Makes me miss Joe Millionaire…
by Adam Miller
Note: This review is based upon the "rated" version of the film. Apparently the unrated has more nudity and graphic sexual content. Whether or not this makes viewing the film a more enjoyable experience I cannot say. Whether this affects the general tenor of my review I am most certain it doesn't.
What was I thinking? National Lampoon has never really captured me as a comedic (much less transgressive/subversive/artistic) institution. Neither Chevy Chase nor Ryan Reynolds have captured any sense of acne-charged radicalism for me—nor hackney comedy for that matter.
But when I saw a title like NATIONAL LAMPOON PRESENTS LOST REALITY I was intrigued. “Lost Reality?” sounds surreal, man. Well, I should have consented when the DVD box itself informs me to “Please Destroy If Found.”
LOST REALITY is nothing more than a series of sketches which are all supposedly reality TV shows too edgy to be bought by the networks. How edgy? Well, one sets up unwitting bachelors with a prostitute who then berates them for being sexually inadequate. Another sketch plays out like an episode of The Bachelor(ette) until it is revealed that the sexy Asian woman (who helpfully bares her surgically altered breasts) is in fact a man.
The producers of the film apparently really fell in love with two skits in particular. One sketch, borrowing heavily from BORAT, features a racist young Jew dressing like a Klansmen and driving through Watts. The other features a Fear Factor type host who dares contestants to do increasingly gross things for greater sums of money (kiss a midget, shit in one's pants, eat vomit). Both skits lack a certain ironic distance from the material they are supposed to be parodying. The racist skit doesn’t parody BORAT, it simply IS BORAT—but cheaper and dumber. The Fear Factor lacks oomph because its gross out moments—again—aren’t parodying anything, they are simply reproducing the subject matter of the original “reality” show.
To illustrate: The Fear Factor knock-off could have been far more effective if, instead of paying unwitting contestants to do gross things, the “show” featured contestants fully expecting to do gross stunts only to then have them be paid to do random acts of kindness like call their alienated sibling and ask forgiveness. I dunno, I’m just brainstorming here, something that the writers for LOST REALITY had either little inclement weather or little gray matter for.
As an aside, it’s worth noting that many before me have called NATIONAL LAMPOON “sophomoric.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the creators of the series would proudly use the term as a signifier of achievement. But what exactly does sophomoric mean? The ubiquitous dictionary.com gives: “suggestive of or resembling the traditional sophomore; intellectually pretentious, overconfident, conceited, etc., but immature.”
Recalling the transgendered “Bachelorette” skit, one character says “How often do you find a woman who looks like that and likes football?” There is room in that statement for a sketch in which the contestants come to an understanding with the transgender bachelor where they can both appreciate the beauty of her body and affirm their masculinity in such communal activities as watching the football game. But rather than this utopian extreme, the film doesn’t even go through with its own premise: footage in which the bachelor’s penis is revealed is conveniently blurred: as if the audience couldn’t handle a graphic presentation of the premise the skit exists upon.
Thus, sophomoric: intellectual posturing without the maturity to follow through on one’s own philosophy.
Thus, NATIONAL LAMPOON.