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Writer Harry G. Allard and illustrator James Marshall have created a series of children's books about a really dumb family, the Stupids. These books have been popular in elementary schools for a number of years, because of the simple and broad humor they contain. The Stupids put their shoes on before going to bed, they mow their carpet and they have a picture of a beach balls on their wall labeled "The Pyramids." That kind of kid stuff. In 1996, director John Landis (Animal House, Blues Brothers) decided to bring this mentally challenged family to life in The Stupids. Surprisingly, he made a very funny movie that is enjoyable for children and adults alike.
The plot is easy to follow, but hard to explain. That's because they plot doesn't really matter. It is only a device to string together a series of funny events. Yet all the plot points do dovetail together neatly at the end of the movie. The story starts off with Stanley Stupid (Tom Arnold) upset that his garbage has been stolen again. Every week, someone comes early in the morning and steals it, and he decides to find out who. He hides in the bushes and waits. The next morning, the garbage men take his trash, and he follows them to the local dump. Coincidentally, a group of rouge military officers are using the dump to demonstrate stolen weapons that they plan to sell to foreign powers. Stanley stumbles onto their plan, but is oblivious to what is really going on. He's trying to find out who has the organization to steal as much garbage as he has found. While Stanley and his family, wife Joan and children Buster and Petunia, track down the garbage thief, their paths continue to cross the those of the gun runners until the big showdown at the end.
Sounds dumb, I know. And it is dumb, but funny. My children and I laughed through the whole movie. The closest thing I can liken it to is a PG rated version of Kentucky Fried Movie. It has a lot of silly sketches that are just bizarre. There's the part where Stanley convinces himself that he's a bush, and then realizes he has arms and legs. "Half plant, half man. Master of both worlds! Bush-man you are supreme!" Or the part where Stanley and Petunia find themselves in a darkened planetarium and conclude that they've died and gone to heaven. How can you not laugh at Tom Arnold singing "I'm my own Grandpa." Just really wacky stuff.
Being based on a series of kids books, this is a great movie for children. There isn't any gross out humor or swearing, and all the violence is cartoon like. No one gets killed, but a couple of people have boxes fall on them. The humor is just right for kids. The acting is very over the top, and it suits the picture.
This is a love it or hate it film though. If you saw Weird Al's UHF and thought it was really stupid, avoid this movie. On the other hand if you revel in the strange and unusual, check it out.
I was very surprised by the quality of the audio. On lesser films like this, the studio often skimps on the DVDs, but I can't blame them on this one. There are both 5.1 and stereo mixes. The 5.1 was very full and enveloping. There is background music in about every scene, and a lot of it was pumped through the rear speakers making the movie really surround you. The sound effects were placed in various positions around the room too, and the explosions were loud and dynamic. A very good sounding disc.
I was afraid that this was going to be a full frame disc. Children's movies (or movies the studio execs think are for children) often get the pan and scan treatment. I was stunned to see that you have your choice of anamorphic widescreen or full frame video! I viewed the 1.85:1 widescreen version, and the picture quality was very good. The print was not old and faded like I was expecting. The colors were bright and clear, and the lines were tight. This print looked as good as one from a recent film. There was very little digital compression at all. If you look at the backgrounds of most DVDs, you'll find a lot of aliasing and other defects, but this disc looked very clean. There was a small amount of edge enhancement in some scenes, but it was not heavy handed at all. While I wish they had left it off altogether, it was not distracting. An excellent disc, especially for a DVD that will be marketed as for children.
There are optional subtitles in both English and Spanish. In addition to a trailer for the movie on the disc, there is a reel of trailers. It has trailers for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mr. Nanny, Little Vampire, and Dumb and Dumberer.
This quirky, strange, but above all funny movie will not be to everyone's tastes. It's a little to wacky for some people. If you are the type who likes silly movies, like National Lampoon's Vacation or Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, then this DVD is Highly Recommended.