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Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo - The Little Black Book Edition
Studios are routinely taken to task for that dreaded DVD concept known as the double dip – the pointless release of a title, with minimal bonus features, in an attempt to extend a product's saleable shelf-life or overall profitability. Usually, whenever a reissue is announced, fans foam at the mouth, ire aimed at marketing gimmickry, pathetic packaging presentations, and the lack of legitimate love for the digital medium itself. But then the question becomes, does this anger necessarily apply to something as nominal as Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo, and do the people who claim this movie as an own-able favorite really care if there was a previous, near bare bones release back in 2000. Indeed, one can successfully argue that this is the first valid offering of Rob Schneider's breakout film ever to hit the aluminum disc domain. Sadly, it's not the sparkling special edition Bigelow lovers had hoped for.
Failed fish tank cleaner Deuce Bigelow wants to make something of his life. Sadly, the best he can do is service koi ponds and stare at the braless girl who works at the pet supply store. One day he runs into Antoine Laconte, a suave lady killer with a luxurious condo. While admiring the man's rare fish, Deuce learns the means to all this material gain – Antoine is a gigolo. When the on loan lothario is called away on some international "business", the well-paid paramour asks Deuce to fish-sit. Naturally, he agrees, and, of course, a disaster occurs. Suddenly, our hapless hero needs $6000 to set things right. Hearing a phone call intended for Antoine, Deuce gets an idea. He will give up tank tending for a while and take up the male whore calling. With some help from "male madam" T.J., and a client list of desperate and dateless women, Deuce may actually make a go of the 'sex for sale' scheme.
Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo is not the cinematic equivalent of the apocalypse, no matter what the rest of the critical community might think. Nor is it the laugh out loud sex farce that your drunken buddies believe it is. More or less a beach bum version of The Waterboy - though that Adam Sandler vehicle is a dozens times more inventive and emotionally centered than this trivial tripe – you can literally see star Rob Schneider attempting to reach beyond his dunderhead demographic to make a more mainstream style comedy. Sure, the gross out gags are plentiful, and the narrative is about as PC as a Carlos Mencia monologue, but there is a real attempt at heart here. It's as if the creative team steering Schneider's career suddenly realized that, along with mindless, male-oriented farces, the actor might be able to sell slapstick and sympathy with equal aplomb. The balance is slightly out of whack in this superficial sex spoof, but there are moments that bubble with believable pratfalls and pathos.
Schneider is the king of this kind of sad sack cinema. Where his SNL buddy Sandler decided to revamp his arrested adolescent image with a few turns with actual auteurs (Paul Thomas Anderson and James L. Brooks), Schneider parlayed several sensational cameos in his buddy's buffoonery (usually playing a weird guy in overalls saying "You can do it" at inappropriate times) into a kind of clichéd career. South Park even made fun of it during one of their classic episodes. And it's all because of Deuce. This was the film that created the viable Schneider style, a movie that mixes a goofy premise (man as animal, guy as reincarnated gal) with occasional nods to human normalcy, all tapping directly into the easily entertained aesthetic of the adolescent moviegoer. Nothing here is timeless or ambitious. Instead, the jokes are painfully obvious and weighted more towards the weird (freakish people and behavior) than well-observed. In fact, Schneider makes such past physical comedians like Jerry Lewis and the Three Stooges appear as sophisticated and witty as those Brothers Marx. His style really is a throwback to a far simpler cinematic time. Sadly, the actor doesn't realize that there was a rationale for leaving such silliness locked in the past.
From a pure performance standpoint, Schneider is a decent onscreen presence. He makes the most of what little he has, and accentuates the less irritating aspects of his often prickly persona with an open-faced amiability. Yet there is a flaw in his self-perception that seems to subvert any attempt at humor, especially in Deuce. Schneider obviously believes he is a leading man in a loser's Lilliputian body. One of the film's main themes is that Deuce is several times the lady's man that Antoine is, only the snooty and stuck up women of the world don't realize it. No, just the human oddities do – the overweight black blimp of a babe, the super tall she freak, the perky pixie with the toxic case of Tourette's, the narcoleptic lass with the bad habit of inappropriate napping. They technically represent outcasts, but in Schneider's mind, they are the genuine people of the planet. So it's the meek making it with the miserable, right? Not really. Here's the rub – Deuce would never DREAM of having a physical relationship with any of the gals who hire him. He fulfills their emotional needs, but practically barfs at the thought of servicing their corporeal whims. No, only the hottie with the missing hoof gets his glands in an uproar, confirming that he's as blind to inner beauty as the next guy. Remember, he's only being nice to the others because he's being PAID to do so.
Such a strange mixed message is at the very heart of Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo's irritating internal issues. The story is so structured, so Syd Fields in its formation, that you can literally see the act breaks occurring (Deuce destroys condo – end of Act 1, Deuce and gal break up – end of Act 2). Occasionally, some enlightened wit is offered. Eddie Griffin shines as T.J. the pimp with all manner of bizarre 'he-harlot' speak. Whenever he is onscreen something funny is bound to come out of his mouth. Additionally, William Forsythe savages his serious actor chops to play a penis-obsessed police officer. His last act striptease is pretty hilarious. But the movie mangles so many things, trying to play the relationship angle both honestly and farcically, that you never really know what to feel. Deuce may just be a likeable dork who finally discovers his inner savoir faire, but the film built around this affable acknowledgement is awkward and rather weak. Gross out can occasionally be tempered by good natured – Shallow Hal managed it pretty well. But this scattershot stab at tempered toilet humor is, in the end, too dull to be definitive. Instead, it will mark the moment when Rob Schneider became a comedic cash machine.
After doing some research on the 'Net, this critic can safely say that there really isn't much difference between the original Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo transfer and the so-called 'new' image offered here. The initial DVD presented a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image with correct colors, nice detail, and an overall professional look. This version is exactly the same. Frankly, one would be hard pressed to find a way to make the picture look any better. This is not some artistic triumph we're discussing – this is a high end (if somewhat low rent) mainstream motion picture. It should look good on the digital domain and it does.
On the sound side, this new disc maintains the previous release's Dolby Digital Stereo 5.1 parameters. As an aural offering, this mix is rather mundane. We don't get a lot of channel challenge, and the directional elements of the story aren't showcased enough. There is no real spatial ambiance or any attempt at mood or atmosphere. So unless you relish the concept of hearing the pop song heavy score believably blasting out of your home theater system, there is nothing exceptional about this auditory package.
On the original DVD release, Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo gave fans a minor making-of featurette, as well as two examples of storyboard-to-scene comparisons. Sadly, none of that material makes it here. Instead, we get a collection of substandard bonuses that will make fans frown with decided Deuce discontent. First up, there are seven deleted scenes, and they do help fill in some of the logic and narrative gaps in the movie. Especially interesting is a final act wedding, as well as a Russian landlord character that was completely cut out of the film. Unfortunately, those looking to reincorporate the footage into the film via seamless branching will balk at the transfer offered. Each removed sequence is presented in pathetic, multi-generation video footage, complete with blurry imagery, non-final sound mixing and Disney date stamping all over the perimeter. Ugh.
Five "Fly on the Set" segments let us in on the process of rehearsal as we watch the filming of the tank tragedy, Deuce's first meeting with T.J. and, again, that mysterious marriage. A director's video diary is nothing more than additional behind the scenes material, and the new documentary on the production is part EPK, part off the cuff camcorder camaraderie. Toss in Disney/Touchstone's typical irritating trailers, which one must fast forward through in order to reach the feature presentation (in this case, an animated automobile mock-up menu), and you've got a derivative, far from overwhelming wonderful, set of cinematic supplements. Since most feel freshly minted from old press materials, you can sense that none of the original cast or crew felt the need to revisit this title for an up-to-date documentary. How odd.
Looking back over his creative cannon, Schneider made a mistake breaking out on his own. In the beginning, he leveraged his SNL collateral into a series of stellar character parts, making even mangy offerings like Surf Ninjas, Judge Dredd and the Jean Claude Van Damme stinker Knock Off crackle with his crazed persona. Stepping out into the limelight alone resulted in the defining of a formula that has come to haunt the actor to this very day. If you like Schneider and think his other smarmy starring vehicles (like The Animal and The Hot Chick) are riotous examples of bawdy, broad humor, then by all means, pick up this DVD. Everyone else who's unsure about the prostitution premise, or the less than stellar added content, would be best served by a recommendation of Rent It. Only then can you determine if Schneider is your slapstick cup of tea, and/or whether you need to bother with this 'seven years in the making' reissue. Sometimes, a double dip is a warranted aspect of the high volume variables of DVD. But in this case, there is nothing really novel to justify this rather ordinary update.
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