By Alan Scherstuhl
By Mark Holcombe
By Scott Foundas
By Nick Pinkerton
By Michael Atkinson
By Scott Foundas
By Keith Phipps
By Alan Scherstuhl
Waiting for Guffman
Uptown Theatre, starts Friday
GLAM-METAL IS to This is Spinal Tap as community theater is to Waiting for Guffman, a mostly amusing "mockumentary" directed by and starring Christopher Guest--the lovably dim Spinal Tapper whose amp went up to 11. Here, Guest swishes it up as Corky St. Clair, a flamboyant (and flamboyantly bad) theater director who brings his wide-eyed excitement to the task of staging an off-key musical revue for the "sesquicentennial" celebration of Blaine, Missouri, a.k.a. Hicksville, USA.
You could call it This Is Musical Pap, but also, as Brainerd is to Fargo, Blaine is to Guffman: Preparing for their epic production, the idiot officials of this "little town with a big heart in the heart of a big country" consider renting portable toilets and police snipers in case of emergency. Still, Guest's comparatively warm version of small-town satire is evident even in his own stereotypical character. Corky may direct with a heavy hand and a limp wrist, but he steadily guides his actors toward an ennobling kind of stardom--if only in their own minds.
The cast is a veritable roll call of caricatured simpletons: Libby Mae Brown (Parker Posey) is an air-headed Dairy Queen waitress who gets wistful thinking about Blizzards and dip cones; Dr. Allan Pearl (Eugene Levy) is a geeky Jewish dentist who claims he learned his "sense of humor" by sitting next to the class clown in school; and Ron and Sheila Albertson (Fred Willard and Catherine O'Hara) are a pair of sweatsuit-wearing travel agents who've never been out of Blaine, except for Ron's mysterious surgical procedure in neighboring Jefferson City.
As their godawful auditions rival the ones for Springtime for Hitler in The Producers (another of Guest's clear inspirations), the running gag in Guffman is the gulf between the actors' pride and the pathetic reality. These folks make boobs out of themselves rehearsing song-and-dance routines with stools and a cardboard UFO, all the while hoping that the attendance of a talent scout named Guffman will be their ticket to Broadway.
Of course, per Samuel Beckett, the cast may be waiting for Guffman indefinitely--which lends an undercurrent of pathos to a film that's otherwise merely goofy. On the one hand, untalented actors in community theater aren't quite offensive enough to deserve Guest's crueler barbs; the grotesque phenomenon of mega-budget touring shows is far worthier of satire. On the other, there's an unexpected tenderness in Guffman's third act that complicates one's view of great acting, and perhaps even ambition in general. Corky and company's Red, White, and Blaine probably wouldn't earn a review in our town, but so what? To the players themselves, it's transcendent.
Meanwhile, horniness takes center stage in Booty Call, another acting-out farce that displays a surprising amount of affection toward its characters. In Living Color vets Jamie Foxx and Tommy Davidson play Bunz and Rushon, two Harlem homeboys so anxious to get laid that they nearly suffocate to death--mummifying themselves in Glad Wrap from head to toe under instruction from their ladies to secure a dental dam and "go downtown." Suffice to say that Booty Call is no Pillow Talk.
Still, Davidson's Rushon serves as the film's Tony Randall-like celibate, having patiently waited seven weeks for his beloved Nikki (Tamala Jones) to give up the booty; while Foxx's Bunz is as hard as a Rock in the company of Nikki's friend Lysterine (Vivica A. Fox), bragging that he'll "have that ass bouncin' like the low rider in the Dr. Dre video." Crucially, the women are allowed to give as good as they get in the lewd joke department, particularly as regards the men's supposed "stamina" and penis size. And as Nikki and Lysterine's "no glove, no love" policy forces their partners to run out for protection (again and again), the movie hits on a unique sitcom conceit that doubles as a safe-sex PSA. Measuring a short 77 minutes, Booty Call comes quick but still gets its groove on.
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