Comedy is dead, and animation killed it. Slowly and surely, over the last few years, The Simpsons and South Park redefined the limits of laughter and made everyday attempts at anarchy seem stupid, or just plain pathetic. The sitcom is now a dinosaur, responsible for more misery than many communicable diseases. And most stand-up comedians have resorted to gimmicks – class-consciousness, novelty songs, shock jock tactics – to try and milk a few moments of mirth. But the entertainment element most devoid of energy and irreverence is the witty motion picture. Not since the classic days of Problem Child or Lucky Stiff has a film managed to find the funny. Indeed, you have to go back to the days of a certain Harvard humor rag and its take on college craziness to locate the loco. National Lampoon's Animal House is one of those all too apparent rarities, an attempted rib-tickler that actually made it over the crossbar into belly-laugh land. So, naturally, when you see this Ivy League label on a DVD project, described as a hilarious parody of America's obsession with the reality show, one envisions another certified side-splitter. Sadly, National Lampoon's "Lost Reality" is an atrocity, horrible enough to get John Belushi, Douglas Kenney and a few dozen members of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee spinning wildly in their coffin comforters. Not only is it not funny, it's quite conceivable that this title could suck away other elements of humor from motion pictures stored nearby.
Presented as an "underground tape" collecting several heretofore unseen failed reality show pilots, National Lampoon's "Lost Reality" is a half-assed attempt at humor that fails on almost every level. The writing is not clever, the direction barely recalls the shows being spoofed and the overall attitude is amateurish and anti-climactic. Not a single one of the 11 sketches offered on this "Unrated" edition of the DVD is the slightest bit humorous. Instead, we see millions of missed opportunities and billions of blown bits of comedy. The reality show is ripe for a send-up and there have been other attempts – ranging from the serious to the pornographic – at milking the mediocre entertainment genre for all its immunity idols. But "Lost Reality" is indeed missing in its own mediocre existence, trapped in a talentless bit of boredom. Individually, the sequences offered are as follows:
"He Said, She Said":
The foundation of this failure is simple: four guys compete for a date with a single, sexy female...who happens to be a man! Oh course, the dorky dudes don't know about the dick dynamic, so we are supposed to snicker when they make cow-eyes at the she-male and fight each other for her favors. Har-dee har-har-har! This non-laugh riot is ridiculous, basically because the twist is so stupid that if you didn't see it coming a couple hundred light years away, you need to have your hackneyed formula finder repaired A.S.A.P. Naturally, two of the guys are repulsed, while another is mildly intrigued. They should have let the guy-gal and Mr. Bi-curious kook get together. Now that would be funny...or at least interesting.
"Old Age Home – Caught on Tape":
What do the elderly do when they aren't busy dying or developing lawyer-loving bedsores? Well, they apparently fight each other in staged bouts and throw bedpans full of feces on their enemies. At least, that's what this ersatz surveillance camera crap would have us believe. While most of the octogenarian residents in this VCR vomit look well below even AARP age limits, we are supposed to believe that these are incontinent old coots screwing each other when no one is looking. When you can't make a 'masturbating on a cake' joke work, you know you're comedy is on life support. Someone should have pulled the plug on this segment a long time ago.
"The Amazing Racist, Part 1":
The premise here has potential – a guy dressing up in racially insensitive clothing (in this case, a KKK robe) and interacting with people in South Central LA. But everything about The Amazing Racist is phony and staged. There appears to be one authentic moment where a homeless man attacks the mini-van our host is riding in. But every other circumstance presented here is comprised of pretty pathetic actors trying to express ire. You would think that the sight of a white supremacist outfit would enflame the most basic sense memory in the African American actor, but the most these performers can pull off is a bitch-slap fest. In these overly PC days of hypersensitivity, it's nice to see a sketch that tries to bust the ethnic humor taboo. But The Amazing Racist doesn't have the balls, or the brains, to make it work.
The title alone should guarantee at least a few minutes of gratuitousness, right? One expects softcore shenanigans a' plenty as a faux producer gets gals to drop blou and trou for a hidden camera. And in reality, that's all that really happens. Casting Couch offers nothing more than nudity, and if you don't care that your bones – funny and "others" - won't be in the least bit titillated, then you may actually enjoy this awful acting crap. It's just T and A and lots of dead air. Laughs are about as prevalent as real breasts in this misguided spoof.
"Take That Drug":
College kids are notorious for being incoherent boobs without the slightest connection to the real world - or social responsibility. But no matriculating miscreant, not even a public school graduate, could be as brain-damaged and retroactively retarded as the so-called students in this skit. While it's hard to decipher what is actually going on here (this homemade game show is kind of like a combination of "Truth or Dare" mixed with Quarters), it wouldn't really matter if we understood the premise perfectly; there is never a payoff. Faux college kids pick a "dare" from the hat, bid on what recreational gray matter destroyers they'll ingest and then...nothing. We don't see much of the narcotic-fueled frenzy and the only challenge initiated is a phone call to Dad asking for cash (how droll). As with most of "Lost Reality", this sequence had potential. But follow through is everything and Take That Drug chokes up on the bat of bemusement and whiffs it.
Like The Amazing Racist, this fake crime spree crud is rife with possibilities – all of which are completely pissed away in the erratic execution. Formulated as a challenge between two rubes who run into various business establishments and steal things, it ends up being a bunch of hidden camera hooey. If we believed for one minute that any of this was real, there could be a level of Jackass like revelry in the theft. But since all the performers are close-up minded reactionaries, from the baseball bat wielding porn vendor to the car jacking participant who believes the "F" word makes his believability that much more certain, we never once get the impression that this is something anchored in real life. With very little comedy in the individual scenes and no real closure to the actual events, this is just dull.
Finally, a very minor spark of life in what has been a bewildering set of badness. The idea here is quite ingenious – send a few self-centered assholes out on a date with a hooker and watch as they make fools of themselves to get into her pants. The truth, of course, is that she's PAID to pork them. And when the final "reveal" is made, and these egotistical dorks learn that the only reason they got lucky was because of a financial, not love connection, the circumstances are ripe for ridicule. Sadly, The Whore is not brave enough to go all the way - comically, that is. The female lead gets off a couple of good quips, but the overall mockery is middling. Such tired old chestnuts as "he stinks" or "he has a small penis" are supposed to encourage mindless chuckles. But all you end up feeling is that this is yet another under-developed idea which needed a few more rewrites to actually succeed.
Just like Take That Drug, this is another pointless endeavor that really has no purpose. The opening setup says that patients in a mental hospital will be given five "tasks" to complete. Whoever finishes the most, wins. Well, none of the participants compete in more than one event, and even then, the grading system for what is a successful achievement seems based solely on whether or not these psychos go apeshit or not. So we sit around waiting to see if a crazy person goes nuts. How exciting. The circumstances and scenarios offered are idiotic, the acting is horrid and the overall impression is something pieced together, not well thought out.
"The Amazing Racist, Part 2":
Another laughless installment of this desperate-to-be-controversial stupidity. This time, it's Muslims who face the preposterous wrath of our horrible host, and the jokes are still just as lame: Islamic women have beards! HAHA! Arabs smell bad! Yuck! Yuck! (Man, who WRITES this stuff???) The Middle Eastern actors take this far more seriously, though, and tend to impose an air of menace on top of what is supposed to be amusing. The result is uncomfortable and demeaning, elements not necessarily conducive to mirth.
You've been diagnosed with a terminal disease. You only have so many months to live. You decide to go on a hedonistic spree, doing whatever you want to do. And, just your luck, a friend wants to make a documentary of your debauchery. That is the premise for Dying Dave and after sitting through 10 minutes of this mindless drivel, here's hoping that David did indeed pass on. The crimes he commits against comedy warrant a lethal injection of something. Apparently, as part of one's dying wishes, they want to (a) shout the "F" word in public, (b) eat handfuls of pasta off people's plates at outdoor cafes and (c) take a dump on their boss's desk. No sex; No violence; No balls to the wall depravity; Just obnoxiousness and a sad feeling of self-centered disillusion. A guaranteed knee-slapper, right? Wrong!
Now here's a premise that's so old it has dinosaur dung on it. Heck, MTV and Australian television had TV shows just like this (daring people to do disgusting things for dollars) so what's so special about this version? Absolutely nothing. Basically, a smarmy guy walks the streets and asks people to kiss midgets, pee on trees and crap their pants for cash. And guess what? People DO IT! Uproarious? Well, not really. This is the longest sequence on the entire DVD, and the majority of the people approached seem like non-professionals (read: non-actors). However, the minute any challenge is accepted, you can be guaranteed that a member of SAG is staging the stunt. Still, there is a real attempt at energy and vitality here, something missing in most of "Lost Reality" and if it is possible to be crowned the King of Crap, this episode wins the throne.
It's never easy belittling the efforts of others, especially when they are trying to terrorize or tickle you. Comedy is such a personal proclivity that you're almost guaranteed to turn people off as you attempt to humor them. But it's hard to imagine anyone finding the sophomoric, scatological garbage proffered on National Lampoon's "Lost Reality" even the slightest bit comical. There are two ways to approach this title. One can assume that everything done here is "real", not staged or scripted. They can then marvel at the silly sight of unsuspecting people doing dumb things in front of a camera. If that's the case, then "Lost Reality" is just poorly done. But if this material was actually crafted as comedy, honed as a parody of other, more famous, shows, then it's just abysmal. It lacks invention, imagination and integrity. It fails to find what's outrageous about reality shows, and instead treads on very compacted comedic ground. The performances are pathetic, the installments meandering and the whole circumstance stinks of a lack of inspiration. A long time ago when the Earth was green and good Christian love ruled the social fabric, National Lampoon stood for something subversive and archetypal. Now, it's sold its soul to the Devil of derivativeness and "Lost Reality" is the result.
Though a little too dark some of the time, and hampered by the home movie quality of technology utilized, the overall image provided by this DVD is decent. The 1.33:1 full screen transfer has nice color correction and very few contrast problems. About the only issue present is in the aesthetic department. Part of the premise of "Lost Reality" is the recreation of lavish, expensive network television shows. But every installment here looks like a camcorder creation.
On the sound side, "Lost Reality" does a nice job of mimicking the overblown orchestration that accompanies most of these TV torture-fests, and the Dolby Digital Stereo serves the sonics well. The dialogue is also very clear and all of the flat-falling gags are easily understood.
Technically, there are no bonus materials on this DVD. The menu consists of "Play All" and "Episode" buttons, but no ability to see additional features, nor are any listed. The disc reviewed here however is advertised as an "Unrated" edition of National Lampoon's "Lost Reality", and it supposedly provides the additional episodes "Psyche Ward" and "Take That Drug", along with outtakes from Money (featuring a guy turding in his tighty whiteys for $$$). Therefore, they could technically be considered added features. The spec information on the "edited" version does not include these installments. So the choice is yours. If you want to witness ALL of "Lost Reality"'s retardation, then indulge your dollar in the "Unrated" disc. But either way, you're still in for one irritating time.
OK, so humor is in the eye, and ear, of the beholder. And not everyone laughs at the anarchic antics of foul-mouthed tykes or a dysfunctional yellow family completely in tune with pop culture and its craziness, but National Lampoon's "Lost Reality" is just awful. While it's possible that the Survivor/Bachelor type TV show may not be as ripe for ridicule as first envisioned, something better could have been crafted out of that crud than this equally illiterate mess. If the notion of old people flinging poo at each other, guys playing grab-ass with a transsexual and ethnic slurs that even Don Rickles would find offensive makes you smile with delight, then perhaps you will be one of the unlucky few who find the forced fallacies of "Lost Reality" rich in wit. But for almost anyone else - individuals who've watched comedy curl up and die in the death throws of derivative sitcoms and horrible Hollywood product - this lousy lampoon will be the final stone in an already decaying crypt. There was a time when the name National Lampoon guaranteed a cutting edge disrespect for popular ideals and conventions. Now, it seems like a pitiable selling point. Avoid this dose of reality at all costs.