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Bad Milo

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 08/08/13 11:15:17

"Kind of funny, but not quite in the same class as 'Zombie Ass'."
3 stars (Just Average)

See enough horror movies, and eventually "ridiculous puppet monster" can seem like a genre. You can break it down further and make the distinction between whether it's a movie based upon puppets being creepy or one where a puppet is being used to portray some other monster, but that's kind of splitting hairs. The point is, I saw at least two of these things at the festival, and while "Curse of Chucky" is in the same class for "puppet monster", it can't compete with "Bad Milo" on "ridiculous".

That's because Bad Milo more or less demands the use of the phrase "baby ass monster" to best describe the cause of Duncan Hayslip's intestinal distress. Oh, sure, his doctor (Toby Huss) says it's a polyp aggravated by stress, and while the latter part is accurate, when Duncan's stress becomes too severe - whether by his boss (Patrick Warburton) transferring him to HR to handle layoffs or his mother (Mary Kay Place) and her young husband (Kumail Nanjiani) hassling him about why Duncan and his wife Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) don't have kids - a little demon pushes its way out his rectum, kills the cause of his anxiety, and then climbs back in. His therapist (Peter Stormare) says it's a reflection of his subconscious and he must bond with it,but... really? "Bond with it?"

With a lot of movies that have this sort of plot, how well it works is a reflection of how well the filmmakers balance comedy and horror, but in this case, director Jacob Vaughan and his co-writer Benjamin Hayes aren't really trying to scare the audience beyond a little heightened danger to give the movie a climax. Instead, the tug-of-war is in how straight to play a movie with a very silly premise, and they've basically decided to go pretty broad; it's about as silly as an be without delving into actual parody. It's violent and gross slapstick attacks on fairly easy targets, and even if a lot of the jokes are the expected butt-related gags, they're seldom told lazily, and enough bits are just off-kilter to have the audience giggle at their oddness.

It also features a truly peculiar monster, a baby-sized thing with big chibi-esque eyes surrounded by skin the color and texture of which you are unlikely to see outside of a colonoscopy. It makes cute squeaking whimpers to speak, and opens its mouth to reveal a full set of shark teeth. Puppeteers Frank Langley & Bob Mano and voice artist Steve Sissis coax a decent performance out of the thing, and while it doesn't have the full range of movement of a more sophisticated animatronic, "Milo" and Ken Marino play well off one another; there's a bit of an art to scolding a puppet with a straight face and then having it react enough to be funny without overdoing it.

Marino's best work is opposite the puppet, in a way; he's one of a cast of television actors that seem to play simple characters simply, a notch or two bigger or smaller than ideal most of the time but seldom actually seeming like a bad performance. Patrick Warburton is the kind of unctuous boss he could play in his sleep, while Peter Stormare is wacky enough to occasionally be upstaged by a deadpan parrot (but to be fair: that parrot is funny). Gillian Jacobs is bright and appealing enough that it would be nice if she got more actual jokes, while Mary Kay Place and Kumail Nanjiani are funny for coming from a very odd direction.

All in all, "Bad Milo" is what you likely expect it to be - a silly idea whose realizers haven't concerned themselves much with things beyond getting a laugh. It's not the most ambitious ass-monster movie I've ever seen (a statement that does, in fact, make me question certain choices I've made), but I laughed regularly enough for it to count as a good time.

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