Fox // 2004 // 119 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // October 22nd, 2004
It's a slasher film. No, it's a comedy. Wait a minute, maybe it's neither.
Someone is slicing up the staff of Coconut Pete's Pleasure Island, a hedonist's paradise located off the coast of Costa Rica. Can this group of idiots, stoners, and slackers save themselves and their guests from the killer's blade?
Yes, that's all the story there is. No, I'm not kidding. The guys from the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, whose first feature was Super Troopers, use this sad excuse for a plot as an excuse to mount one of the greatest cinematic travesties I've ever witnessed. You'd think five comedians would have at least one funny idea, but you'd be wrong. You'd think a movie in which the slasher element is a major driving force would have at least some sense of mystery and terror, but, again, you'd be wrong. (It looks like these guys learned story structure from episodes of Scooby-Doo; if you can't guess the killer's identity from the first set of clues, you're just not trying hard enough.) If the gags worked, it would matter that Club Dread isn't scary. If the scares worked, it wouldn't matter that Club Dread isn't funny. Remember how Beverly Hills Cop III couldn't decide whether it wanted to be an action flick or a comedy and ended up being neither? Same goes for this crap. Forget comparisons to An American Werewolf in London, Scary Movie 2 works better than this garbage.
There is not a single amusing moment in this movie. Not one. I haven't seen Super Troopers (and now have absolutely do desire to do so), but at some point these guys must have shown some potential. The director, Jay Chandrasekhar, has directed episodes of some good television programs, most notably Arrested Development and Undeclared, but there's no evidence here that he knows anything about pacing, staging a gag, or even simply filling a frame. He's also a slave to the script, which in this case isn't the smartest way to go. Nothing in the script is funny, but no one makes an attempt to overcome the weaknesses of the material. For the most part the cast just recites what's on the page, and that includes the usually reliable Bill Paxton. (C'mon, Bill -- this and Thunderbirds in the same year? Did you hit your head one too many times on ceiling of the Vomit Comet while shooting Apollo 13?) Brittany Daniel is asked to do little more than run around in a bikini or her underwear, and she's exceedingly good at it, but I already knew that from her guest spot on That '70s Show. She's incredibly easy on the eyes (to put it mildly), and can be funny, but after this and Joe Dirt she needs to start looking for a new agent. The guys from Broken Lizard don't even put much effort into it; the only spin they put on the material is by mispronouncing words (yeah, that's hilarious). Chandrasekhar himself is the worst perpetrator; he keeps emphasizing the wrong syllable in half the words he speaks, as if he's sure that at some point it will suddenly become funny, and you can even see him beginning to chuckle at himself at the end of many of his scenes. Dude, you're not Benny Hill.
Don't be fooled by the "Unrated" tag slapped on this release. You won't get to see Sharon Stone shoving an ice pick through some guy's nose, ED 209 blasting the crap out of some guy, Bruce Willis's johnson, or anything else prurient. What you get here is simply footage not submitted to the MPAA; it consists mostly of scene extensions, none of which would have changed the film's rating. There's no gratuitous violence or nudity. Yippee. It's also sad to think someone believed there was actually a need for an even longer version of this film. We'll probably never get to see the original versions of The Magnificent Ambersons or Major Dundee, but this thing warrants an extended cut. Yeah, that makes sense.
Having ranted about the film itself, let me now turn to the presentation. The review copy issued by 20th Century Fox is not indicative of the retail version. The reincorporated footage (which should have stayed on the cutting room floor) is presented in black and white. No extras are included, nor is there a menu screen, although there are upfront ads (thanks Fox). The audio on the consumer edition will be a full 5.1 mix, while this version contains a 2.0 mix; the scores in the Scales of Justice represent what is here.
The video presentation is better than this film deserves (even in the black and white footage). There is some flicker and grain in a few shot, but otherwise the transfer is quite pleasing. Color saturation is dead on, and flesh tones are beautiful; blacks are deep, and there are no artifacts or edge enhancement. The 2.0 mix is serviceable; the soundtrack is dialogue heavy, and every word (unfortunately) is audible. There are some nice directional effects in the mix, and I imagine they would have been even nicer in a full surround mix. In a way I'm glad the extras aren't included on the screener disc. I don't think I could sit through a commentary from the members of Broken Lizard, nor does the world need 22 scenes deleted from an already overlong film.
Well, the female cast does look nice in various states of undress, although such scenes are few and far between. Other than that, this thing sucks.
The horror...the horror. Ultimately what we have is a film in which absolutely nothing works. Not the gags, not the bloodletting, and not the (surprisingly benign) sex. Imagine the Farrelly Brothers with the Scream script, a suitcase full of Quaaludes, and a budget of $30 million. Would you pay to see the result? Avoid Club Dread at all costs. If this isn't the worst movie ever made, I don't want to see the movie that is.
The members of Broken Lizard are guilty of making what could well be the worst movie I've ever seen. Fox is guilty of ponying up the money for this movie, and then foisting the results on the public. Bill Paxton is guilty of cashing a paycheck. Brittany Daniel is guilty of being so hot it should be illegal. Honestly, I cannot think of a sentence severe enough for this crime. There's no need to waste any more of our time on this junk. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted/Extended Scenes with Commentary