Read previous Eats & Entertainment
September 24, 2008
DVD REVIEW: The
Who doesn’t love The Onion? Ever since it was established in
Madison, Wisconsin, in the early 1990s, the comedy newspaper has spawned
a hugely popular web site, editions in many cities and numerous book
compilations, not to mention a slew of imitators. Now, the paper has
become a movie, released on DVD this summer.
The Onion Movie
made headlines when it was first optioned in 2003, but the project,
after filming some footage, soon headed into limbo when the entire team
behind it was dissatisfied with the result. It then ended up on the
shelf, where it was expected to stay for the foreseeable future.
But more than four years later, the footage was rescued by a different
distributor – one with no ties to the paper – who put together a
direct-to-DVD release with little promotion. The director, “James
Kleiner,” is an Alan Smithee-like pseudonym for original director Tom
Kuntz, who removed his name from the project.
Probably the first movie ever based, literally, on a satirical newspaper
– or any kind of newspaper, for that matter – The Onion Movie
represents nothing so much as a throwback to such comedy anthology films
of the late 1970s and early 1980s like Kentucky Fried Movie and
Amazon Women on the Moon. The movie’s plot is a mere clothesline
on which to hang various goofy gags.
Not much of it is up to the paper’s standards. A front page newspaper
article about a guy losing his socks can be funny; a five-minute sketch
about it is considerably less so. Other jokes, meanwhile, are lifted
directly from years-old bits from the newspaper. There’s also a Britney
Spears parody, a concept that was probably fresh when it was filmed in
2003, but it is now older than dirt.
all, The Onion Movie is much like a Saturday Night Live
sketch, on a night when the host sucks, the sketches are lackluster and
none of the “Weekend Update” jokes are hitting. The movie also suffers a
pitfall of the Onion’s “Online News Network” video features: It’s
very, very similar to The Daily Show, but not nearly as funny.
There are a few inspired bits: a locksmith just for men who get their
penises caught in library doors, an athlete blaming God when his team
loses and also a parody of inspirational sports human interest segments
about a perpetually injured hockey player. And a parody of geriatric
celebrity roasts which really isn’t that far off from the real thing.
The movie, though, is so slapped together that it keeps returning to the
very few actually funny bits until they use all humor. The first time
Steven Seagal appears as a martial arts superhero called “C-ckpuncher,”
it’s funny. The tenth and eleventh times, not so much.
brand remains strong on the newspaper, book and web sides, but if The
Onion Movie is any indication, the movies are one medium for which
America’s Finest News Source is not quite ready.
One star out of four
© 2008 North Star Writers
Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column # EE041.
permission to publish here.