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The Bottom Shelf #142


So Zack and Miri are supposed to make a porno. At least, those are the plans for our dearest fanboy director, Kevin Smith in 2008. But let us not forget the other duo that Smith has brought to infamy, shall we?

VULGAR (2000)
Directed by: Bryan Johnson
Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Kevin Smith

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I have a friend who is afraid of clowns. So afraid of them that he skips through the View Askew image of Vulgar the clown whenever he watches a Kevin Smith flick. There was a part of me that wondered when and how and why Vulgar came to be, but I'm not as intensive in my fangirl stalking tendencies as some others might be. I suppose I just liked that there was a little mystery to the demented clown in the bustier and fish-nets. But as I watched the film titled after the little cartoon figure, I started to wonder the chicken and egg theory. Which came first? Did Vulgar have a story long before he was drawn out as the logo for Smith's company? Or did fan interest develop a need for a story after he'd long been frightening otherwise badass guys like my friend who winces like a atheist passing by a church?

The story that is told here in this flick is one of a different clown. That's Flappy, the alter ego that William (O'Halloran) cooks up in his pursuit of his dream clown of being a children's performer. The scene starts off like something out of Clerks, but with color, and ends up at the home of a children's birthday party where the dad is getting hauled off by the cops after knocking around the mom. Clue one that this isn't your normal, happy clown story. When William comes to realize that Flappy might not be the financially secure angle to take (after receiving a vicious verbal beat-down by his institutionalized mother), he devises the scheme to become a risque bachelor party clown, dressed like Britney Spears on a Monday, but with slightly more hair and a little less make-up. Enter room 37 (37!?!?!) and a whole other world of deviance. The newly christened Vulgar the clown finds the definition of his new moniker at the hands of three DELIVERANCE style hillbillies.

The anal raping of a clown. I wonder if there's something on the law books for that. I wonder a lot about this movie, so closely related to the empire that Smith & Co built (featuring an appearance by Smith looking thinner, more prolific and eye-rollingly gay), and what it was trying to attempt. Is there a moral message to this film? Are we trying to say that no matter how good one's intentions are, there's always going to be some sick f*ck to come along and pervert them? Are we saying that clowns have been needing the anal pounding as retribution for all the nightmares they've given other people? (I could almost hear Vulgar crying out to his captors to call Tim Curry and leave him alone.) Other more relevant questions might include: is this movie good? Is it worth watching? Sadly, I'd say this is more for the Smith fans, die-hard or not. This has touches of everything that was so good about the early years and contains the best performance that I have ever seen O'Halloran give. Which might mean that they should stop giving him the last name Hicks in all the other movies. That seems to be the clincher.

Favorite Scene:

The phone call made by O'Halloran to the party he's trying to cancel an appearance at, using the names "Mrs. Affleck" and then "Benny." In jokes make me happy, what can I say?

Favorite Line:

"I should hinge my whole future on dancing around like a mongoloid on a bad acid trip for a bunch of spoiled little dickheads?"

Trivia Tidbit:

The script was written in 28 days (in 1995) and the final production was shot in 26 days (in 1998).

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Directed by: Jeff Anderson
Starring: Jeremy Sisto, Jeff Anderson

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So this movie had a few things working for it in its favor when I popped it in. I was a Smithonite from back in the CLERKS days, long before people decided that it was the cool movie to covet to prove your hipster status. Seeing that not only Smith was in it but that it was written and directed by Jeff Anderson, that glorious BFF of Smith's who pulled off my favorite male character of all time in cinematic history, Randal Graves. I never really thought Anderson could act as much as he managed to deliver the best lines that Smith had written in that monotone that let the words do the talking and not the talking deliver the words. I like that everything that I've seen the man do away from the spotlight is...well, not much. He didn't try to make a break for it and seems rather shy and self-effacing when interviewed. Add Jeremy Sisto to the cast list and I'm on board faster than a European immigrant on the Titanic.

Too bad that the story is one of those tired retreads about love and the difference between men and women. The film starts out at a bachelor party in Las Vegas where a bunch of friends are celebrating the upcoming nuptials of Sisto. We soon discover that his bride-to-be called off the wedding, although we're as unclear to the reason behind the cold feet as Sisto is. Page forward a little to find out that the lovebirds grew up in New Jersey and just went to school in Las Vegas (implausible, much?) and that Miss Anti-Wedding (Rashida Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton) is just torn up about the fact that her life-long sweetie no longer brings her flowers. Sisto wanders around the streets of his hometown with his high school buddies (Anderson being one of them, not surprisingly) and Jones goes to the stereotypical tougher-than-nails girlfriend who really just wants a piece of the soft, marshmallowy stuff herself.

It took a LONG time for this movie to wear on me. It looks low budget, it feels low budget and it doesn't contain the low budget charm of other more well known low budget flicks where no one was famous and everyone was trying to make the best movie possible. These are people who could clearly earn a much higher paycheck and are in it for the kicks. Which doesn't play well. I also grew bored with the constant whining about how men and women are really just looking for someone to be with and blah blah blah. In fact, if more people were honest with themselves, they'd realize that they were better off alone. Instead, movies like this get made making them feel guilty about not pairing up like the animals in BAMBI. All of those complaints aside, I can't deny that Anderson still has that monotone charm. Adding the scene in the gay bar where Edie McClurg (best known as the secretary in FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF or from the TV show "Small Wonder") explains what love is was inspired. Add Trevor Fehrman to the mix as the ardently stupid Biscuit and you've got the second generation of Randal, just not as bright and not as clever. Kinda like this movie isn't as bright or clever as another low budget movie that it emulates.

Favorite Scene:

The chick at the bar (Paget Brewster, whose first role was as the girl that Joey is dating on "Friends" and Chandler steals her away by giving her a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit) and her reintroduction to alcohol.

Favorite Line:

Not so much a line as it was a name, "Jam Hands" applied to the 13 year old younger brother of the female lead in reference to his manual extracurricular activities.

Trivia Tidbit:

Actor Trevor Fehrman (seen here in the role of Biscuit and as Elias in CLERKS 2) was considered to play a teenaged Bruce Wayne in a television show regarding the younger years of Batman. The studio decided to scrap that idea and run with an origin movie better known as BATMAN BEGINS. However, one of the ideas discussed for the Batman TV show was Bruce running into some geeky kid from a place called Smallville. I wonder what happened to that part of the idea? (Someone give me my approved geek badge now.)

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I can never eat chips with salsa like a normal human being. I salsa shark them, I Randal out the door of every 7-11 that I visit and I've sucked more than 37 dicks. Actually, I'm uncertain. I lost count somewhere in 1994.



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