Phase 4 Films // 2009 // 80 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // June 10th, 2010
First there was Angelina, then Madonna, and now Pauly!
In 1996, Jeff Decosas claimed that if the cure for HIV/AIDS was a single cup of germ-free drinking water, then less than half the people in the world could be cured. Statistics like that shed a harsh light on the realities of living in the so-called "first world": we have it pretty darn good by many standards. There's clean water, longer lives, lower infant mortality, more universal literacy. The empathetic first-world soul, being aware of all these advantages, might wonder what he or she can do to help those who are less fortunate. Some people donate their time to relief organizations, others send money or food, but in the past decade several celebrities have got the bright idea to adopt children from less well-off countries. The hope is that they can both save a child and bring more awareness to the plight of other children in the besieged region. Like all celebrity trends though, third-world adoption is up for merciless comedy critique, this time in the film Adopted. It's a really clever premise that holds a lot of potential, but that spark is wasted on 80 minutes of running time.
Adopted opens with Pauly Shore introducing us to his Hollywood lifestyle. The wild parties. The famous friends. The inevitable dissatisfaction with materialistic consumption. To alleviate his feelings of emptiness, Pauly decides to go where several celebrities have gone before: he hopes to adopt a child from a third-world country, specifically one in Africa. From there the film follows Pauly as he travels to Africa, looking to adopt a child. Initially he tries to adopt every kid he sees, but when that fails he tries increasingly unusual methods, including a stop by Oprah's (in)famous girls' school. Once Pauly finds some likely candidates, more hijinks ensue as he discovers that all children are not the cute-and-cuddly photo-friendly youths he sees on magazine covers.
Adopted stars from a really funny premise: no matter how well-meaning their intentions, it's a bit presumptuous and self-righteous for rich white folk from the first world to go baby shopping in poorer countries. The first problem is that even if one could argue that the material conditions of a child raised by Angelina Jolie or Madonna are better, that child will also lose out on whatever cultural benefits growing up in their native country might have bestowed, which is significant to many of those native people. Second, it's not like Madonna or Angelina have to travel far from their homes to find children who are suffering. Sure, the average inner-city orphan might have it "better" than an African orphan, but to choose to adopt a third-world baby diminishes the focus on children much closer to home. By taking a rich, white, ignorant, and entitled celebrity attitude and amping it to the max, Pauly Shore brings these issues home. In fact, he even gets African people to raise these objections themselves. So essentially the whole movie is Pauly parodying celebrities and watching random people on the street react.
Adopted does have a funny idea at its core, but that doesn't mean it's worth watching. The first problem that most people are going to encounter is Pauly Shore. He's a divisive comedic figure: many people hate him, but since he keeps getting work I can only assume he's also got a decent fan base as well. I tend to like him in supporting roles where he can provide a bit of comic relief without having to hold the whole show. Adopted though, is all Pauly, all the time. Only his most ardent supporters are going to appreciate him being center stage for 80 minutes of improvised encounters. Which brings up the next big problem with Adopted: it's just too long. There's enough comedic spark to light a 15-minute fire, not an 80-minute one. There are some really funny encounters in this footage, and the comedy is making a good point about celebrity charity causes, but it should have been a series of 2-minute YouTube videos. Those who stick with the whole thing while get sporadic laughs, but all the real fun is expended in the film's first 10 minutes.
On DVD, Adopted gets decent treatment. Obviously shot on the cheap, the video looks only slightly better than consumer video in some places, but I suspect most of the problems are with the source rather than the transfer. The 5.1 surround audio is a bit of overkill for this dialogue-heavy feature, but everything is pretty clearly audible. The main extra is a set of extra scenes. They add an hour to the 80 minutes of the feature. Much like the film proper, these bits have some funny moments, but overall they're a bit much. The other extra is the film's trailer. I might be the only guy in the universe who thinks it's a good idea, but I'd actually like to hear a Pauly Shore commentary on this film. Oh, well.
Adopted is for the hardcore Pauly Shore fan alone. Although it has a funny premise, this mockumentary lacks a strong story to tie all the shenanigans together, meaning even Pauly fans are probably going to have to watch this one in chunks. Those that do persevere will find that the DVD release is solid, with lots of extra Pauly for those so inclined.
I wish I could take it home and love it, but Adopted just doesn't work. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Phase 4 Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R