Pauly Shore. Now there's a name that elicits a wide range of opinion, from nostalgia to disgust. "Adopted" is a wheezy mockumentary directed by Shore that positions the comedian as a man tired of the limelight, the large-breasted blondes, and the grind of solitude, with the once and future Weasel looking to his brother as inspiration in the ways of domestic bliss. It seems Pauly Shore wants a baby to complete his life.
Taking the lead set by Madonna and Angelina Jolie, Shore and his camera crew traveled to South Africa to investigate the process of adopting a baby, mingling with the locals to sniff out a larger portrait of infant accessibility. If it sounds like a topic ripe for a sincere discussion, let me remind you that we're talking about Pauly Shore here. "Adopted" is nothing more than a half-assed Comedy Central special.
To be fair, I'll cop to enjoying Shore's act on occasion, though he's better with off-the-cuff reactions than scripted silliness. Now fortysomething and without much of a presence in Hollywood, "Adopted" reeks of a low-budget hullabaloo to snatch attention, playing off the African baby hysteria of 2006 to create a perception of controversy in order to reintroduce the public to Shore's brand of humor. After the dreadful antics of 2003's "Pauly Shore is Dead," "Adopted" is fairly quaint by comparison, but that doesn't make it any funnier.
The central vein of shenanigans here is Shore's efforts to take home an African baby. Prowling the poverty-stricken streets and joking with the locals, "Adopted" eventually settles down with Shore as he spends time with three children of decidedly different personalities. These kids are forced to spend the day with their potential American daddy, heading off on touristy adventures that allow Shore to bond with the kids and open the film up to scripted bits of distraction, most in the form of comely females, Shore's kryptonite.
If "Adopted" were handled as a real documentary, it might've worked. Instead, the whole thing is obviously staged, killing the shock value immediately as Shore all but winks at the camera. There's no teeth to the film, no venom that challenges the shady and swift adoption practices of the stars. Instead, the viewer is treated to a prologue where Shore brags about his sexual conquests (too well documented to be completely disregarded), forced to endure fruitless Michael Moore-style ambush tactics as the crew visits the famed Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, and blasted with the film's cultural insensitivity.
Hey, it's all in the name of comedy, but I was plenty stunned to find Shore outright making fun of the destitute Africans encountered, dreaming up crude personal hygiene and oral health one-liners to zing a culture he knows nothing about.
The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation here suits the HD cinematography, with a nice boost of colors and crisp outdoor locations, capturing the varied locations Shore visits. Black levels are consistent in lower-light situations, while brightness is nicely throttled throughout the film.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix is extremely basic for the documentary, with the only major lift provided by scoring cues, which find a comfortable fidelity on the track. Interview segments are easily understood and frontal, while antics are playful, but rarely directional. A 2.0 mix is included.
"Bonus Footage" (55:21) is nearly a sequel, offering tidbits with Shore trying to purchase a baby from a desperate father, clowning around in Cambodia, taking in the sights of the slums he visits, and presenting a few aborted bookend concepts that were thankfully deleted. Oddly, some of this footage is curiously repeated through the supplement, extending the running time artificially.
A Trailer has been included.
When not reminding himself that the cameras are rolling, Shore lands a few chuckles, most found while horsing around with the kids. The picture needed more laughs like it, and a spine would've been nice too. Lobbing softballs at an obvious target doesn't help anyone here, and while Shore attempts to bring a sense of reality to the story with a final card of encouragement from UNICEF, I doubt most viewers will stick around long enough to see it.
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