point. Bad Meat is a crackpot comedy of such questionable quality that it makes similar grubby films like The Dark Backward look Oscar-worthy in comparison.
Buddy (Lance Barber) and Earl (Billie Worley) live a nasty life in a tiny trailer, in a junkyard, on the outskirts of their benighted hometown Butcher's Mill. Earl works at the bologna factory for such small money kindly bank tellers laugh at him. Buddy hangs out with rats and dreams up ways to score some dough. Scheming to kidnap their Congressman, Bernard P. Greely, (Chevy Chase) Buddy hopes to keep himself in beer, while Earl wants his own trailer so he can get married and get laid. Unsurprisingly for madcap comedies of this ilk, the kidnapping goes terribly awry, finding Buddy and Earl bumping up against hapless hit-men, gay necrophiliacs, and Judah Friedlander (30 Rock) dancing around in only his tighty-whiteys.
Bad Meat isn't totally horrible, it just would have been much better as a comic book (a postulation supported by writer/director Scott Dikkers' pedigree as editor-in-chief of The Onion and former comic book writer). But as an extremely broad spoof of caper movies it's tremendously aggravating and had me looking at the clock in desperation after just ten minutes. Performances range from egregiously hammy to perfunctory with little in between, events and circumstances seem improbable even within the spoof milieu, Chase is wasted and abused in a terrifically abbreviated role, and the movie just isn't that funny.
Barber takes the bologna cake, mugging and capering so heroically guys like Jack Black would collapse in exhaustion from similar effort. There's charm underneath the hysteria, it's just that he has to fight through the sludge of comedic bits like suddenly noticing he's just drunk 24 beers - a realization which causes him to instantly pass out - or getting hit on the head with a grappling hook, or being unable to figure out what half of 20,000 is. Other bit players have less to work with, and mangle it more, such as the two assassins, or a morgue worker who reads big (poorly-written) laugh lines like a grade-school amateur. The bright spot is Worley as Earl, who brings some subtlety and dignity to his pathetic character, but otherwise it's just a bunch of over-the-top performances serving grating roles.
When events in a spoof strike you as improbable, you've lost the good graces of your audience. Consider the Neanderthal assassin, a creature so devoid of intelligence he and his partner will abandon their target for the promise of free pork, and you get the idea of the script's sophistication. And it's always bad when your headliner disappears after a few seconds of screen time early in the show. But when that headliner is Chevy Chase, looking and acting like Gary Busey, you can call it a mixed blessing. Chase actually gets the best line in the picture, but his participation can only be considered an embarrassment, both for the production and for viewers. Minus the heft of solid, enjoyable performances, all the hyperbolic, gross-out humor falls flat, and what you're left with is an ugly, trying 90-minutes of mess that feels twice as long, and the few uncomfortable laughs generated (Friedlander and the Bologna Man, for instance) just make the rest of the grimy landscape seem that more arid.
Presented in 1.77:1 widescreen ratio, Bad Meat looks just OK. Colors are washed out and not very rich, likely a stylistic choice that sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. Blacks aren't very deep, either. The image is generally fairly soft, with one or two spots of odd exaggerated blurriness, and some minor aliasing here and there. Overall, it's an underwhelming appearance that is largely at odds with the material and lends a dispirited air.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio is available. On my stereo speakers it sounded fine, if not too grandly arranged. Dialog is generally clear and audible, while the awful soundtrack, chock full of goofy, carnivalesque 'comedy' music that totally distracts from the material, is all too audible, adding another nail to the coffin.
Two Theatrical Trailers for Bad Meat (wishful thinking, I guess) share extras space with ten Deleted Scenes (well under ten minutes' worth) some of which are funnier than the bits that made it into the cut, but most aren't. None really add to the story, which is just a series of bits anyway. About four minutes' worth of an auto-play Photo Gallery has behind-the-scenes and production stills with captions and the horrible music from the film. Lastly, a Director and Cast Commentary Track maintains a low-key, self-effacing, mildly amusing and entertaining vibe. Dikkers, Worley and Barber hit the standard marks, motives and such behind the movie, and lots of more-interesting-than-the-film anecdotes about working mostly on location, often in sketchy areas, with an extremely tight schedule and low budget. It's a good slop-bucket full of extras for a sloppy movie.
Scott Dikkers is now back editing The Onion, which, based on Bad Meat, is a good thing. Full of wildly uneven performances - most of which will try your patience - Bad Meat actually muffs the slapstick spoof genre of comedy. It's a movie that wallows in comedic filth but fails to deliver many uneasy laughs for a variety of reasons. Most aspects of the movie (performances, jokes, plot) will either annoy you or blow your suspension-of-disbelief, ensuring that instead of having a squirmy good time, you'll be searching for the fast forward button. It's not a completely hopeless feature - fans of lowbrow comedy will find a few yuks here and there - but it barely reaches rentable status, so for the sake of the DVDTalk ratings system I'll advise you to Skip It.
- Kurt Dahlke
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