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Hamburger: The Motion Picture
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Side Order of Entertainment"
3 stars

Didn't exactly do a lot of box-office business, but it's perfectly pleasing for a rainy Saturday-afternoon.

The impossibly-handsome Russell, the hero of the fine screwball comedy Hamburger: The Motion Picture, has it rough! Having been expelled from four colleges in three years for “lewd conduct” for having bedded practically the entire female student body in not exactly the most private of locations, Russell believes himself to be quite the helpless victim of his ungodly good looks. As the movie opens, the camera slowly horizontally pans in a girl’s locker room past one honey after another in the individual shower stalls when it rests on Russell having some sudsy fun with a real beauty -- that is, until the coach catches him and he’s sent over to the female school psychologist who, after some incidental small talk, seductively makes her way over to him and starts shedding her clothes and climbs on top of him; then the dean walks in, and Russell finds himself expelled yet again, much to the chagrin of his parents who remind him that unless he graduates he’ll lose out on his grandfather’s quarter-of-a-million-dollar inheritance. With his options extremely limited, Russell sees a commercial for the fast-food conglomerate Busterburger, which uses one-hundred-percent bullmeat and offers a fifteen-week, tuition-free course at their Colorado campus to become a franchise manager, and soon he’s arrived with suitcase in hand amid an array of colorful misfits who make a class of fifth graders seem like geniuses by comparison. They consist of a horny huckster equipped with every contraceptive known to man, the ultimate nerd with Coke-bottle glasses, a fatso with a device that electrocutes him whenever he’s tempted to stuff himself, a female South American gun-totting revolutionary, and a nun longing for an extracurricular second career. Then there’s the goofball of a dean, the elderly Lyman Vunk, and his young blonde bombshell of a wife, along with the martinet of a drill instructor Drootin whose lovely name-calling ranges from “slime wad” to “ketchup crotch.” And what a restrictive place this institution is: bringing in outside food, leaving campus, having sex, all are forbidden, with the no-sex part perfectly fine with Russell who wishes not to get kicked out of a higher-learning facility for the first time in his life. If any of this sounds even remotely familiar, it’s probably because the movie is clearly a knockoff of the uproarious Police Academy from two years prior, but while lacking that mini-classic’s laugh-quotient it still manages to put a smile on your face more often than not.

Leigh McCloskey, who was wonderfully smarmy as the fraternity president in Just One of the Guys, is indeed attractive enough for the character of Russell, and though he doesn’t possess much in the way of comic timing he’s both relaxed and appealing, even if one wishes he had been given more to do. (Yes, he’s the straight-man protagonist whose eyes and ears take in the eccentrics and eccentricities for us, but some semblances of alacrity wouldn’t have hurt.) The real wild card of the cast is ex-NFL linebacker Dick Butkus, who in his no-holds-barred performance gives us a villain we love to despise -- the brain-cells-depleted Drootin is so pathetically amusing you can’t help feel sorry for the guy when things go sour on him; the uncouth Butkus doesn’t hold anything back, and the movie gets a seismic charge of energy whenever he’s onscreen. The screenwriter, Donald Ross, who comes from a television background, hasn’t exactly penned the most indelible of dialogue, but he’s created a fair number of creative scenes that catch enough of the tail-end of a promising idea, so even when one doesn’t quite come off (like the students crying like banshees while dicing their way through an “onionology” class) it doesn’t crash and burn but manages to rub at least a portion of our funny bone. Debuting director Mike Marvin wrote the slightly-superior Hot Dog…The Movie, and though Hamburger: The Motion Picture has equal helpings of nudity and sexual situations, that Peter Markle-directed movie boasted spectacular skiing sequences that helped carry it over its contextual hurdles. Still, Marvin brings both tempo and bounce to the proceedings, and he gets in an out of scenes with a decent deal of deftness. There’s a wonderfully-sustained bit where the students have to maintain professionalism during their final exam in manning a Busterburger eatery where they’re bombarded by everyone from Weight Watchers bovine lard-asses to a horde of angry African-American cops who the dastardly Drootin has manipulated into thinking the students have racially provoked them through the drive-thru intercom; and it all culminates in what is surely a cinematic first -- a bathroom chock-full of laxative-induced flatulence ignited by a Japanese tourist’s camera flash that literally levels the establishment to smithereens. In case you haven’t surmised by now, Hamburger: The Motion Picture is no great shakes, yet it’s oddly endearing in its steadfast dedication to dishing out lowbrow humor with the good-natured goal of sating our moviegoing appetite.

If you keep your expectations low, you won't be sending this order back.

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originally posted: 03/11/15 12:19:01
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  05-Jan-1986 (R)



Directed by
  Mike Marvin

Written by
  Donald Ross

  Leigh McCloskey
  Dick Butkus
  Randi Brooks
  Chuck McCann
  Charles Tyner

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