by David Cornelius
You almost want to feel a little sorry for Roy T. Wood. The filmmaker worked countless hours on “Disaster!,” a project lampooning Jerry Bruckheimer-esque action blockbusters by setting familiar themes within the world of cheap stop-motion clay animation and pumping in plenty of bawdy references and sick-comedy asides… only to wind up watching the creators of “South Park” beat him to the punch with “Team America: World Police,” a project lampooning Jerry Bruckheimer-esque action blockbusters by setting familiar themes within the world of cheap puppet animation and pumping in plenty of bawdy references and sick-comedy asides. As a result, “Team America” got all the glory, while Wood spent years waiting for somebody to pick up his film, which finally winds up getting a throwaway direct-to-video release years after the fact.Of course, don’t feel too bad for Wood, whose movie poses zero threat to Trey Parker and Matt Stone. “Disaster!” is a horrid collection of lame jokes, diarrhea gags, and sex yuks, all from the guy who, after serving on the crew of MTV’s “Celebrity Deathmatch,” went on to create the lazily titled “Star Trak,” a short animated “Star Trek” parody about an alien race named the Turds, who are from Uranus, har har.
"Can't argue with the title."
For “Disaster!” (written by newcomers Paul Benson and Matt Sullivan; both have yet to write another feature), we get a fairly straightforward “Armageddon” spoof, with a planetoid - named Planetoid Sean Connery, “’cause he’s gonna slap us like a bitch,” ho ho! - hurtling toward Earth. The big joke is that the planetoid is covered in multiple natural disasters, such as tidal waves, earthquakes, and tornadoes, making this “the ultimate disaster.” Alas, the script does little with this over-the-top potential beyond a single scene in which the team of heroes has to face all of these disasters at the same time, a scene that’s over after a minute or two.
The team chosen to go into space and stop the thing from crashing into Earth is led by man-of-action Harry Bottoms, whose name is supposed to be funny, although it is not. Neither are the names of Sandy Mellons, V.D. Johnson, Donkey Dixon (an over-endowed sex-crazed black guy, to boot), and a Frenchman named Bidet. If you laughed at the idea of any of these names as solid punchlines, congratulations. You are eleven years old.
But there is more: also on board is Guy Kirk, who speaks in a lame impersonation of Kevin Pollack’s impersonation of William Shatner. And there is a robot on board who is, like, totally gay. And they all work for ASSA, which is just like NASA, but with “ass” in it.
So you see what we’re dealing with here.
Or maybe not: I haven’t even mentioned the repeated woman-takes-off-her-shirt jokes, in which Wood and his crew find it hilarious to have a woman show her ta-tas over and over again. (This is, sadly, all there is to the joke, that it’s stop-motion animation where you get to see boobs. The joke is repeated throughout the film but never with any witty alterations.) Nor have I mentioned the farting, of which there is plenty, none of it remotely amusing. Nor have I properly discussed the poop sequence.
Ah, yes, the poop sequence. In this scene, you see, one of the characters has to relieve himself immediately. After struggling with the spaceship’s space-toilet system, he finally sits down and has at it for one very long minute that replicates every other guy-has-loud-diarrhea scene to ever grace the local cineplex. But, hee hee, the system gets clogged and backs up all the liquid feces on board into his spacesuit.
In other words, it’s the “liquid shit automatically equals funny” scene from “RV,” but with animation and a spacesuit instead of Robin Williams. Which is bad enough, and then you realize that this scene has nothing to do with anything - it was dropped in at complete random into the story. Move it elsewhere in the story, and you get the exact same effect. Cheap.
Even when the film comes close to being slightly clever, it trips over itself and falls back into stupidity. Consider a joke early on in which a secondary character introduces himself by saying, “Nice to meet you. I’ll be dying later on in the movie.” The line reveals a sharp understanding of the clichés of the genre, yet the whole gets played out by a broad, intentionally over-stereotyped caricature (a bucktoothed Chinese scientist with a speech impediment; his name is “Wang Chung”) that shows the filmmakers wanting to be crass but not knowing how.
Other moments come equally close, only to trip over themselves too quickly. As such, “Disaster!” becomes an annoying movie made by people who want to be masters of genre parody but don’t understand enough about how to turn the clichés on their ear to wring out the laughs. “Team America” was crude and disgusting, too, but it was so in a way that was plenty funny and wickedly satirical. “Disaster!,” meanwhile, merely tosses in a heap of fart jokes and stupid names and hopes somebody laughs.By the way, Motley Crüe, or at least a clay-animated version of them, appear in a cameo that’s being used as one of the film’s biggest selling points. Crüe fans (surely Crüe still has fans, no?) should know that the band appears for only a minute or two - once at the beginning to say “oh, crap, world is ending, rock and roll,” and once at the end to play a ten-second song about the “killer planetoid.” And I have a feeling most of you won’t even bother waiting around for their second appearance. Unless you are eleven.
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originally posted: 02/06/07 00:58:06