by Scott Weinberg
Ever wanted to BE a Brady? Was one of your childhood dreams to work on The Love Boat? If you've ever looked to television as a comforting escape from the pain and tedium of everyday life, have I got an insane little comedy for you!If you're the kind of person who dominates all the television categories on Jeopardy! and can rattle off sitcom premises like they were the alphabet, you might have a little Jane White in you. Presented in a deliriously colorful and self-referential style, Jane White is Sick and Twisted is a bizarre little nugget that will appeal most to hardcore TV devotees and those who believe in the credo "Anything for a Laugh". (Give this movie even a small audience and I predict a massive cult following.) This one has more giggles in it than the entire works of Martin Lawrence and Rob Schneider combined.
"The Bastard Son of a Thousand Sitcoms!"
The title doesn't lie. Young Jane White is not only sick and twisted, but she's easily the most feverish TV addict ever born. Her main obsession lies with Gerry King, a thinly-veiled riff of the despicable Jerry Springer. Jane believes that Gerry is her long-lost father, and she watches his show with a devotion that makes Ray Babbitt's obsession with Judge Wopner seem mild by comparison. Jane repeatedly patterns her 'social life' with Gerry's disturbing topics, so when the telelvision asks Jane if she's a closet transvestite prostitute, she of course sets out to become one. When Gerry opens his show to people who have been granted super sex powers by alien abductors, Jane promptly heads out to search for UFOs.
That a person would pattern their life on the ramblings of a talentless talk show host like Jerry Springer is just one of several clever winks included by writer/director David Michael Latt. Jane White is Sick and Twisted is essentially a road movie, and it's a pretty damn crazy ride. Jane meets an equally insane guy named Dick who promptly falls in love with her, and the pair set off for Gerry's show in Chicago.
Along the way the duo comes across a series of increasingly strange characters and bizarre situations, and while Jane White is Sick and Twisted is obviously a low-budget affair, the massive amount of TV gags, references and spoofs on display is simply staggering. Just going on my own meager knowledge of TV shows (I am a movie guy, after all) I was able to spot references to The Simpsons, Charlie's Angels, All in the Family, The Muppet Show, Friends, The Brady Bunch, The Love Boat, Batman, Just Shoot Me, Love American Style, Saved By the Bell, Jeopardy!, The X-Files, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Saturday Night Live, Diff'rent Strokes, Party of Five, The Partridge Family, The Greatest American Hero, Sesame Street, ER, Twin Peaks, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Real Monsters, Road Rules, The Real World, Welcome Back Kotter, Married with Children, The Addams Family, Monty Python's Flying Circus, The Dukes of Hazzard, Survivor, Three's Company, Dragnet, The Facts of Life, Barney, The Beverly Hillbillies, I Dream of Jeannie, Cheers, Alice, Green Acres, Star Trek, South Park and even Manimal! (One golden rule of critiquing a comedy: if someone pokes fun at Manimal, you're dealing with a writer who has a clue.)
Kim Little is fearless and hysterical as the title character, and she somehow manages to make you actually CARE for the insane little freak. The supporting cast is a colorful who's who of TV show actors, including Alley Mills (Mom from The Wonder Years), Wil Wheaton (Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation delivering a truly odd yet very strong performance), Richard Kline (Larry from Three's Company), the hysterical Colin Mochrie (Whose Line Is It Anyway?), Dustin Diamond (like you wouldn't pay a rental fee to see Screech from Saved By the Bell dressed as a lisping drag queen!), Maureen McCormick (Marsha from The Brady Bunch as a woman who thinks she's Jesus, wears a bird on her head and uses the word "jerkwad"), David Lander (Squiggy of Laverne and Shirley fame having a grand time as the vile talk show host) and Danica McKellar (Winnie from The Wonder Years playing a nasty piece of white trash). It's a lot of fun to see these familiar faces tweaking their TV personas and basically just acting wacky. Tom Cruise doesn't do wacky, so we take what we can get.
Every aspect of your cookie-cutter TV show is skewered mercilessly, as Latt includes a brief laugh-track, some funny and familiar scene segues, a handful of clever "flashback" episodes. Even the sheer predictable melodrama of televison is deflated to entertaining effect. Plus there's a buck-toothed horny mongoloid idiot named Burger who has sex with Jane's Mom and wears a T-shirt that says "Straight to Video". Now THAT'S funny.
Currently on the festival circuit and ultimately destined for a long life on the video shelf, Jane White is Sick and Twisted is never going to be mistaken for an Oscar Winner or Merchant-Ivory production. I mean that as a compliment. If you want to get in on the ground floor of an eventual cult classic, I recommend searching this one out. It's somewhat dog-eared and very kitschy, but you can sense that Latt and Little are true TV fans, and their parody hits the mark more often than not.If you're weary of the cookie-cutter comedies spewing out of the studios these days, here's a strange little farce that actually has some balls. Best suited for hardcore TV fanatics, Jane White is Sick and Twisted is one funny flick. Any movie that has a 7-year old girl gleefully chanting "blow job! blow job!" will obviously not let good taste stand in the way of a good larf, and I for one think it's hysterical. I must be sick and twisted. (Check out the insanity for yourself at www.janewhitemovie.com )
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5695&reviewer=128
originally posted: 12/28/01 07:44:27