Friday, April 11, 2014

O.C. and Stiggs (1987): The OG of Anti Comedy

O.C. and Stiggs (1987) (or 1985, when it was completed)
dir: Robert Altman

When O.C. and Stiggs was actually made, it was supposed to be a Porkys-esque teen comedy that was derived from one of the blackest, meanest, most abrasive issues of National Lampoon that was ever created. The majority of the issue is Here, though without the formatting of the original issue. It's abrasive and full of National Lampoon's trademark asshole humor. It's brutal, classist, sexist, offensive, and, above all, irreverent.

Somehow, somebody had the bright idea of making this issue into a movie. Then, somebody else had the bright idea of having Robert Altman direct it. Probably, because they saw M*A*S*H* and thought he could handle a couple of amoral misfits wreaking havoc all over town, and on one family in particular. The results are mixed and the problems are legion.

O.C. and Stiggs are the titular jerks who have a vendetta against the Schwab family, an upper-middle-class family that makes its money from insurance. Randall Schwab, the father, owns the insurance company that has screwed over O.C.'s grandad, who is also a vet. And, so, both O.C. and Stiggs use class warfare to make life a complete hell for Schwab and his brood.

With O.C. and Stiggs, we see the predecessors of both Ferris Bueller and Freddy Got Fingered's Gord. We see Ferris Bueller in that they're able to wheedle and deal with anybody they come across, if they see something they need to serve their purposes. But, they're also like Gord in that they are egotistical assholes who believe it is their god given right to make somebody's life hell. They are two people of a hive mind that constantly uses and manipulates people in order to basically drive Schwab and his family crazy.

But, this is an anti-Reagan motif. Robert Altman was revving up his cheap shot political movie career that would also include Tanner '88, and exercised a lot of his cheap shots in O.C. and Stiggs. Schwab isn't just any old middle-class family. They're racist, classist, xenophobic, hypocritically moral Reaganites who lead sheltered and socially challenged lives. Heck, even the logo (not on the box) makes it seem like Altman is attempting to channel Ralph Steadman's design work for Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This is a movie that is posing against the stuffed shirts.

So, we're generally rooting against the Reagan conservatives, because that's always been Altman's go to target. But, O.C. and Stiggs are also homophobic jerkoffs who don't give two shits about anybody else. This leaves us in a stance where you're watching a movie about people you generally don't like. The main difference between O.C. and Stiggs and Gord is that O.C. and Stiggs also take on the privileged mannerisms that the movie is rallying against. They have snotty overly-upper-class-inflected voices of the privileged. They are taking the piss out of the yacht club set, but then they dress like uber-yuppy tourists. Unlike Gord, O.C. and Stiggs don't care if you hate them. They just don't give a fuck.

That being said, Altman did tone down much of the Lampoon article, basically gutting it, redistributing it, and generally making it softer for a more palatable mainstream audience. But, with such unlikable protagonists and antagonists, this movie was bound to be a failure.

The biggest question is, is it good? It is an Altman movie, and he paces O.C. and Stiggs less like the ADHD afflicted Freddy Got Fingered and more like his slower-moving M*A*S*H*, partially because the ADHD style hadn't fully taken hold yet. Altman has large set pieces, and long scenes which sometimes stretch too long for the payoff. And, sometimes the payoff actually works.

The non-ADHD pacing really throws off the movie, though, because if one segment is annoying you you actually have to sit and wait for quite awhile before the next one comes around. With Freddy Got Fingered, at least you have the possibility that the scene will end in a minute or 2. But, Altman knows there are depths to humor that can only be plumbed through sustained takes and extended scenes. So, he'll just go on and on...which sucks if you hate the scene you're in.

O.C. and Stiggs is a mixed bag and is like a deep OG edition of Freddy Got Fingered. You instantly hate everybody and everything, yet it's an anti-humorish prank that will either tickle you or not. The targets are rather facile, even for Altman, and the movie is sort of just there. It's pacing is off for the type of movie it is, yet it is almost forgivable because that wasn't a fashion that had been really developed yet (though it had been preceded by Laugh-In and Airplane). Proceed with caution.

No comments:

Post a Comment