Go Kart Films // 1989 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // February 11th, 2005
Funky fresh urban comedy? Or amateurish urban blight? You be the judge.
J.D. is home from the military on a short weekend pass, and he can only think of one thing. Having been surrounded by sweaty, stinky dudes for the last few weeks, he is desperate for some poon. He is dying for some trim. He is kooky for nookie and needs to knock boots ASAP. Hooking up with his white homeboy Gordon, J.D. sets his sights on the streets of Long Island in hopes of landing some horny honey. But everywhere he turns, the misses reject him. One gal spurns his suggestion that they do it on a cot behind a gas station. Another just won't give him the time of day. There are a few who seem interested, but fate or a foolish approach seems to stifle the potential sex. Now, why this defender of America's freedom just doesn't use some of his government issue scratch and buy himself a hooker is a mystery not even the Snoop Sisters could unravel. Try as he might though, J.D. is frantic to press the flesh, and will do it with practically anyone as long as they don't give him The Big Dis.
As a filmmaker, you have to know that when you name your movie The Big Dis, you are just asking for film critic trouble. It's a title that lends itself to far too many instant scat-worthy soundbite sentiments. Examples are so obvious as to seem like effortless and easy cheap shots: The Big Dis-appointment...The Big Dis-aster...The Big Dis-traction...The Big Dis-tastefulness. Sadly, each and every one of these clever combinations of prefix to participle applies perfectly to this irritating, incredibly awful bit of independent drivel. Like getting stuck in a restaurant with a bunch of retarded high school kids with ADD and learning disabilities, each one wired on a combination of Coca-Cola, pure cane sugar, and animal fat, The Big Dis is a homemade horror that feels like it was shot in real time. While J.D.'s pass is for 48 hours, directors Gordon Erikson and John O'Brien seem to find a way to cram all 172,800 seconds of his sour sex struggle into the 84 minutes of painful running time of this movie.
This is a film that finds a way, scene after scene, to become more and more incoherent and annoying. Assuming any wannabe actor can make up better dialogue than what can be written down and memorized, Erikson and O'Brien (again, how this movie needed two directors is anybody's guess) allow the conversations in this crapshoot to be improvised. This means that every time some characters get together, they ramble and rant inarticulately, offering up abysmally lame arguments and discussions about unintelligible, illiterate things. And as they proceed, as each vignette arrives on the screen and starts shrieking, the audience's brains begin to balk. We can't believe how bad the previous scene was, but it now appears like well-written Shakespeare by the time we are through with the follow-up. From the scorned women who show up uninvited at J.D.'s house basically to harass him for no good reason, to the heavy metal moron who announces each of his friends with a particularly ear-piercing riff or chord change on the guitar, The Big Dis is dis-jointed, dis-tracting and dis-gusting.
There are certain scenes that are so jaw-dropping, so completely inconceivable as either entertainment or insight, that you have to wonder what these Harvard graduate filmmakers (proving that even the Ivy League can f*&$ up now and then) were thinking when they filmed them. Take the aforementioned gas station sex setup. J.D. indeed wants to take some gal, put a dirty, dis-eased cot back near the men's room of a Texaco, drop trou, and make with the animal noises. In the outdoors. At night. In plain sight of everything and everyone. Naturally, the chick is less than impressed. In another amazingly inept sequence, J. D. scams on some teenage girls (13 and 16 respectively) in a far too creepy circumstance that is really unnerving. Though he never actually follows through, we know why he's arrived at their doorstep (the voiceover explains his need for something/anything to satisfy his uncontrollable urges), and the implication is nauseating. With a narrative that resembles free verse in free fall, and a hip-hop soundtrack that offers very little sonic nuance (each track sounds the same, though the DVD cover proclaims both LL Cool J and Salt-N-Pepa are part of the score -- no proof of it is provided), this movie is like a new kind of torture. Call it pain by pretend pretentiousness or death by direct dumbness.
You know that Erikson and O'Brien believe they are giving us an accurate slice of life accentuated with their own friendships and experiences. There is also an urban insight they are championing, a concept that not all communities where ethnic cultures mix are full of racism and violence. While that's all fine and dandy, did they have to leave out the character development, the drama, or the funny stuff? Cinema vérité is supposed to amplify existence by giving us a chance to see it through the camera's unflinching eye. But aside from the diversity dimension, we witness nothing fresh, funny, intelligent, ingratiating, original or out of the ordinary during the dull drone of The Big Dis. Actors adlib, situations stall and shrivel, convention and coincidence are used to get characters out of scenes going nowhere, and the ending is just as ambiguous and boring as the beginning. While some of the monochrome images of Long Island are interesting, they are not enough to recommend this tedium. While some may call this calamity HE'S Gotta Have It, Spike's initial original joint deserves better than such dis-dain. The Big Dis achieves its own atrociousness on its own. It doesn't need to name-check far more skilled filmmakers to try and save its sorry ass.
Visually, Go Kart Films has hacked up a fuzzy phlegm ball of a transfer for this title. The dingy, gunmetal gray image is soft, sloppy and lacking any real artistic merit. Unless you consider keeping the camera in focus most of the time the height of aesthetic quality, you will find very little to cheer over in this 1.33:1 full frame fiasco. As for the aural attributes, the big bang bass basics of the rap soundtrack all have the same, hollow computerized thump that was oh-so contemporary in the late '80s. In 2005, it just sounds like someone borrowed a Ronco pocket beat box and laid down the boogie. The dialogue wavers from understandable to indecipherable, and there is very little depth or flavor to the recording. Overall, the sonics are cheap and cold, adding nothing to the technical side of this title.
As for bonuses, we get a chance to see Erikson and his wife-slash-project producer Heather Johnston shill their film on a local TV talk show. While the host seems thoroughly entranced by the couple, they appear lost in their own world of self-important plaudits and possibilities. They taut their Harvard education, argue with critics who think their multicultural take was preplanned, and discuss the many merits of their movie without batting a single self-aware eye. As far as they are concerned, The Big Dis is perfect, and no one will convince them otherwise.
The rest of the extras are rather uneventful. If you want to revisit the soundtrack (and God knows why you'd want to do that), you can go to a separate menu and pick your favorite terrible tune. And there is a music video -- which consists of a montage of scenes from the movie, for the stupid song "Long Island Girls." Thankfully, we are spared a commentary or additional behind the scenes bunkum for this "doesn't deserve it" title.
Though indie is often seen as the savior of cinema, not every independent film deserves praise or preferential treatment. Sometimes, bad is bad, and The Big Dis is B-A-D! If you want to wander aimlessly with a mealy-mouthed misogynist who can't seem to find the chutzpah to simply pay for the loving he needs and get over it, if you long to hear actors without the first clue about how to improvise make up their own crappy conversations, if you just don't get enough exasperation and aggravation in your daily life, then by all means, give The Big Dis a try. But you have been warned. This is one mediocre military leave that should have gone AWOL when it had the chance.
Review content copyright © 2005 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Go Kart Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interview Featurette
* Music Video
* Individual Songs Soundtrack Menu
* Official Site