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Vulgar

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/14/07 21:49:35

"Yuck. Just plain yuck."
1 stars (Sucks)

I’m not quite sure what writer/director Bryan Johnson was thinking when he decided to make “Vulgar,” but I have an inkling he was hoping to make the most offensive movie ever made. “Vulgar” is ugly, creepy, depressing, vile, and disturbing; it’s the movie equivalent of a sweaty old guy in a rain coat shopping for cheap porn.

But here’s the catch: “Vulgar” is not that offensive. Sure, it’s immensely detestable, but it never shocks, never gets the audience to say, “Why, I never!” Instead, it’s a modern equivalent of “I Spit On Your Grave” - both films are crude, disgusting, with nothing to redeem themselves, yet the real reason they’re unwatchable is that they’re both incompetently made, with “shock value” added to cover up the piss-poor writing, directing, acting, and production values.

Johnson’s mess finds Brian O’Halloran as Will, who ekes out a living as a small-time birthday party clown named Flappy. That job goes nowhere, so he hatches a new plan. He’s now Vulgar the Clown, available for bachelor parties, the joke being he arrives before the stripper and pretends to be the “entertainment.”

On his first job as Vulgar, he’s jumped by a family of creeps, gang raped, and left for dead. Will refuses to go to the cops, returns to his life as Flappy, and becomes a celebrity when he saves a girl from a violent father. Naturally, Flappy becomes so popular that he’s given his own TV show, and all is well... until the rapist family returns.

Oh, and it’s supposed to be a comedy. I think.

The whole thing is a disaster, with Johnson’s attempts to mix off-center humor with more serious dramatics causing nothing but pain. The result is a mish-mash of awkward moments, repugnant images (for some reason, Flappy’s a creepier clown than Vulgar), and a babbling script that doesn’t know where to go with its one-note idea.

The one-note idea comes, sad to say, from Kevin Smith, who used a creepy clown named Vulgar for his View Askew logo in “Clerks.” Johnson, a pal of Smith’s who has appeared in bit parts in most of his films, now uses his buddy’s name (and company) to produce his own movie, using the notion of Vulgar as the starting point.

But knowing somebody with talent doesn’t mean you’ve got any yourself. In fact, the whole project plays like a Kevin Smith movie in which all of the real actors have gone home, leaving all of Kevin’s untalented chums to star. O’Halloran, best known from “Clerks,” still can’t act, but good gravy, he’s infinitely better than Johnson, who, in addition to writing badly and directing badly, acts badly - he’s cast himself as Will’s best friend. (I’m guessing all those bit parts gave him the delusion he can act. He can’t. At all.)

Other Smith regulars Jason Mewes and Ethan Suplee show up, as does Smith himself, sans beard, providing the only halfway decent performance in the film. And when Kevin Smith is your best actor, you’re royally screwed.

It’s easy to see Johnson wants so badly to be like his famous friend. Even the dialogue is Smith-like, wordy, rhythmic, and overly-scripted, with little phrases like “that’s neither here nor there” tossed in with Smith-ish frequency. Coming from Ben Affleck, this kind of stylized writing sounds fine; coming from O’Halloran and Johnson, it made me want to reach through the screen and ram a DVD of “Mallrats” up Johnson’s uncomfortable place.

It’s all of this mess that makes “Vulgar” so unlikable. Forget the endless negativity that surrounds the piece, the I-want-to-shock-you story and purposely disgusting characters. Awful acting, lame writing, and inept direction? Now that’s disturbing.

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