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New Kids Turbo
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by Jay Seaver

"New Kids are blockheads."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: After "New Kids Turbo", another festival-goer and I off-handedly discussed which bit of incessantly-repeated profanity was less likely to fly with an American audience. For a certain group, that sort of broad-spectrum political incorrectness is an asset not matter what, but those with a limited tolerance for uncouth morons should steer clear, as this movie's got more than than it knows what to do with.

Well, it's got at least five: Richard (Huub Smit), who somehow has managed to attain a place of his own and a dog; Rikkert (Wesley van Gaalen), who has a pregnant girlfriend he has probably never had sex with; Barrie (Flip Van der Kuil), the local pot grower; Gerrie (Tim Haars), a loser idiot even by loser idiot standards; and Robbie (Steffen Haars), the one without a mullet. They're more or less unemployable, especially in this difficult economy, and when they beat up bill collectors after being kicked off welfare for behaving like violent idiots, Richard declares that he's not paying for things any more. When this starts to become a movement, folks hig up in the Dutch government decide that they must be silenced, even if their hometown of Maaskantje is collateral damage.

When I saw the movie has more uncouth morons than it knows what to do with, I mean that literally - the movie does very little with Barrie and Robbie. Presumably Steffen Haars and Flip Van der Kuil are too busy off-screen to carry much of a burden in front of the camera - both are credited as writers, directors, and producers, with Van der Kuil also editing - though for all I know, they only had small parts in the original internet videos and TV series. That there are excess New Kids is indicative of a level of excess that works for the group often enough; even those who likely don't want to admit it will, when pressed for the truth, say that they laughed during the movie, sometimes pretty hard. Go for broke often enough and some of the gags will pay off, especially when you're talking about slapstick targeted at the very deserving (of course, you'll also get comedic dead zones like a painful breaking of the fourth wall). Haars & Van der Kuil also do a pretty good job of escalating things; the gags get bigger and more absurd with the story.

As you might expect from folks who have been playing these characters for a while, the cast has things pretty much down pat. This is not sophisticated comedy based on clever character work; even those who don't speak a word of Dutch can tell that these are rednecks with thick regional accents playing up just how not-bright they are. The variation's not bad, and there are a couple of standouts: Huub Smit is good at saying dumb things with a certainty that can sound like authority, and Tim Haars is genuinely great at projecting stupid optimism and taking the punishment that it inevitably leads to.

The big, hard to get around thing is that while there are a great many jokes to be made about this sort of idiot, the variety isn't that great, and after a certain point, there's nothing to do but go bigger, louder, and broader, which is not necessarily funnier. Some will say that the movie makes an attempt to stretch from parody to satire, but it falls short of actually having something interesting to say. And while some may feel that politically incorrect comedy can't go too far, bits making fun of a guy with Down's Syndrome suggest otherwise, and using certain words as punctuation works much better if they are exclamation points rather than commas. This sort of thing is numbing rather than energizing at a certain point.

And, let's face it, we all know some folks who will see these guys as protagonists rather than objects of ridicule, or will imitate the attitudes ironically but in doing so spread the ugliness of it. Sure, that's a snobbish attitude to have, but aren't movies like "New Kids Turbo" built on snobbery and appealing to the audience's sense of superiority? After a while (say, by the end of something feature-length), that's a tough sort of comedy to feel good about.

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originally posted: 09/10/12 14:26:44
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2011 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

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