Farce of the Penguins

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 01/27/07 14:20:11

"The Aristocrap."
1 stars (Total Crap)

You know those long, joyless sighs that often escape the mouths of those stuck watching an insufferably awful comedy? The sighs that break the long patches of silence, silence which is often joined by a sea of weary, joyless faces? Those sighs are the desperate actions of disgruntled viewers struggling to understand why they are still watching what could possibly the worst thing they have ever seen, when clearly there is paint drying nearby that deserves equal attention instead. During “Farce of the Penguins,” I averaged about one of those sighs every two-and-a-half minutes.

“Farce” is a long-in-the-works pet project for Bob Saget, who envisioned a wild, bawdy parody of “March of the Penguins” in which an army of his comedian friends would provide clever voice-over to documentary footage of Antarctica. That the film wound up going direct-to-video is perhaps its only saving grace; I have sat with quiet, angry audiences chugging their way through the very worst of comedies, and I cannot imagine the deafening silence that would have greeted “Farce” in the multiplexes of the world. Instead, it was viewed with an audience of two - my wife at my side - and that’s about right. A movie like this hurts less at home, where one can stretch one’s legs, grab a snack from the kitchen, and disappear into the bathroom to weep openly at the misery pouring endlessly from the screen, all without having to bother a roomful of strangers.

(DVD also allows the unique opportunity of turning the sound off and supplying one’s own jokes. Or, perhaps, simply yelling “fart! poop! balls! vagina!” and the like, which distills the essence of the screenplay while somehow being funnier than the movie itself.)

Much of the film consists of one-offs equivalent to the commentary of a horny seventh-grader: cutaways to penguin baby-making are enhanced with various comics making sex sounds; non sequitur insert shots abound of penguins talking about their genitalia; words like “bitches” and “fuck” are repeated with the juvenile glee of being able to say a naughty word without getting grounded. Indeed, “Farce” is the movie version of somebody drawing a penis on the wall and finding it hilarious.

To keep the film from dying an early death (too late), Saget, who wrote and directed, bothers to include a plot of a sort, in which penguin buddies Carl (Saget) and Jimmy (Lewis Black) venture to the mating grounds, where Carl hopes to find true love with Melissa (Christina Applegate). Along the way, they crack wise about testicles. One penguin turns out to be a penguin Paris Hilton. Carlos Mencia pops by as the voice of a Latino penguin named Dirty Sanchez. Tracy Morgan does the same routine Tracy Morgan does in everything. Several times throughout, Carl and Melissa burst out into song. There are some jokes about being gay. Then Dane Cook or Gilbert Gottfried or old pals from “Full House” pop by to say “fuck” again. And that’s about it.

The whole thing is a miserable mess. Most of the cutaway jokes could’ve been dropped in anywhere at random (and have been). Scenes run on far past their breaking point, punchlines get recycled with increasing desperation. The mere premise of the thing wears out its welcome after only a minute or two, proving the joke might have worked as a (very) short project that Saget could’ve emailed to his friends. At feature length, the idea grows dreary way too soon, and then it’s just a matter of waiting in cold silence for the damn thing to end. The only way to properly pass the time is to try to figure out which cameo voices we’re hearing. Ooh! That’s Jim Belushi!

What makes the film earn such hatred, however, is the fact that so many talented people are involved, yet this is apparently the best they could do. Saget’s brilliant appearance in “The Aristocrats” seemed to finally show that the guy could actually be really, really funny. Toss in Black, Gottfried, Norm MacDonald, Jonathan Katz, Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Jason Alexander… heck, even Whoopi Goldberg, Harvey Fierstein, Stamos and Coulier. Surely somebody - anybody - here could’ve come up with something - anything - worth a chuckle. And yet we get zilch. Were there good jokes that didn’t make the cut? Did Saget script the whole thing, refusing to let his funny friends riff? Did the mere idea of the movie suck the talent right out of everybody involved?

And what happened to Samuel L. Jackson, the Coolest Man Alive? Here, he’s reduced to cheap spoofery of Morgan Freeman’s narration, which sounds like a good idea - Jackson has the chops to turn profanity into poetry. But not here. Instead, Jackson is left plowing his way through half-assed punchlines and uninspired sex references. Of all the celebrities Saget has rounded up to appear in his project, Jackson is the one wasted the most.

I suppose the key to the whole thing is in the title itself: “Farce of the Penguins.” Forty million possible ways to deliver a funny title, and all Saget does is think, “Yeah, let’s just throw ’Farce’ in there. That’s funny.” Not really, Bob. Not really at all. But it is cheap and lame, the sort of title a middle schooler would’ve thought up in between making fart noises with his armpit.

Sigh. Long, joyless sigh.

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