Editor’s Notes: Ass Backwards is now out in limited release.
Broad daylight scenes of public urination make appropriate bookends for a film as execratory as Ass Backwards, the latest abominable effort from Bride Wars scribes June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson, whose bare backsides’ appearance in advance of any other part of their anatomy is entirely appropriate given the “humour” to come. This is a hideous movie, not so much obsessed with crude comedy as it is just unable to think any further. It’s evident enough from their opting to star in the film themselves that Raphael and Wilson have confidence in their comedy—that or they couldn’t find anyone else willing to sink quite so low—but even their sense of gung-ho gameness can’t instil material this ludicrously lewd with anything like enough shock value to excuse its shoddiness.
That’s perhaps the sole area in which Ass Backwards excels, demonstrating that the ability to make an awful movie is every bit as gender-neutral as the ability to make a great one.
It’s long been Hollywood’s best-kept secret that women can be just as funny as men; now, with the success of a studio-backed ensemble effort like Bridesmaids having let the cat out of the bag, productions big and small have scrambled to show off their own funny women. But with that well-overdue arrival of comic equality—or at least a move toward it—comes the equally visible reality that women can also be just as unfunny as men. That’s perhaps the sole area in which Ass Backwards excels, demonstrating that the ability to make an awful movie is every bit as gender-neutral as the ability to make a great one. Raphael and Wilson’s film is democracy in action: a female-centric comedy every bit as obnoxious and unpleasant as many of its male-led counterparts.
Structurally their script takes classical comedy cues, pairing buddy film and road movie with a belated coming-of-age tale for their mutually ditzy characters. They, egg donor Kate and club dancer Chloe, take the combined incidences of a long-overdue eviction and a chance meeting with a childhood rival to accept an invitation to attend an anniversary pageant in their hometown. Thus begins the archetypically episodic narrative, fuelled equally by chance and the characters’ stunning stupidity. It’s in their construction that the film’s most egregious; at once asking us to laugh at them and with them, Raphael and Wilson create caricatures of such unlikely idiocy that any effort for empathy inevitably ends up alienating an audience far more than even the material’s contemptible crassness ever could.
That’s the real problem abundant in Ass Backwards, the classic effort to have the cake and eat it too, to paint these people as supremely shallow morons and yet to expect us to enjoy their company all the while. But it’s beyond us—beyond anyone with more brain cells than they—to find anything they do funny, much less to actually find them likeable, infinitely much less to forge any sort of sympathetic attachment. Much like the movie they make so intolerable, Raphael and Wilson’s characters are hollow husks forced on us as though there’s something inside. There isn’t, and the immense emptiness that actually defines them is contagious, sapping all life and the will to live it from any eyes unfortunate enough to be laid upon them.
That’s the real problem abundant in Ass Backwards, the classic effort to have the cake and eat it too, to paint these people as supremely shallow morons and yet to expect us to enjoy their company all the while.
But the co-writers culpability oughtn’t to be exaggerated; a similar share of the blame should be afforded debut director Chris Nelson, whose flat visuals are as unhelpful as is his astonishing inability to direct humans. And hey, Raphael and Wilson even unearth a solitary solid joke, going almost an hour before burying it again with overuse. Their greatest coup, though—beyond finding financiers altogether too loose with their purse-strings, of course—is in securing supporting talent the like of Vincent D’Onofrio, Sandy Martin, and Bob Odenkirk, who each struggle against expectedly ill-penned characters to deliver some semblance of entertainment. They fail, alas, but the effort’s appreciated. “Choose your own reality” offers the tagline. Any where Ass Backwards doesn’t exist will do just fine.
[notification type=”star”]21/100 ~ PAINFUL. Ass Backwards is a hideous movie, not so much obsessed with crude comedy as it is just unable to think any further.[/notification]