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STUDIO: Paramount Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
• Commentary with Danny McBride and Jody Hill
• 20 Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Alternate Ending
Napoleon Dynamite with jocks instead of dorks.
Danny McBride, Ben Best, Mary Jane Bostic, Jody Hill
An egotistical mini-mall Tae Kwon Do instructor (McBride) is forced to face his inadequacies and his debauched idol when his cheating wife’s actions affect his life inside and outside the dojo.
If I wanted to write the laziest review this side of a Jay Sherman-esque “It STINKS!”, I’d simply say “Deadpan humor isn’t my cup of tea, but Danny McBride’s awesome”, score this thing a 5 out of 10, then watch with bemusement as talkbackers get butthurt because my taste isn’t sophisticated enough to enjoy the divine subtleties of watching a man wax poetic about Eastern philosophy and gang rape.
The farther I get from it, however, the more I realize the problem with The Foot Fist Way isn’t the style of comedy on display so much as the fact that the comedy’s based around a series of characters you’d expect to run into at a Whitesnake concert in Hell. Loudmouth, obnoxious, drunken, self-obsessed dumbshits trying and frighteningly succeeding to fuck anything with an oriface. Not that there’s anything wrong with making a movie where the main cast is a grab bag of assholes, but usually, the people making those kinds of films aren’t trying as desperately as this movie to make the audience laugh out loud. The subtlety of those kinds of movies is borne from grounding them in some semblance of reality. The Foot Fist Way‘s reality is stuck between stark black comic reality and the kind of reality where Ron Burgundy suddenly finds himself getting in a 19th Century style gang war down an alley where someone gets killed with a trident, and the humor just seems tainted as a result.
More often than not in this movie, what is already inherently funny is taken to the absolute limits of crudeness and belligerance, and instead of being funny, it ends up coming off as just irredeemably dickish. It could have something to do with the fact that a lot of the film’s worst offenses involve kids who look up to Fred Simmons as a hero, but there’s also the fact that for most of the film, there’s no respite from how uncomfortable and ugly this place is and these people are. The film attempts to justify this from Danny McBride’s Fred Simmons halfway by blaming it on his wife’s cheating, giving him a scene where Simmons drops his macho facade in front of a mirror, and has a genuine breakdown over where he’s found himself. It makes him easier to forgive, but it’s too little too late, and robs a great deal of the audience’s ability to laugh at him, let alone with him. From there, he’s not funny, or even unlikeable. He’s just pathetic, and there’s still Simmons’ cheating wife, fellow Tae Kwon Do expert Mike McAllister (Jody Hill), and his idol Chuck “The Truck” Wallace (Ben Best) to contend with, and the three of them come off worse than Simmons in the film.
It’s kind of a shame the film has such an ugly, venomous timbre to it, since the main premise and the storyline, on paper, has the makings of a great comedy. Even as is, it does a great job at making a mockery of those strip mall Karate dojos, and the pompous asses who often run them, and every once in a while, the film achieves surprise greatness: In particular, the martial arts convention and Chuck’s party are the only consistently funny sequences in the film, and there’s a rant Fred Simmons gives his wife near the end of the film that’s easily going to go down as one of my favorite pieces of dialogue this year when all’s said and done. But while the movie sounds great on paper, choosing to play it all so very straight makes most of the “funny” moments fall with an awkward thud that just makes one feel pity for everyone involved.
Having said all that, the one undisputed winner here is Danny McBride. Yes, his character is a prime grade-A douche, but fact is, McBride is an AMAZING douche here. He’s not just the only actor in the film who’s not treating this like a community college stage production of Clerks, but the only one who feels like he’s committed in full to this character, which doesn’t just involve coming up with the worst kinds of demeaning insults on the fly, but a sort of wide-eyed, 13 year old wonder whenever someone brings up Chuck The Truck, or he’s just had a good demo. Whether or not his humor comes off well in the film or not, it takes chops to even attempt it without breaking character in a film like this. It’s an ace performance.
I just wish it was in a film where I didn’t want to punch someone in the dick every 2 minutes.
“Wow, it looks like my grandpa’s neck.”
Well, there’s something to be said for a commentary track where the participants make absolutely no bones that they’re getting epically stoned during the proceedings. But, while it sounds like a great idea, if you’ve ever been the sober one in a room full of stoned guys watching TV at any point in your life, you’ve got a good idea of what the commentary track’s like. Occasionally really funny, occasionally informative (there’s a lot of McBride and Hill discussing trying to strike the right tone between awkward and funny, and even they acknowledge they went too far on occasion), but mostly, it’s like that scene in 2001 where the monkeys find the monolith, but the monkeys know how to say “That guy was great” every once in a while.
The Behind-The-Scenes featurette is less a featurette about how the movie came to be, who got involved, etc, more of a video scrapbook, sans dialogue, but with psychadelic rock in the background, documenting the 19 days of filming. In other words, it’s one of those features that you only give a shit about if you were actually involved in the movie.
Nothing special in the bloopers or deleted scenes, although the deleted Mike McAllister stuff is kinda great, and there’s a scene of Fred with a student after he’s pissed himself that would’ve gone a long way towards making the last third of the film and Simmons’ redemption work. The alternate ending, aside from being needlessly dark, robs us of the aforementioned brilliant rant. These scenes are right where they belong.
And to top it all off, the DVD is apparently a Best Buy exclusive. For $22, one should expect a little bit more bang for their buck.