Thursday, July 19, 2012

Not Funny, No Charm: Miss March Is Just A Loser!

The Good: Well, there were four laughs.
The Bad: Poor acting, Predictable, Obvious character development, Not funny, Gross
The Basics: When Eugene is awoken from a four-year coma to discover the love of his life is a Playboy playmate, he and his dimwitted buddy travel across country to "rescue" her.

[Note: This review was originally written back before I got married and I’ve kept it with the dated references because I like how it captures that time of my life. Enjoy!]

A few months back - well before most anyone had heard of it - I had the opportunity to attend a screening of Miss March where the writers and directors were present. After the screening, there was a Q&A planned and I was seriously torn. I had promised my partner I would go out to Michigan for a visit and that meant missing the screening. Ultimately, true love won out, I went to Michigan and I only got around to seeing Miss March tonight. When I went into it, I had fairly low expectations, but I opened myself to the possibility that it might be this year's surprise charming sex farce, like Sex Drive (reviewed here!) was last year. It was not.

Last year, there was a film that had characters, humor, charm and was a lot of fun while still essentially being a collection of sex jokes. That movie was Zack And Miri Make A Porno (reviewed here!) and having now seen Miss March, it is easy to say Zack Cregger and Trevor Moore are no Kevin Smith. Smith has the ability to present, as he calls them, "dick and fart jokes" and even make a perfect film which included (among other things) a demon made out of feces. That takes talent, originality and a mind to combine the universal with the esoteric. Cregger and Moore do neither with Miss March and if they have talent, it is not evident by this work. As established in a prior movie review, I have taken to counting the number of times I laugh in comedies I see in the theater. For Miss March, the number was four. In the entire movie there were four laughs and two were relatively early on and two were near the very end, so there was a vast, unfunny middle in this movie.

Tucker Cleigh and his best friend, Eugene, grow up in suburbia as imaginative youths who are playing one day and they discover Eugene's older brother's Playboy magazine while going through his stuff. Eugene is repulsed, but Tucker is fascinated and by the end of high school, Tucker is an idiot and a womanizer and Eugene and his girlfriend, Cindi Whitehall, are hosting abstinance-only seminars. The night of prom, Eugene has agreed to have sex with Cindi and in preparation for it, he allows Tucker to get him a little drunk. Eugene, however, takes the wrong door, stumbles downstairs and ends up in a coma.

Four years later, awoken by Tucker and a baseball bat, Eugene is weak to the point of incontinence and he soon becomes distraught to realize everyone in his life has abandoned him. Tucker soon finds Cindi; in the March issue of Playboy. As Tucker flees his epileptic girlfriend whom he stabbed during one of her seizures, he abducts Eugene to bring him to the Playboy Mansion for an annual party in hopes that Eugene can find Cindi and they can work out their relationship issues. En route, Eugene and Tucker are hounded by psychotic firemen, meet up with a high school associate who is now a rap star and hitch a ride with nymphomaniacal lesbians all in the attempt to reunite Eugene with his one true love.

Someone is reading that description and thinking, "Hey, that doesn't sound so bad! That sounds like a movie I might like!" You, then, might be like one of two guys who laughed uproariously at every supposed gag. There were two couples and one guy in the theater outside me for tonight's showing of Miss March. The two guys with dates laughed pretty continuously while their girlfriends shook their heads, look disgusted and - I swear at multiple times during the movie - turned to their date (in one woman's case) and said, "You're kidding, right?" I suspect that tonight someone is re-evaluating their relationship with a guy who laughs at buckets of poop erupting from a man's hospital gown (and the other two times in the movie Eugene poops) and over his own laughter recaps, "Bitch flew out the window!" If it seems odd that I might note the reactions of my fellow theatergoers more than comment on the flick, there is a pretty solid reason for that: Miss March is so ridiculously simple and not funny that one derives has more information to work with discussing the people in the theater. The single guy near the front just looked cheesed when the movie was over. He might have laughed less than I did.

Miss March is plagued first and foremost by not being terribly funny. Cregger and Moore, who appear in the film as Eugene and Tucker, respectively, wander through the movie like two guys who received a lot of encouragement from friends at parties. Indeed, watching them and understanding that Eugene and Tucker are written, performed and directed by them leaves the viewer with the impression that these are two characters with a shtick the actors tried on friends and the friends just laughed and laughed and laughed at. So encouraged, one suspects, they went out and created Miss March. Perhaps the film would be funnier with a two-drink minimum.

The reason I write this is simple: Miss March is terribly predictable in plot, character and humor form. Humor works based upon surprise and the jokes were telegraphed largely to the extent that there were few humorous surprises. In fact, more of the surprises come in the form of gross out humor that is simply gross. So, for example, when the character of Horsedick.MPEG (a recurring joke throughout the film is saying the first name only to which "dot MPEG" is added, as if the correction still carried any humor by that point) is introduced, he arrives in a Hummer limo to take Eugene to prom. When they pick up Cindi, where she waits with her white bread parents, one suspects that something is going to happen in relation to .MPEG because Eugene leaves him with two women with his foul rap song pounding. We know something is going to happen that will make the parents uncomfortable. So, when one of the two women pops out of the vehicles skylight, it is no surprise. The supposed humor, though, is supposed to be with her spitting and it's just gross.

The plot to Miss March is ridiculously simple. This is a road trip sex farce, similar in plot to last year's Sex Drive, but without the charm or actual love story. Eugene is going out to find out who Cindi has become, theorizing that her appearance in Playboy means she is no longer the chaste love of his life she was four years ago. So, by the time he gets there, it is no surprise to anyone in the audience that there is a reversal coming. Indeed, if one is able to get into an R rated movie, they ought to be smart enough to see where Miss March is going from the setup. This is a dreadfully predictable movie.

Predictable as well are the character arcs. Eugene's arc is almost entirely external, dependent upon his confrontation with Cindi. Tucker's, though, is far more external and the trip is actually more about him than Eugene. On the trip, Tucker realizes how important Eugene is to him, comes to understand the consequences of his sexual obsessions and is able to benefit from a fatherly chat with Hugh Hefner (who actually garners one of the four laughs the film has in it). But Tucker's arc is entirely predictable. He learns the Very Valuable Lesson that viewers pretty much figure he is set up for from the beginning, whatwith being a man in a troubled relationship at the outset.

The acting in Miss March is terrible. Molly Stanton, Trevor Moore and Zach Cregger each have a particularly poor sense of comic timing that makes most of their jokes fall flat. Especially lousy is Moore, who bugs out his eyes constantly and delivers jokes in a way that makes it apparent he is attempting to be a young Jim Carrey. Moore doesn't have Carrey's sense of comic timing, so his performance seems derivative at best and, unfortunately, derived from some of Carrey's lesser works.

Similarly, Zach Cregger's work seems to be in making Eugene the brains of the operation and playing straightman to Moore's sense of physical comedy. Unfortunately, Cregger's performance is bland as opposed to understated and while Moore is absurdist, Cregger is just dull. Cregger's comedic highlight is to set up an awkward pause in which Moore as Tucker slowly puts two and two together. The pause does more of the work at earning the laughter than Cregger.

There is someone I love very much who likes comedies that are simple fun and from the preview alone, when I told her I had been to see Miss March, her response was "I'm sorry." Perhaps I should have gone to the screening with the writers and directors (and, it turns out, stars) of Miss March; maybe I would have gotten an apology from them. As it was, it is only ninety minutes of my life lost and I'll get over it. Fortunately, you can avoid this terrifically unfunny work and save yourself the effort of repressing the memory.

For other works with Craig Robinson, check out my reviews of:
Shrek Ever After
Hot Tub Time Machine
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
Post Grad
Pineapple Express


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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