Judge Adam Arseneau's sense of humor is past the expiration date.
Our review of Bad Meat (2012), published March 27th, 2013, is also available.
Welcome to Butcher's Mill.
A low-budget comedy of error filmed back in 2003, Bad Meat struggled for years to find distribution and has now found its way to DVD. Can one expect a film titled Bad Meat to be anything but rank, rancid, and smelly?
Sure, people expect all kinds of things. Like the lottery. Do you guys realize what the odds are of actually winning that thing? Still, people throw down their hard-earned money week after week. Go figure.
Facts of the Case
Welcome to Butcher's Mill, Illinois, a small ugly town so impoverished and crime-ridden that the government removed it from the state map in fear of tourists actually discovering it. The local meat factory employs the majority of townsfolk, like the bumbling Earl (Billie Worley, Space Cowboys) who yearns for nothing more than a good wage to afford his own trailer home to impress his high-school crush. Most of the rest—like Buddy (Lance Barber, For Your Consideration), a hapless and uncoordinated criminal whose biggest caper to-date involves talking Earl into smuggling him meat out of the meat plant for dinner—resort to petty crime to survive.
Buddy's latest scheme is his most daring yet—kidnapping the local Congressman (an embarrassingly poor cameo by Chevy Chase) and ransoming him for money back to his family. Unknown to Buddy, his poisonous family hates his guts. When the Congressman dies of a heart attack after a rage-filled exercise workout routine, Buddy's plan is shot…or is it? Convinced he still has a plan, Buddy simply amends the plan—kidnapping the local Congressman's corpse and ransoming it for money.
Earl is at first unwilling to join up with Buddy in his caper but, realizing his meager pittance at the meat factory cannot hope to afford him his own trailer to impress the girl of his dreams, joins in with Buddy to steal the corpse and get paid. Things rapidly go downhill from there.
From the point of view of a film critic-type guy, there is nothing worse than tearing into a film you wanted to like, but could not because of all the terribleness it throws at you. Oh, Bad Meat. You simply leave me no choice in this matter. You try so hard, but fail so utterly. What can we do? You leave us with no choice.
For the casual viewer idly perusing the rental selection of their video store of choice, be warned; the DVD packaging will insist to that Bad Meat is funny via association for two reasons. First, it has Chevy Chase in it. Secondly, it was created by Scott Dikkers, an editor for The Onion, the popular satirical news publication. Both valid arguments indeed…but unfortunately, both are totally without merit. Last time I checked, The Onion was indeed a funny publication…so I fail to see the connection between it and Bad Meat, which is not. As for Chevy Chase, that is another special kind of train wreck. He is in this movie for about five minutes. He wears a really bad toupee, has terrible false teeth, curses a lot, and then dies of a heart attack, his body becoming the subject of Weekend at Bernie's-style hijinks for the next hour. The best explanation I can provide to viewers as to his participation in Bad Meat is that he lost a bet somewhere, to someone. A terrible, terrible, soul-crushing, career-ending bet.
A bunch of hapless redneck bumblers in small-town America who work at a local meat factory try to kidnap a Congressman, and fail. A very funny movie could be made about this. If Fargo taught us anything, it is that kidnappings can go very bad in a comedic kind of way. Bad Meat ups the ante 1980s-style by going one better: kidnapping the corpse of a Congressman and ransoming it for money. A great idea in principal, but one whose execution here just utterly fails to incite anything but pity from its audience. Not one scene can go by without some weird Three Stooges-style bumbling comedic moment, usually involving the requisite fat drunk guy stumbling about aimlessly in Chris Farley style. The film is set to a constant organ-grinding accordion medley, which is charming at first, but rapidly grows infuriating in a Lou Ferrigno sort of way—it makes you want to smash things. Every person in the town is either a dull-witted moronic worker at the local meat plant, a slow-witted policeman, or an asinine aspiring criminal who trips over his own feet. Funny on paper, sure, but it gets old fast.
The acting is poor, the budget is minimal, and all of this would be immediately forgivable if the film actually made us laugh. I was still waiting as the final credits rolled. The jokes just face-plant in kamikaze fashion. It's not for lack of trying, because Bad Meat throws every possible comedic cliché at viewers in a non-stop assault of sight gags, silly puns, stupid jokes, necrophilia gags, processed lunch meat, ogre-like hit men, and on and on. Nary one connects. At best, you might crack a smile, but this is probably more a reflex action than genuine comedic enjoyment. When this many jokers fail to connect in a comedy this low-budget and this indie, it is nothing short of a death sentence.
From a technical standpoint, Bad Meat looks just okay—colors are washed out, probably deliberately so to heighten the hapless industrial look of their shooting locations, and a fair amount of grain is noticeable. Black levels are washy. One can be forgiving for a film with a moderately small budget on such things. The audio comes in a 5.1 surround track, with moderately clear dialogue that muffles now and again, a light and carnival-style accordion theme that jauntily accompanies every scene, and a total lack of bass response. Nice to see the full surround presentation here, but Bad Meat could have gotten away with a straight stereo presentation.
A cast and crew commentary track features writer/director Scott Dikkers and actors Billie Worley and Lance Barber offering a light airy commentary mostly discussing shooting locations and behind-the-scenes tidbits. We also get two theatrical trailers—weird considering the film probably didn't even get a theatrical release—some deleted scenes, and a photo gallery. Not a bad offering for a single-disc release, truth be told.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The true disappointment from this low-budget comedy is the squandered comedic potential in Bad Meat. I mean, a script about two idiots who get the idea to kidnap a congressman for ransom, and through a comedy of errors, end up with the dead boy processed into lunch meat and sold to the community? Talk about potential! As a catastrophic heist caper film gone horribly awry, other films have made this formula work, like Welcome to Collinwood, which is the closest I can come to paying Bad Meat a compliment—it reminds you of better films.
I will give it to the filmmakers—they shot for the moon and came away short, but the spirit behind their endeavor was righteous and true and worth commending. Unfortunately for them, and doubly so for those forced to sit through the film, every bit of comedic currency is squandered on foolish sight gags, bad puns, and a weird vaudevillian humor style that emotes naught but dead silence from its viewers or, during its more inspired moments, a wry chuckle.
Bad Meat stinks like the rotten meat that bears its name, but at one point, it had the potential to be the finest of AAA comedic cuts. One hesitates to throw the book at a film that tries this hard, but throw the book at it we must. Despite every opportunity and endless comedic potential, Bad Meat will stink up your DVD player something foul.
A difficult verdict, but Bad Meat is just plain rotten. Guilty.
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• Commentary with Writer/Director Scott Dikkers and Actors Billie Worley and Lance Barber
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