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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Some movies are beyond criticism. Rutland USA is basically a feature-length in-joke made by a bunch of friends in a small Massachusetts town. The story follows a Robert Altman-sized cast through a wacky kidnapping plot but the real order of the day is jokes and lots of 'em. Director Chad Meserve and writing partner Jon Artigo have filled Rutland USA with Naked Gun numbers of hyucks. Some hit and others miss. Part of what makes the best comedy of this type work (and it's a very difficult style to pull off) is that the situations are just too ridiculous to believe on their own. A film like The Naked Gun is built around a great character that the audience can grab hold of even under the silliest circumstance. No character here holds the screen the way Frank Drebin does in The Naked Gun and the humor is too scatter-shot to develop a consistent rhythm.
The same goes for the huge cast. Artigo is fine as the noble janitor who pines to save the day. Andrea Ajemian (who also co-produced) is also good as the host of a local public access news show. Philip Hardy Lavoie is very convincing as the slacker Ryan. Much of the rest of the cast, however, comes off like hammy amateurs. Perhaps the best performance comes from the director in a bit part as a "slap therapist." There's a loose live-wire energy to his short scene that's missing from much of the rest of the film.
Most of the humor is of a very low-brow variety. Puke, piss, and poop jokes come at a pretty steady stream and the majority of the running time is used showing how stupid the characters are. There are funny moments (like when a detective tries to comfort the parents of one missing teen by telling them "It's probably just drugs or some weird sex thing") but for the most part Rutland USA is a typical amateur video production.
The anamorphic widescreen video looks fine. Some bits are excessively compressed but it mostly looks as good as digital video can be expected to look. Meserve puts together a few nice shots and some of the locations are colorful.
The 2.0 audio is fine. Most of the dialog is clear. The score, which consists of numerous musical sources, sounds fine.
The Rutland, USA DVD features a selection of deleted scenes and outtakes (mostly just more silliness) as well as a couple of trailers. Two commentary tracks are also available, although the one from the filmmakers consists mostly of them pointing out who all the people in the film are and the one from the composers consists mostly of them pointing out where the music came from. There's nothing wrong with friends getting together to make a mindless joke of a movie but no one should be surprised at the end of the day when there's nothing more to say about it.
The disc also includes three short films from the filmmakers. Oh, Julia! is an intriguingly simple break-up film. A Vagina for Christmas is a twisted little bit of animation that is actually probably the best thing on the disc. The disc also includes the animated Rex & Red.
Judging by the long list of contributors to the financing of the DVD, the Rutland crew have a lot of community support. For the folks on the inside this DVD will probably be very interesting. Seeing your friends, neighbors, and local pizza parlor in a movie can be real fun. Fans of crazed comedy may also enjoy Rutland, USA. The general public, however, might wonder what the point of it all is.