Monday 28 December 2015

The Ridiculous Six (2015) - Movie Review

http://redribbonreviewers.wordpress.comI hate Rotten Tomatoes. Despite how it’s widely considered to be a good barometer for how good/bad a film is, it’s surprisingly broken if you actually look at the scores. Some of the reviews that are listed as Fresh or Rotten, if you actually look at even the blurbs on the site itself, are extremely arbitrary, the actual overall score is tucked away underneath the big percentage rate, and said percentage only amounts to how many people liked a film vs. disliked a film. Not how much, just whichever way their opinion falls. For a site that’s meant to help show an overall opinion, being misleading is probably the worst thing you can do. However, with that said, they are especially good in one certain area: The 0%; the films that absolutely no-one defended. Given how this illustrious list includes films like C Me Dance, Fred: The Movie, A Thousand Words and Keith Lemon: The Film, easily some of the worst films I’ve ever seen, that integer still carries a lot of weight. So, what does that say when today’s subject is only one of the three released by Happy Madison Productions to have received a 0%? I mean, that’s means that this is even worse than The Master Of Disguise, That’s My Boy and Paul Blart: Mall Cop, among so many others? Is this truly that bad? Time to, reluctantly, find out.

The plot: Tommy Stockburn (Adam Sandler) is a white man who has been raised by Native Americans under the name ‘White Knife’, after his mother was killed by an outlaw. When his estranged father Frank (Nick Nolte) arrives in his village, and is subsequently kidnapped by Frank’s former partner-in-crime Cicero (Danny Trejo), Tommy sets out to obtain enough money to secure his freedom. Along the way, he comes across five of his half-brothers: Burro rider Ramon (Rob Schneider), farm hand Lil’ Pete (Taylor Lautner), mountain man Herm (Jorge Garcia), former Presidential bodyguard Danny (Luke Wilson) and saloon musician Chico (Terry Crews). Together, the Ridiculous Six set a blazing trail across the West, robbing every do-no-gooder they come across.

This is easily the most literal one-joke cast of so-called characters I’ve seen all year; not even Superfast! was this bad. We’ve got Sandler as the badass knife-slinger with Native American powers, because it’d be a true miracle if he didn’t stroke his own ego in one of his own films (not to mention his wife Jackie as Never Wears Bra), Lautner as Simple Jack with even less dignity, and Schneider as Ramon, the Mexican who lugs around a donkey with diarrhoea. Then there’s the just-plain weird ideas, like John Turturro as Abner Doubleday who spends his entire scene inventing baseball, and Vanilla Ice as a gangsta posturing Mark Twain. Rather than simply point out how all of these characters are bizarre, and not in any of the good ways, I’m going to throw this film its ounce of mercy and say that some of these characters could have worked in better hands. Wilson as Danny could’ve made for some funny moments given his backstory, and Crews is usually a saving grace in any film he’s in, and even Harvey Keitel’s bar owner was at least semi-engaging for the one segment he was in. However, this isn’t the League Of Gentlemen we’re talking about here, who are more than capable of turning basic one-note caricatures into truly fleshed out characters; this is Happy Madison territory. Quite frankly, I should be thankful that Sandler is able to play the straight man as well as he does throughout this film, making for the only consistently watchable performance in the entire production.

There is no plot here. Despite whatever synopsis I gave earlier, there is no actual logical progression of events to be seen here. Instead, it’s like Sandler and co-writer Tim Herlihy had a bunch of ideas for gags in a Western setting and just constructed the robbery angle to string them all together. It’s more video game than film in terms of plot: PCs need X amount of money, follow path given through clues by NPCs while robbing towns till you reach X. Now, once again, this would be perfectly fine if it weren’t for two key problems. First off, some of these one-off scenes are insanely out-of-place. Some of them like the poker game with General Custer (David Spade) and Mark Twain are surreal, but acceptable. The whole baseball sequence is incredibly jarring, even for how silly the rest of the film is, and ends up doing nothing more than putting another nail into John Turturro’s career as an actor.

The other problem is one that you probably would have guessed as soon as the words ‘Adam Sandler’ were brought up: It’s not funny. Actually, scratch that, it isn’t just that it’s not funny; it’s that this is that special brand of not funny that constantly sabotages its own jokes. Whenever there was even the slightest inkling of a good joke and/or punchline, it is dragged out to the point of no jocular return and then dragged even further to make sure that even the back row got the joke. Insert your own snipe about the intelligence levels of people who watch Happy Madison productions and them needing to have the joke explained here because, unlike an unsettling amount of critics out there, I’m not so big an arsehole as to call people stupid and/or retarded because of their tastes in pop culture.

Okay… need to take a breather. How about we discuss the supposed ‘message’ behind this film? Between Tommy’s upbringing to the ethnic diversity of the Ridiculous Six itself, it seems to want to make some sort of statement about the racist attitudes of the time, or even those shown by past Western cinema. However, much like when Sandler tried to use his comedy for a better social purpose with I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, this indulges in those same stereotypes far too much to make any pretence of commentary viable. Between all the sexist, racist and even ableist gags used throughout, it feels more like the attempts at ‘satire’ are more like a scapegoat so that Sandler can do the exact same thing over again like he has with some of his worse films.

All in all, this is not a 0%. To say that this film is worse than the shockingly offensive That’s My Boy or the excruciatingly vacuous Paul Blart: Mall Cop is laughable. However, that by no means makes this a good film. Out of all the Happy Madison productions I’ve seen this year, even those that I stepped up to defend in whatever small way, this is easily the worst. Between its lazy characterization, its abysmal pacing and jarring tonal shifts, there is literally nothing to be salvaged from this aside from a couple of barely-audible chuckles.

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