Movie News & Reviews

THE MOVIE MASOCHIST: An MRE full of tobacco juice

The quartet of comedians who made up "The Blue Collar Comedy Tour" has been performing together since 2000, all the time riffing on Southern stereotypes and unapologetically embodying them at the same time. After four concert films, a TV show and their own channel on XM radio, they're all rich and still making jokes about NASCAR and Slim Jims.

One of the most interesting things about the Blue Collar comedians is their runaway success in Southern and Middle America, where their celebration of everything un-P.C. has scored with audiences who distrust all those bleeding-heart liberals on both coasts. The organizer of the Blue Collar tour is a savvy talent manager named J.P. Williams, who's credited with turning this brand of redneck humor into a cottage industry. Williams has also helped two of the performers carry their personas into movies that don't require acting, just the constant delivery of one-liners.

The first vehicle for a Blue Collar comedian was 2006's "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector," in which Larry the Cable Guy (aka Dan Whitney) plays a hygienically-challenged restaurant inspector who spends his time grossing out rich folks, with occasional pauses for a cursory romantic subplot. The returns here were less than stellar - the movie only earned about $15 million at the box office.

Now there's "Delta Farce," an utterly laugh-free comedy about three National Guardsmen who've been inadvertently dropped into Mexico on their way to Iraq.

Larry plays his signature character - a guy named Larry, an agreeable slob who happens to lose his restaurant job and his girlfriend in one day. Bill Engvall plays a guy named Bill, a lazy guy who works in a big box store and lives in a trailer park with his shrewish wife, except when he's lounging around the barracks with his fellow Guardsmen. The third in the group is a weirdo named Everett (skinny actor DJ Qualls) who lives in a storage unit and has a military fixation that borders on maniacal.

Most of the troops at their post have already been deployed, but the higher-ups decide it's time to send more soldiers into action, even if it means sending these three. A tough sergeant named Kilgore (the wonderful character actor Keith David, working far beneath himself) tries to whip these slobs into shape in one weekend before embarking to the war zone.

When Kilgore (the name an apparent nod to Robert Duvall's character in "Apocalypse Now") first arrives, the movie blurs the line between weak humor and product placement: Everett offers Kilgore a Slim Jim and repeats the ad line "Snap into a Slim Jim!" This joke actually made it into the trailer, suggesting that someone in marketing thought it was one of the movie's comic highlights. In the movie Everett can barely complete the line before the movie dissolves to another scene, as if the filmmakers are sheepishly acknowledging the joke was actually pretty lousy.

Once the guys are in Mexico it takes them an outrageously long time to realize where they are, despite hearing everyone speak Spanish, seeing mariachi bands, having sombreros placed on their heads and being served tacos. They can't even recognize Mexican stereotypes. This is played for humor, naturally, but it's hard to laugh repeatedly at the idea that these people are too dim to realize where they are. You worry about such people, not laugh at them.

And even a movie like "Delta Farce" requires a minimal suspension of disbelief. A group of sloppy guardsmen liberating a Mexican town they think is Fallujah is funny (at least in theory), but having them not realize it until the next reel is sheer overkill.

Most troubling are the jokes about gays and Middle Easterners, whom Larry refers to at one point as "carpet flyers." The movie manages to squeeze in at least three jokes about the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gay recruits. At one point Everett and Bill wake up nestled together, and the horror these two show when they lock eyes veers away from comedy and straight into bigotry. Later Everett wakes up in a dress after a tequila-fueled bender, implying he was involved in some kind of (dude!) same-sex dalliance the night before. This is business as usual for these guys - Larry the Cable Guy routinely employs epithets for gay people in his stand-up act, and the jokes in "Delta Farce" play straight into the prejudices of some conservative Americans.

In case you thought the filmmakers weren't aiming low enough, there are also plenty of jokes about flatulence and bodily fluids. At one point Sgt. Kilgore, also marooned in Mexico, stumbles upon a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) left by Larry, who was spitting tobacco juice into the pouch. The ravenous Kilgore digs in, only to discover too late that the dark stuff on top isn't spaghetti sauce. No one who buys a ticket for a movie like this expects high-toned comedy, just as no one looks for gourmet food in Army rations. The extra helping of tobacco spittle in “Delta Farce,” however, is just plain cruel.

Rated PG-13 for toilet humor, sexual innuendo and gross misuse of Keith David.

** out of four stars. Horrible.

The rating system:

* - Lousy** - Horrible*** - Painful**** - Traumatic

The Movie Masochist is an emotionally wounded cinephile who lives in the United States. He watches bad movies so you don’t have to. Tell him your tales of movie torture. E-mail him here at jfranklin@mcclatchy.com.

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