Friday, November 13, 2009

The Onion Movie

I love the Onion

I love the cutting satire, I love the clever headlines, I love the deconstruction of newspaper cliches (and now, radio and TV cliches). The Onion has fooled foreign countries, and taught the world to laugh again.

So, naturally, I'm extra disappointed that The Onion Movie is no good.

The concept is 80-ish minutes of sketch comedy loosely structured around a fake TV network. This is also the rough concept of The Onion News Network, and it's clearly something that can work. The plot, such as it is, revolves around news anchor Len Cariou, upset that his newscast is being hijacked to advertise the upcoming Steven Seagal movie Cockpuncher - one of very few gags that actually works, culminating in a speech which echoes the end of On Deadly Ground. In the process, a whole bunch of gags happen, some ripped from real Onion headlines, others not.

There are several problems here, and I'm not sure what it is that kills it the most. First, it's very clear that every expense was spared. Production values are at a bare minimum, with clearly inexperienced actors, low rent sets (how many featureless rooms does one film need?) and special effects clearly designed by the filmmaker's cousin on his new Macbook. When one watches the real Onion's videos, one never gets the impression that it was made for no money. Here, one can't see a dime that has made it to the screen.

But, low budget wouldn't matter if the material was funny. Given that it's a sketch comedy film, one would expect it to be inconsistent. Even the mighty Monty Python let a few duds into the Meaning of Life, after all. It's more unfortunate that it's weighted so heavily on the miss side. Cockpuncher is funny, as is a bizarre gag about Peruvians having laser eyes - if only because it's unexpected - but for the most part it's all predictable. Even if there is good material, the film rushes through it like a nervous kid giving a presentation to the class. Gags flash by, never given a chance to develop, and if they are, the comedic timing and pure lack of acting skill kills it where it stands. When STEVEN SEAGAL is the best actor in your movie, you've got some serious problems.

That's it really, it's cheap and it isn't funny. In fact, it seems to share more with the ____ Movie series than it does with the Onion itself. Can there be a statement more damning than that?


  1. That's unfortunate, I never checked out The Onion Movie because it was always too expensive (and I don't really watch enough movies to rent). Still, you are totally correct when you say that a movie doesn't need budget to be funny. To take Monty Python as a further example, "Holy Grail" was shot on a shoe-string budget, but its ineptitude became an intentional part of its humor. Another movie that did quite all right despite the piss-poor budget: Kentucky Fried Movie, the debut of the once-funny Zuckers. I guess The Onion were just doing what they do, trying to make a buck off fans too devoted to care how good the material is.

  2. Speaking of the formerly funny Zuckers, one of them produced this. I also think the Onion wanted to drop it completely, and it was shelved for something like five years because of it.