Judge Brett Cullum one day dreams of starring in his high school's Passion play.
What would you do to play the Son of God?
Mangus Spedgwick (Ryan Boggus, Baghdad Texas) has held onto one dream his whole life…he wants to be Jesus in the high school's annual production of "Jesus Christ Spectacular." Every male in his family has done it before him, so it seems a birthright as well as a family tradition. But the hand of God deals Mangus a dastardly blow when he is crippled in a car accident. The school board decides that Jesus in a wheelchair just isn't politically correct, so Mangus has a fight on his hands.
Mangus! tries hard to be a mix of vintage John Waters and Sordid Lives even nodding to those movies with its ensemble cast, including Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie), Heather Matarazzo (The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement), Leslie Jordan (Will and Grace), and a cameo by Waters himself. Adding authenticity to this indie black comedy, we get trailer parks, high school drama auditoriums, titty bars, Walmarts, and plenty of sick twisted jokes aimed far below the belt. Mangus! works, in the sense that it does seem to capture the vulgar and cheap feel of those early underground films, although a touch sweeter in tone. Even when paying homage to Heathers—a popular kid crashes through a glass coffee table—it feels lighter than you'd expect.
Wolfe Video seems to be aiming this one at a gay audience, by promoting it at queer film festivals and on Logo. Aside from a couple characters who identify as queer, it's not a gay film, but the humor is sly and campy. A gay audience will probably understand it better than most, and laugh at the musical theater conventions of doing a poor man's Jesus Christ, Superstar. Writer/director Ash Christian is a gay man, so maybe that qualifies it a bit.
The DVD does fine with this low budget film. Colors on this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer are often cartoonish and purposefully blown out. Sound options include a 5.1 Dolby Surround track as well as a 2.0 Stereo mix, and there's not much difference between the two; this is mainly about the dialogue hitting those front speakers. Extras include a commentary, making-of featurette, and the trailer. The featurette showcases interviews with Christian and his cast on what looks like a Flip camera. Christian and one of his co-producers also appear on the commentary. They talk about the process of making the film, and it's a fun listen.
Mangus! wears its low budget aspirations as a cheap John Waters rip-off with pride. It takes great joy in being irreverent enough to blaspheme all over an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, even if it never totally rises up to the absolute lunacy of the films that inspired it.
Guilty of being naughty and nice all at once.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Wolfe Video
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