Saturday, December 12, 2009

Avoiding O(e)de(n)ki(e)rks

Bob Odenkirk and Steve Oedekerk are not related.

Of course they're not -- they don't have the same last name.

But one thing they do have in common: They direct dumb comedies.

And their dumb comedies suck.

Yesterday, as I threw in Let's Go to Prison as one of my reviewing chores, I thought to myself, as the opening credits were rolling: "I think this is directed by someone I know."

And then, as the last credit rolled: "Oh yeah. Bob Odenkirk."


Bob Odenkirk gets big credibility points for having been the co-creator and co-star of HBO's beloved cult sketch comedy show, Mr. Show. That experience has continued to get him work as a bit player in some decent movies. But the movies he's directed? Forget about them.

Steve Oedekerk has a little less cult cache, but he does have something: a friendship with Jim Carrey that began when they were working on In Living Color together. He's also responsible, quite dubiously, for those skits where thumbs have faces (like Thumb Wars, which is Star Wars with thumbs). He's written some comedies that at least did pretty well, including Patch Adams, Bruce Almighty and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. But if he's listed as director, stay away.

Just so we know what we're dealing with here, this is Bob:

And this is Steve:

Over the years I've come to confuse them, which shouldn't be a great surprise given their names. And their directing histories.

Let's discuss their movies that I've seen, in the order I've seen them. As it works out, Hollywood has been relatively kind to us, limiting our exposure to them somewhat. But the ones that do exist leaving a lasting impression. I should note also that I haven't seen two of Steve's movies, Nothing to Lose (starring Martin Lawrence and Tim Robbins) and the animated feature Barnyard. But can we just assume those both suck as well and move on?

Without further ado:

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995, Steve Oedekerk). As much as I loved Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, that's how much I hated Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Which did better at the box office, giving us yet another reminder of how dumb American moviegoers can be. I've blocked much of this movie out, but let's just say all the stuff I thought would annoy me about Jim Carrey in the original actually did annoy me in the sequel. The zaniness of Pet Detective seems downright earthbound when compared to that of When Nature Calls, and I couldn't turn this off quickly enough after the end credits rolled.

Kung Pow! Enter the Fist (2002, Steve Oedekerk). If you didn't recognize the photo of Oedekerk above, now you have your answer. Kung Pow is Oedekerk's attempt at his own What's Up Tiger Lily?, with completely unfunny lines crudely dubbed over the 1976 martial arts film Savage Killers, and Oedekerk inserted into that film using a blue screen. And with completely unfunny results. A line from my review: "Kung Pow! Enter the Fist would be no less clever if an irritating 12-year-old boy were improvising its dialogue, rather than an experienced Hollywood writer." That said, to be fair, I should tell you that "completely unfunny" is inaccurate -- I remember spitting out a few bursts of surprised laughter, after which I felt deep shame.

The Brothers Solomon (2007, Bob Odenkirk). This nearly ruined my honeymoon. Okay, that's an exaggeration. But we did bring it along on the honeymoon, mostly because my wife and I really like Will Forte, and we thought it would be fun to watch on my portable DVD player on a night when we weren't doing anything else. Suffice it to say, it was not fun. I'm still trying to figure out which was worse -- this, or Death at a Funeral, which we also brought. (We watched Funeral in the jungles of Belize, and Solomon at the beach in Mexico.) A line from my review: "The Brothers Solomon was [Will Forte's] brainchild, though it's irresponsible to suggest that anything about this film is brainy."

Let's Go to Prison (2006, Bob Odenkirk). And here's where my Odenkirk/Oedekerk theory breaks down just a little bit. I have to admit that there was something -- I don't know what, but something -- I sort of liked about Let's Go to Prison. Maybe it was the funny supporting performances by Chi McBride and Michael Shannon. Anyway, it's still not a great movie, not by any stretch. But did I laugh? Yes. Did I think it was basically a decent story and basically well executed? Yes again. Will I recommend it to people? No, but I'll tell them they won't hate it, either.

So the best of the four is a movie you won't hate. That's something for at least Bob to hang his hat on. Steve, well ... I just saw on IMDB that Kung Pow 2: Tongue of Fury is coming out in 2010.

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