Farce of the Penguins (US - DVD R1)
Satan saves a special place in Hell just for Bob Saget after seeing this movie...
Remember the original America's Funniest Home Videos? Remember how Bob Saget, the host, used to make up little voice-overs for the animal clips. Remember how annoying those were, and how Saget was only really capable of mustering two different voices? If you found these funny but thought to yourself, ‘If only Bob were allowed to use curse words’, well then, you must see Farce of the Penguins right this minute.
Farce of the Penguins may be the single most unfunny comedy I've ever seen in my entire life. I'm not saying it's the absolute unfunniest film ever made—I'm sure there are plenty of even more unfunny films I've not seen—but on my personal scale this is the one to beat. This is the equivalent of watching a National Geographic special with your least funny, drunken uncle who insists on making up a running commentary. Like an amateur hour Mystery Science Theater 3000 for nature documentaries. There's nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that I'm sure during his drunken mutterings your uncle has to at some point make something resembling a joke. At the very least being in his drunken presence should be enough for a few laughs.
You see, Saget actually wrote these awful jokes down, on paper (think of the poor trees), then convinced some of his weaker willed friends to come in and add a voice to a penguin for a day. Actual planning went into this. There is direction, writing, and even editing, yet uncle gin blossoms impromptu ramblings will strike even the most pathetic sense of humour as infinitely more amusing. I've seen five year-olds more clever than this, honestly.
"My butt who?"
- Actual five year-old child's joke, which I laughed at.
My utter disgust has nothing to do with the fact that some of the jokes are of the 'blue' variety, much to my chagrin. I love being offended; offend away Mr. Saget. The film's very presence is lowest common denominator stuff, my expectancy level was very low, so low that the United States Navy has yet to create a submersible capable of going as low without buckling, and yet I was still shocked at just how lame Farce of the Penguins was. Watching the random footage of penguins wandering the Antarctic, and falling off rocks in the Arctic with the sound off is a more amusing experience. Saget has taken the pure physical comedy of watching animals without legs walk over rough and slippery terrain and robbed it of its charm. Seriously, how do you f**k this up?
How about a share a few of these gems? As penguins dive into an ice hole to fish one shouts ‘I'm Hungry’, another shouts ‘I'm Horny’, and yet another shouts ‘I'm (insert character name here)’. Get it? The third penguin's calling of his own name indicates he thought they were shouting names, not adjectives. It's a play on the English language and the fact that a descriptive adjective and a proper noun, in this case a name, can be confused. Later a male penguin calls a female frigid, to which his friend replies ‘They're all frigid!’ Get it? Penguins live in the Antarctic, where the average winter temperature is between -40 and -94°F (that’s -40 and -70 in °C). The word 'frigid' has two definitions, it can refer to actual temperature or the temperament of a person. A frigid person would be aloof or standoffish. It's called a pun.
I ask myself, ‘Is this for real? Is Saget really trying to make jokes like “Take my wife, please” appear relevant in comparison to his brutally dated and unfunny work?’
So you got your hands on some footage of walruses scratching their asses? Great, that sounds funny. How will you lead us into this impossible to mess up image, Maestro Saget?
‘Walruses can too scratch their asses, I've seen it.’
Cut to footage of walruses doing the deed.
Are you serious? I'm sure the bovine, tusked creatures will at least have something funny to say about the situation, right?
‘I'm scratching my ass.’
That's the best you could come up with? This is what some poor sap paid twenty bucks for? I hope to Christ that no effort went into this, or that perhaps Saget was rich enough to pay editors to keep their traps shut about how unfunny every scene was.
The worst part really is the banality of it all. There is nothing here of even minute originality. Saget's 'characters' include a flamboyantly gay penguin that sings show tunes, and a 'black' penguin that thinks everything the 'white' penguins say is a racist double entendre, and who of course has a big penis. He even uses Jonathan Katz to voice a, get this, psychiatrist owl—genius.
I've given the film a tentative one out of ten, simply because it's so bad that there's a chance it was some kind of modern art piece that flew over my head. Maybe the jokes is that there is no joke, it's all some kind of elaborate Post-Modern, ironic Dadaist prank. Kind of like the belief that the true irony of Alanis Morresette's song Ironic is that there's nothing ironic about its lyrics (did you know that the song You Outta Know was about Saget's Full House co-star Dave Coulier?). Just in case Bob's a really bad artist rather than one of the worst comedians that ever made it into the mainstream, I'll give him a smidgen of credit. Also, talk about living the Capitalist's dream, making money by entertaining yourself? Nothing but respect for that.
Not that it matters, but Farce of the Penguins is anamorphically enhanced. The film is made up of stock footage that varies in age, stock, and quality. The image is fine. I find no interest in pursuing this line of thought any further. If you want to see stock footage with bad jokes then I'm sure you won't really care about video quality.
Again, does anyone care? The movie sounds fine, if entirely unremarkable. The words are clear enough to make you vomit with disapproval, and Saget's musical numbers feature some stereo effects. The LFE gets to throb a bit when the black penguin demands that the filmmakers play hip-hop music for the trek.
Personally, I find it annoying when a filmmaker pretends his film was a real life experience on a commentary track, even when I like the film ( Buckaroo Banzai comes to mind). When I hate the film, this is infinitely more obnoxious. Couple that with the fact that pretty much every word that comes out of Saget's mouth grates like mouldy cheese, and you've got a monstrously awful commentary that I couldn't make it all the way through.
This pretending it's real game also finds its way into the movie's EPK featurette, ‘To the Earth's 'Ice-Hole' and Back: A Director's Journey’. Saget seems to think that sitting in front of an obvious blue-screen while making comments about how cold it is was so funny that other content wasn't required. Unless you count the bits of footage with a digitally enhanced penis attached to one of the penguins. I didn't think it was very funny, but at least some effort went into the digital animation.
The deleted footage is more of the same, and thankfully Saget gives a real commentary on these. He actually has reasons for cutting these scenes, but none of them are the obvious 'because they suck' reasons. Saget claims they were cut for running time and pacing and such. It's sad when people are so dishonest with themselves.
The only worthwhile thing on the entire DVD is the behind the scenes montage of Saget directing his comedian friends on what to say. Some of these folks seem to actually enjoy what they're doing. Some, like Lewis Black, lie through their teeth and say they're having fun, while their eyes scream ‘Please, kill me now!’ The best bits, though, are when Saget shows someone their dialogue and they look at him in disbelief. Saget seems to think it's the lewd nature of the dialogue, but it's pretty clear that these folks are disgusted by the negative funniness of the lines themselves.
Three versions of the film's trailer finish off the disc, which I suppose I should mention has animated screens featuring more footage of penguins talking about nothing of interest. The problem here being that you have to sit through more of this crap to get through the menus. You can't even get back to the main menu without dealing with another series of long, badly delivered jokes.
Instead of wasting eighty minutes of your precious life watching Bob Saget amuse himself, buy yourself some alcohol (or some other kind of stimulant, perhaps just deprive yourself of sleep), invite some friends over and pop in your little sister's copy of March of the Penguins. Make up your own jokes, I guarantee they'll be funnier than Saget's, but then the only thing on tape less funny then Saget are war crimes and executions. Even that may be up for argument. When Tom freakin' Bergeron takes over your old show and manages to show you up, you know you've got to suck.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 30th January 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Director Commentary, "To the Earth's 'Ice-Hole' and Back: A Director's Journey", Bonus Scenes with Commentary, Behind the Scenes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Bob Saget
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Lewis Black, Bob Saget, Mo'Nique, Tracy Morgan
Length: 80 minutes
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