This Looks Terrible! Frank McKlusky, C.I
A lot of awfulness has sprung out of the crime against comedy that was 2000's Scary Movie. Most odiously, the movie gave rise to the prolific shit machine of co-screenwriters Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, which for many years polluted movie theaters with its audience-insulting, pop-culture-reference-as-punchline brand of dispiritingly popular spoofery, as seen in such abominations as Date Movie, Epic Movie and The Starving Games, whose title, I would imagine, is some manner of humorous allusion to the popular book and movie franchise The Hunger Games.
On an equally odious note, Scary Movie made the Wayans Brothers of White Chicks and Little Man infamy a thing (that would be the toxic twosome of Sean and Marlon Wayans, rather than older brothers Keenan Ivory and Damon, who suck in their own special way as well) and empowered Marlon to go solo with 50 Shades of Black.
Yes, a whole lot of horrible shit came out of the rancid scatological spoof, but we were thankfully spared a whole bunch of Wayans-level vehicles for Scary Movie standout Dave Sheridan when his star studded would-be star-making vehicle, 2002’s Frank McKlusky, C.I went direct to video despite a cast that includes Dolly Parton, Randy Quaid, R. Lee Ermey, Andy Richter, Kevin Pollak, Adam Carolla, George Lopez, Pat O’Brien, Willie Tyler and Lester, Lou Ferrigno, Scott Baio, Kevin Farley and Orson Bean, of Being John Malkovich and politicizing Breitbart infamy.
Who is Dave Sheridan? Well, the quick, easy answer is that he is a poor man’s Jim Carrey. Who is Frank McKlusky? Well, imagine, for a minute, that Ace Ventura was a generic nerd character and instead of being a pet detective be was essentially an insurance detective? If that sounds terrible, it’s because it is. Theater owners, like audiences, were right to give this whole sorry production a hard pass.
It does not reflect well upon Sheridan that the movie peaks in the five minutes before he first appears not because it's funny (it's not), but rather because it is so weird and so inexplicably star-studded despite being a crap vehicle for a dude who’d never carried a movie before and would never carry one again.
The inexplicably star-studded nature of the cast begins with the casting of Oscar nominee/world class wacko Randy Quaid and American treasure Dolly Parton as McKlusky parents, “Madman” McKlusky, an Evel Knievel-style stuntman and his wife, a foul-mouthed misanthrope who becomes the world’s most over-protective mother out of fear that her son will end up in a terrible accident.
At the hospital, the family brushes up against the brother and brother team of Rosengold and Rosengold, played by a Jheri-Curl-sporting Tracy Morgan and a permed Kevin Pollak. How could they be brothers? Well, as Morgan’s character angrily clears up, “My shit was adopted” in what is both the funniest line in the movie and also the only funny line in the movie.
As an extreme reaction to his father’s misfortune, McKlusky has devoted his life to safety at all costs. Decades later, as he recounts in narration that never stops, or even lets up, he’s a “25 year old virgin in a helmet.” Ah, but isn’t he so much more? Well, uh, he’s a 25 year old virgin in a helmet sure, but he’s also got a pocket protector and kneepads on as well. So there are layers going on here.
The action, such as it is, kicks into high gear when Frank, who is overly cautious to what the filmmakers desperately hope is a comic degree, discovers that his partner in Claims Investigation at Conglomerate Insurance, a donut-chomping galoot played by Kevin Farley, everybody’s second favorite Farley, has been murdered. And also is gay. This is important because it’s not an exaggeration to say that maybe twenty percent of the humor comes from the title character being surprised at what a vibrant and colorful and intensely sexual gay life his dead partner enjoyed without him realizing that his partner wasn’t straight.
People have criticized me for pointing out the horrific prevalence of gay panic humor but I will only stop doing so when movies stop making jokes rooted in the idea that heterosexuals confronting gay sex, or homosexuality, or accidentally finding themselves involved in traditionally gay sex acts is inherently funny.
After McKlusky, a self-professed “insecure heterosexual” discovers that his late partner was gay, he re-discovers his partner’s flamboyant gayness at least ten more times, including when he discovers that one of his partner’s gay lovers is a co-worker played by Andy Richter.
The joke with Richter’s character initially is that he’s constantly baiting the safety-minded McKlusky by doing egregiously unsafe things like wave a pair of scissors around his face and dangle a toaster oven above a half-filled kiddie pool. It’s a joke that borders on mildly amusing so the filmmakers abandon it immediately to really double down on the idea that homosexuality is an automatic gut-buster, and if a little bit of homosexuality is funny, then a whole lot of homosexuality is a goddamn, motherfucking laugh riot. So it isn’t long until Richter’s character is literally frequenting a gay bar called Gay Bar while wearing a shirt that says Queer. This is the film’s way of illustrating that the character is gay.
The safety-minded McKlusky is an “in the van” kind of guy who lets his partner do much of the work but his partner’s death forces him to go out into the world and investigate his death with a series of awful, awful disguises that run the gamut from a female gymnast (if you’re expecting jokes about female gymnasts with mustaches and bulges you won’t be disappointed!) to a sleazy janitor to Mr. T.
Sheridan is willing to do full-on blackface for the sake of a cheap laugh, which makes the film’s complete dearth of laughs not just disappointing but agonizingly sad. The film will do anything for a cheap chuckle but with the exception of Morgan’s brazen, bizarre aggression, nothing in the movie is remotely funny, and Sheridan’s wall-to-wall narration only carries the film further and further from the land of laughter.
The filmmakers seem to think that much, if not most, of its audience is blind, and need to have the action described to them at all times. Late in the film, for example, McKlusky decides to go undercover as a “janitor” in tight bell bottom jeans, a leather vest and a pencil-thin mustache while informing us via narration, “Luckily, I had the tight bell bottom jeans, leather vest and a pencil-thin mustache to make the disguise complete.”
In what universe does this narration add anything? How could it possibly be necessary? Why does McKlusky’s narration invariably involve over-explaining the film’s humor, and its plot, rather than containing any actual humor, or even things that might even vaguely qualify as jokes?
Much of the narration is simply devoted to redundantly explaining what’s onscreen for no discernible reason. Early in the film, for example, he spies a man he suspects of faking a disability at a Hanson concert and confides, via narration, “I guess if you’re a Hanson fan it really pays not to be able to walk. Those seats on the side of the stage are the best seats in the house.”
The filmmakers don’t trust the audience to get the exquisitely understated humor of having an older, bespectacled Asian gentleman talk like a caricature of a good old boy on their own so the narration helpfully reminds us, “Lim Nung was from Nanjing, but he acted like he was from the Ponderosa.”
The filmmakers really seem to think that if you don’t talk directly to the audience at least once every other minute or so and explain exactly what is going in the plot, and what the joke is, and why it’s funny and they should be laughing, then the feeble-minded, easily confused and ADD-riddled audience will become confused and lose interest.
So instead of showing it tells and tells and tells. In one of the worst running gags in a movie that’s pretty much all terrible running gags, tragic former WWE superstar, Surreal Life onetime cast member and porn star Chyna plays a sexy coworker of McKlusky’s who is constantly trying to have sex with the pocket-protector-wearing dolt, and sporting a series of wildly inappropriate, over-sexualized outfits.
At first it’s enough to have Chyna simply be aggressively sexy, but at a certain point she begins wearing outfits modeled on famous outfits and the punishingly literal narration feels the need to provide footnotes for these get-ups. When she wears a green number like Jennifer Lopez’s sexy dress from ages back, for example, we’re told by McKlusky that she looks like she’s swallowed J. Lo.
In an even more groan-worthy pop-culture reference, Chyna’s sexpot wears a nude-style dress not unlike the one Rose McGowan made infamous attending some soiree with Marilyn Manson, leading McKlusky to “quip”, “And you thought when Rose McGowan wore it, it was offensive!”
It’s fascinating to me that the movie imagined that a Rose McGown dress would make such a deep impact on the public psyche that years later audiences would remember that dress vividly enough for its not-even-remotely-a-joke about it to land.
It’s as if the director told the cast and crew on the first day of filming, “The audience for this movie is astonishingly, almost inconceivably stupid. They cannot be counted upon to understand , remember or piece together anything, so when you make a joke, explain the premise of the joke and why it’s funny, and then keep making it and keep explaining the premise as well. There’s no way anyone will laugh at anything in this film unless we beat them over the head with it relentlessly. The audience must be pounded into submission."
It’s pretty goddamn easy to see why Frank McKlusky, C.I was the beginning and the end for Dave Sheridan as a major movie star. What’s less understandable is why actors the caliber of Quaid, Parton, Richter, Polak and Morgan are doing in the film, except picking up an easy paycheck for a film that was supposed to be the beginning for the charmless, bland and unfunny Sheridan. Instead it was the end, and deservedly so.
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