April 3rd, 2009

THE SINFUL DWARF (1973) ** ½

A poor British couple rent a room from a skeevy old scarred up landlady and her demented dwarf son in a rundown part of town.  They're totally unaware that the mother and son duo keep a trio of naked junkie hookers locked up in the attic and that the lecherous little person spies on them while they make love.  Naturally, the dwarf and his fugly mama set their sights on turning the cute Brit chick into their newest playmate.


I more or less dug The Sinful Dwarf but there was something missing that I just couldn't put my finger on.  Sure, the flick had more than it's share of sleaze.  The film was certainly ripe with scenes where smacked out naked heroin hookers got their brains balled out by indifferent johns and the scene where the titular dwarf got downright sinful on the helpless chained up housewife was quite the crowd pleaser.  There was also a great part where a drug dealer named Santa Claus smuggles heroin inside of teddy bears! 


As great as all of this sounds, I just can't quite give The Sinful Dwarf the full Three Stars treatment.  Maybe it's because of the stiff acting from the bland romantic leads.  Maybe it's because of the endless scenes where the dwarf's mother dresses up and sings like Marlene Dietrich and Carmen Miranda.  Maybe it's because of the way that the filmmakers crassly exploited the diminutive dude's handicap.  Maybe it was a combination of all three.  I don't know.  Close, but no cigar.  Still, if you're watching this flick under the sole auspices of seeing women stripped, chained up, shot up with junk, and balled (and yes, once by a dwarf), then this is definitely the movie for you.


AKA:  Abducted Bride.  AKA:  Teenage Bride.


A college grad (Jesse Eisenberg) who is desperately strapped for cash gets a summer job at the titular amusement park.  Over the summer, he befriends most of the motley crew of misfits and oddballs who work at the park and eventually falls in love with a doe-eyed, moon-faced chick with a chin the size of North Dakota (the doe-eyed, moon-faced chick with a chin the size of North Dakota from that Twilight garbage).  Of course, the heartless little bitch is screwing an older married guy (Ryan Reynolds) and breaks the poor dude's heart.


OK, this review is coming from someone who spent ages 14-22 working on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland so I can attest the scary accuracy of how director Greg Mottola depicts the highs and lows that come from working a dead end summer job.  Unlike Mottola's previous film, Superbad; Adventureland is not a comedy.  At least not to me anyways.  To me, this was a brutal, uncompromising documentary of what it's like to work a dead end summer job.  Seriously, I knew every single one of the supporting characters in some way shape or form.  I lived through everything that Eisenberg's character did.  I worked, partied, listened to The New York Dolls, worked, drank (although I didn't smoke pot), listened to The Rolling Stones, fell in love with a moon-faced chick, worked, drank some more, listened to Lou Reed, made out with said moon-faced chick, partied, got my heart stomped on by the moon-faced chick, drank on the job, didn't go to school because I had to buy a new car, partied and worked some more. 


To me there was nothing remotely funny about any of this.  Folks, I go to the movies to escape, not to dredge up the past.  Why should I watch this movie when I already lived it? 


Like Waiting (which also featured Reynolds), this movie is eerily accurate in just about every way.  Whereas Waiting had more comic relief and exaggerated several things, Adventureland contains very few laughs and pulls no punches when it comes to stark realism of what it's like to work at a dead end summer job.  This is a movie about the pain and misery of growing up and getting your heart broken while working alongside druggies, weirdoes, and dickheads.  I will say that Mottola tries to lighten things up by throwing in a "happy" ending at the last minute, but it rings false in light of the realistic tone of the previous 100 minutes or so.


Nearly all of the supporting performances are great.  Bill Hader shines in every scene he's in as the over-enthusiastic boss.  Too bad he's not in more of the movie.  Hader really needs to stop popping up in these small roles and get himself his own starring vehicle PDQ.  Martin Starr is equally amusing as Eisenberg's morose co-worker and Matt Bush is great as the kid who always hits people in the nuts.  On the downside, the leads are awful.  Eisenberg goes overboard trying to act like Michael Cera that it gets downright annoying after awhile.  Honestly, if you couldn't get Michael Cera for your movie, then just deal with it.  Don't make this guy try to imitate him.  Also, that doe-eyed, moon-faced chick with a chin the size of North Dakota was thoroughly grating as the love interest.  I might be biased because she bears more than a passing resemblance to my ex, but this chick got on my damn nerves.  (Although to be fair, I had more problems with her character more than with her, but still.)


As a comedy, Adventureland is an utter misfire.  I think I laughed maybe once throughout the entire movie.  (The running joke about the constant Falco music.)  No Stars in that department.  But as a documentary, it excels as an uncompromising, hellacious vision of how summer jobs suck and how doe-eyed, moon-faced chicks with chins the size of North Dakota can cheat on you and piss on your heart; so Four Stars for that.  Splitting the difference, I give it a Two Star rating. 


Adventureland is not a Feel Good Movie.  It is a Feel Real Movie.  You really feel everything the character feels.  The problem with that is it just feels too real to be called "entertaining".


This is one of those movies like Deliverance where you watch it once and once is enough because it's so harrowing, traumatic, and stomach-churning.