This Chicano exploitation flick makes Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger laugh, esse. No wait, how do you say?...makes him weep. Real tears too, dawg.
Sex, booze…and a burro?
DVD exploded a few years ago, and it still has a lot of steam left. Let's conservatively say it has another decade of juice to spare, which puts the run of our beloved format somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 years. Even given such a generous time frame, you will rarely come across a DVD as categorically bad as Party Animalz.
It isn't often that a movie is so amateurish and poorly executed that its excremental stench is unquestionable. We've all seen bad movies, and badly produced movies, but there is usually some shadow of doubt when you make fun of it. You may think the movie is bad, but there is the possibility that someone else might find it good. That possibility is erased by Party Animalz. Take whatever cheap shots you want to without guilt. No matter how low you stoop, Party Animalz will stoop lower.
Party Animalz is a Chicano exploitation-comedy film that rehashes films like House Party, American Pie, and There's Something About Mary. Its unique blend of shameless ripoff, anti-sophistication, pseudo-streetwise banter, and low-budget gross-out gags musters a mighty 1.6 at the IMDb, which makes it the lowest-scoring movie I've ever reviewed. I call it a "Chicano exploitation-comedy film," but all four words are tenuous descriptors (why is it in English with Spanish subtitles?).
Everyone in Party Animalz is either a "dawg," "esse," "chica," or "mamacita." The script "writer" put a few empty cans of La Costena refried beans in a row, and then drew out random slips of paper from each can to form the dialogue using this formula:
[salutation], [person], [action] [expletive] [noun], [optional verbal tic]!
This gives us lines similar to:
"Yo, esse, check out this f***ing chica, man!"
Party Animalz features Rolando Molina, Emilio Rivera, and Noel Gugliemi, which makes the wretched dialogue particularly frustrating. These Latino actors have amassed key supporting roles in many big-budget films. I particularly enjoyed Noel Gugliemi's chilling turn as a corrupt but charismatic thug in Training Day. His talents are grandly wasted here, and no one displays anything to make up for the loss.
It is difficult to describe the abject scope of the acting. Actors dread being caught "acting," which is a sign that their performance hasn't connected with the audience. Instead of being swept up in the moment, viewers start dissecting the acting mechanics, which kills the momentum and shames the actor. There is no threat of catching anyone "acting" in Party Animalz. Lines are read with deadpan disregard for emotional impact. Words escape rigid lips with a stilted gait, suggestive of a three-legged race. Inflection is ignored. Energy and emotion are but apparitions.
Who cares? This is a screwball comedy, not high art. But then, where art the comedy, where art the screwing?
In the case of the former, Party Animalz operates under this M.O.: setup, gag, reaction, resolution—in that order, with no intervening scenes to establish tension. The prosecution presents Paraphrased Example One:
"Robert, what does it feel like?"
This scene begs the fundamental question surrounding Party Animalz: Does director Ted Mendenhall assume that his target audience has never seen American Pie, so this gag will be new to them? Or does he assume that his target audience has seen American Pie and will be in on the "joke?" He loses either way: He is either a shameless rip-off artist, or he flubs the most basic homage.
Paraphrased Example Two:
"Caesar, man, you have to make Maria's first time special, esse! Here,
practice on this blow-up doll. Talk to it, make it feel special."
This example riffs on the "tragic misunderstanding of benign circumstances" situation. If you are familiar with this scenario, you know that the formula strictly requires several scenes of the forlorn lothario and the jilted woman, possibly with a few near misses of reconciliation and/or escalation of the misunderstanding. Only then can the misunderstanding be cleared up and hot monkey love ensue. In Party Animalz, there isn't even time to brace for the painful conversation—it happens in the next take.
In case any of this sounds conceivably funny, try this. A sneaky voyeur drills a peephole in the stairs to look under skirts. A girl with a balloon under her shirt (she's pregnant, get it?) sits down heavily. Jump cut to under the stairs, where we hear a muffled "ahhhh…I think my water broke!" Then someone pours water into the peephole, which splashes on the voyeur's face. He licks his lips and shrugs. How about this one: Robert and Caesar hide under the bed to escape notice. Two lovers go at it hot and heavy on the bed, and we see minutes' worth of Robert's face with the mattress moving up and down, interspersed with closeups of the girl's toenails. In other words, the love scenes are so low budget that we don't see any skin.
This is not true of Party Animalz in general. There are a few scenes with breasts in them, if you count silicone implants shown for brief moments in poor lighting. The big score at the end is stalled with ten minutes of Caesar wrestling with Maria's bra strap until she passes out. The hot tub scene shows a fat man with six naked hotties around him, which lasts for about five seconds and has neither setup nor closure.
In fact, that is my biggest problem with Party Animalz: There are no transitions. Scene follows scene with no coherence, rhythm, or flow. It is as though the writer dissected the clichés of all party movies, broke them down to their most basic elements, and then stacked them up in a row one after the other. "Okay, we need a hot tub scene, a spurt of semen, a tough guy, the police, a chaste woman, a bestiality scene, a torture chamber, accidental Viagra overdose, and geek-to-hunk transition. Go film them and we'll string 'em together in post."
I can't say that Party Animalz is completely devoid of humor. There are two or three snippets of dialogue that evoked laughter. If you slavishly but ineptly follow a formula fifty times in a row, you'll evoke two laughs just by random chance.
Now that I have you champing at the bit to rent this masterpiece, let's talk quality. I presume from the cramped compositions and misplaced focal points that Party Animalz was filmed in widescreen but cropped for this transfer. I'll spare you the rant against violating Original Aspect Ratio, because the less of this movie you see the better. Party Animalz's fundamental video issues are compounded by severe edge enhancement and bleary focus. There has been no cleanup, so grain, dust, and scratches pepper the film. Finally, there is a subtle horizontal combing effect that causes faint lines to smear the image. If you took a nice photograph, cut it in half, wiped Vaseline over your glasses and sprinkled sand on them, you'd approximate the Party Animalz visual experience.
The bright spots are the audio and extras. A clear-ish soundtrack of B-grade merengue songs complements the mostly clear dialogue. Clear dialogue isn't really necessary in this movie, because it is a simple barrage of last year's street slang that is grasped intuitively rather than actually listened to. If you can't predict the direction of each conversation from the opening utterance, you need to watch more movies. But I digress. There is a healthy slate of extras: You can listen to the director tell you how fabulous this low-budget mish-mash is, see how it was made, and watch an outrageouz stills gallery.
Party Animalz has done nothing to convert my opinion that movie titles with Z's for S's invariably suck.
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