Comedy is completely subjective. Quick - if someone farts, do you laugh like a donkey or faint like a fop. How about a quip centering on Maslow's philosophical theory on self-actualization? Are you giggling or gagging? You see, it's hard to judge humor. One man's Lord Buckley is another's Larry the Cable Guy. So when direct to DVD jokefest Spaced Out came careening over this critic's transom, a certain amount of skepticism was natural. After all, like the myriad of mediocre horror films one must struggle through on an annual basis, lame laughfests are a dime per ten dozen. They turn up as frequently as zombies, overly romantic vampires, and high strung spree killers. Unfortunately, this sci-fi slop doesn't buck the trend. Instead, to use the popular pre-tween vernacular, it sucks the root.
After spending two years on an alien spaceship, getting anally probed over and over again, former investigation journalist Al Manac has finally returned to Earth and he's been given a mission - stop the show he used to work for, The Search for Intelligent Life, from proving the existence of extraterrestrials. Unfortunately, the program is now the #1 series on TV, and Al's former coworkers aren't anxious to see him debunking their bread and butter. Still, he signs back on, and starts interviewing potential abductees. Soon, a pattern begins to develop. People believe. Al scoffs. But we do learn that aliens are indeed randomly taking victims off the street, the better to serve their sick obsession with the nonstop butt reaming. But unless he agrees to carry on with the plan, Al's facing a return to the mothership - and another date with the derriere device. And that's one hook up he hopes to avoid.
Remember the opening caveat when you read the following sentence: Spaced Out is one of the worst films of 2009, and the year just friggin' started. It's the cinematic equivalent of being stuck next to some idiot who thinks everything he says, feels, thinks, eats, drinks, farts, and fumes about is absolutely hilarious, when the truth is, he's as witty as a wallaby's backside (and an animal hinder would be more comical than this turgid dung). As a starring vehicle for someone named James Vallo, this critic was shocked to learn that this was actually a sequel to a 2005 direct to DVD effort from Troma entitled Space Daze. Why Lloyd Kaufman and his crew passed on this rancid revisit is rather obvious - whatever value the original had has long since disappeared. Gone is the skit style approach. In its place is an elongated attempt at media commentary that comes off as five minutes of good ideas stretched to almost two excruciatingly boring hours. Even the occasional cameos - Butch Patrick, Robert Z'Dar, Fred Williamson, Larry Thomas - can't save things. Instead, we wonder how these perplexed professionals landed in what appears to be someone's semi-coherent home movie.
Scott Grenke, who's new to the whole Spaced situation, is really out of his element here. Co-writer John Wesley Norton handled the job of bringing the first film to life, but clearly he was tapped of volition when a second go-round was suggested. Grenke directs like he's collection fireflies, tossing everything into his cinematic killing jar in hopes it will somehow survive and look real 'purty'. His acting guidelines are simple - read your lines and get the Hell off camera. Butch Patrick tries to play absent minded and slightly stupid (his character has a metal plate in his head), but his turn looks like a first rehearsal. Z'Dar, clearly hurting from the lingering back problem he's known to suffer from, tries his damnedest to breath life into his loveable thief persona. But Grenke doesn't know the first thing about comedy (that's clear from almost everything in Spaced Out) and never gives the Maniac Cop star a chance to shine. Even some dude with an alien drill in his dumper has his moments filtered through a faux Benny Hill level of wit. We don't expect Shakespeare with something like Spaced Out. But we do intent to laugh. Unfortunately, nothing is remotely funny.
And besides, most of our "heroes" are downright creepy. Vallo turns Al Manac (clever name, huh?) into a nonstop supply of facial tics. When he's not complaining about his job, he's doing insanely stupid interviews with people who just won't play along. Even worse is Greg Maurer as Randy Bottom. As a chubster who is desperate to get captured by the aliens - the better to probe his willing pooper - there is a sexual predator meets serial killer meets ball of phlegm quality to his performance. We can't imagine why anyone would find this individual interesting, better yet, wonder why we should champion his desire to get diddled. Both men are surrounded by nothing but dudes, leaving his sausage factory substantially short in the easy on the eye candy department. And our ass-ccentric spacemen are given little to do except look somewhat impressive in their Rob Bottin on a budget inspired costuming. Certainly, something like Spaced Out could work. Look at the delightful Inbred Redneck Alien Abduction. All Grenke and his cast needed was some guidance...and talent...and jokes. As it stands, this is one exceedingly unfunny film. Oh course, this is just one person's individual preference. Maybe you will find it clever or comical. Maybe.
This critic received a screener copy of Spaced Out from Ariztical Entertainment, though the tech specs appear to be those of the soon to be available DVD. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is very good, with crisp contrasts, excellently controlled colors, and lots of discernible detail. The transfer trumps other camcorder created efforts, and speaks well for the choice of DP. In fact, this looks quite professional at times.
The standard Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 mix is nothing exciting. The dialogue is well recorded and always easy to hear, and the plentiful pop/rock songs used throughout are captured in speaker sparking excellence. If you don't expect much from your sonic situations, Spaced Out will not disappoint.
As part of the proposed packaging, Ariztical is promising a Behind the Scenes featurette (15 minutes of backstage interviews and clips with the stars), bloopers, deleted scenes, bonus scenes, a look the film's premiere, along with a couple of trailers and a music video. All the material here is better than the movie itself, speaking to the drive and devotion the cast and crew had for this production. Why all this hard work and effort didn't translate into something better remains one of Spaced Out's many motion picture mysteries.
Like determining whether a horror film is frightening or an edge of your seat thriller sets you on the tip of your La-Z-boy, the only fair way to judge Spaced Out is to determine if it makes one laugh. No matter how noble the intentions, how neat it is to see Patrick and Z'Dar onscreen, no matter the level of commitment from everyone involved, lame is still lame. And since this critic was actually angry at the film by the time the supposed humoresque ended, a Skip It is all that's possible. Some may enjoy its quirky sense of humor. Others will agree that it's the motion picture equivalent of air biscuits. Remember, comedy is personal, and you merriment mileage may definitely vary. But considered beyond such chuckle to chortle dynamics, Spaced Out is just not a good movie - and no amount of snickers (real or imagined) can change that.