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STUDIO: Phase 4 Films
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes
• Bonus Footage
Pauly Shore’s Borat
Pauly Shore, Pauly Shore, Pauly Shore, and a bunch of South Africans.
In this mockumentary, Pauly Shore plays himself as a camera crew follows him to South Africa where he intends to follow in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie and Madonna by adopting a baby. Somehow, using only his passport as collateral, he convinces an adoption agency to let him “test drive” three babies to see who he wants to adopt. (And by babies, he means seven-year-old children.) The next almost-hour-and-a-half plays out like a warped version of Elimidate. Cue unfunny cultural confusion.
“Why won’t I place a live human being child in your care? Okay, first: you were in Bio-Dome. Second, you were in Bio-Dome with the nutjob Baldwin brother. Third, I actually paid to see Bio-Dome. In the theater!”
It’s common to look at formerly successful comedians now and wonder what happened to them. Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams… Pauly Shore. Now, don’t get me wrong: Pauly Shore only ever had as much comedic talent as Eddie or Robin had in their pinky fingernails, but he was successful for much of the 1990s and, through no fault of his own, made some watchable films — at least, for those of us who were going through puberty at the time. While Eddie and Robin both went the kids movie route for the most part — and Robin has been hit-or-miss with his darker fare but at least he’s trying something new — Pauly just disappeared. Well, here he is, back and worse than ever. Even for someone like me, who — yes, I’ll admit it — loves Encino Man and Son-in-Law, Adopted was painful to sit through. Yes, it’s worse than Jury Duty.
To be fair, Pauly Shore’s intentions seem admirable enough once you see the final frame of the film, which displays stats of how many orphans there are in Africa, Asia, and America and provides a link to UNICEF for those who wish to help. After sitting through the 80 minutes of abysmally unfunny nonsense, it’s hard to see how Pauly thought that this was the best way to get the word out to the masses that the kids need our help. He’d probably have touched more people if he had just sent out a Tweet. If anything, the social message I got from Adopted was that Africa doesn’t need self-righteous, entitled celebrities going over to their countries and adopting their youth. And maybe that was his intention all along.
It was only minutes into their new life together as one big happy family that Pauly realized he’d made the biggest mistake of his life: Bio-Dome.
Adopted is a mockumentary that takes its cues more from Bowling for Columbine than Best in Show. Whatever your feelings are on Michael Moore, he has a distinctive style to his documentaries in that he places himself front and center in a heavily scripted format. And that’s what Pauly does here, for better or worse — it’s clear very quickly that while he takes his cues from Moore, Pauly is not nearly the same caliber of filmmaker. Or comedian, for that matter.
Actually, I could be wrong about Pauly’s influence. Maybe Adopted is his answer to Sacha Baron Cohen. His “Pauly Shore” character is a crass, ignorant American who believes that he can just fly into South Africa and pick up a baby to raise as his own, offending and irritating everyone he meets — except for the women that inexplicably like him instantly upon seeing him, of course. Kind of an amalgam of both Borat and Bruno in terms of being endlessly inappropriate and having a penchant for adopting African babies. Although, Pauly misses the aim of Baron Cohen’s movies in that while Borat and Bruno are ridiculous and absurd, the joke almost always lands on those with whom he interacts. Baron Cohen uses their insulting ignorance to expose the bigotry and ignorance in others. Instead, Pauly always ends up being the one that we laugh at. It’s the difference between satire and totally flat comedy.
In one scene, when he first arrives in South Africa and is met with resistance at Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls, he tries to get access based on his celebrity alone, bringing up his past movie hits and even doing his “Weasel” dance, all to the total lack of recognition from the unfortunate woman who had to deal with his antics on camera. That’s the general response from everyone, and while it’s evident that Pauly himself is in on the joke — in his deadpan voiceover he even laments: “Don’t these girls know who I used to be?” — instead of coming across funny, it merely feels pathetic and depressing. Pauly may be resigned to the fact that In The Army Now and Bio-Dome will always suck and never get any better over time, but it’s clear that he’s still sore about it. He’s bitter and can’t let it go that his success was more due to a place and time rather than actual talent.
It also is possible that Pauly Shore thought he was making a scathing satire, a critical political statement about American exceptionalism. The way that he walks up to groups of black South Africans and calls them “Bro” and shakes their hands with an “I’m down with the brothers” handslap, talks music with them by saying that he’s buddies with 50 Cent, and tries to give them bro-hugs as if they’re African Americans on a CW sitcom, makes you cringe and want to go up to them after Pauly leaves and just say, “Look, guys, sorry about him. Not all Americans are like that.” But perhaps that’s what Pauly is trying to say: maybe Americans are that ignorant about other cultures and that they think all black people are like the ones they see on TV. Maybe we still have that belief that the white man will always be seen as a savior and liberator when venturing into other countries — just look at the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. I’d like to think that this was a rudimentary exercise in exposing just how clueless Americans in general can be, but perhaps I’m giving Pauly way too much credit here.
The likeliest scenario is that it’s a little of both. Pauly sought to illuminate the humanitarian crisis in Africa and unfortunately chose the mockumentary as his narrative device. And having written and directed the film, he lacked his Larry Charles to help him find the truly funny moments and keep the satire sharp and witty instead of annoying, repetitive, and cringe-inducing — and worst of all: unfunny. I do have to give him credit, though: he knows that he’s in no position to get work otherwise, like his fellow fallen comedic brethren, and surprisingly he hasn’t gone the tired, neutered sitcom route. Instead he’s taken it upon himself to keep working and doing the only thing he knows how to do. It’s just too bad that he’s not better at it.
Not sure it’s all that good of an idea to bring Pauly Shore and his adopted son-to-be onto Loveline if you want to encourage people to put their kids up for adoption. Kid would probably be better off in the dumpster.
It’s a made-for-DVD movie using a bunch of hand-held DV cameras, so it’s about what you would expect visually. One of the perks of the mockumentary style is that it looks more “real” the worse it looks — although nothing in this movie feels remotely real, so I suppose that rule of thumb doesn’t work here after all. There are about a dozen bonus scenes that somehow managed to not make the final cut. Clearly this wasn’t due to time as it just clocks in at 80 minutes long, which is barely enough to be considered a feature, although you won’t hear me complaining. These scenes are equally as unfunny as what made it into the film, so I guess that’s… good? I don’t know what it matters since you most likely will not be watching this movie anyway much less wasting your time with these deleted scenes — at least I really hope you won’t. There’s also the movie trailer, which I believe is the only place you can actually see it, which kind of defeats the purpose.
1.5 out of 10