Sunday, October 2, 2011

Orgazmo - 1997

"Orgazmo" - 1997
Dir. by Trey Parker - 1 hr. 34 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Now that "The Book of Mormon" is a huge Broadway hit, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at an earlier Mormon-themed movie that Trey Parker and Matt Stone made (right before "South Park" hit the airwaves).  "Orgazmo" is about a LDS missionary in Los Angeles named Joe Young (Parker), who gets lured into starring in a super-hero-themed porno film.  He does it for the money, so that he can marry his sweetheart Lisa (Robyn Lynne) in the temple in Salt Lake City, which isn't cheap.  Of course, "Orgazmo" (the movie within a movie) becomes a huge success, which complicates his attempt to stay anonymous.  Rounding out the cast is the sleazy, evil porno producer Maxxx Orbison (Michael Dean Jacobs), Orgazmo's sidekick Choda Boy (Dian Bachar), Matt Stone playing a confused PA, and a host of actual adult film stars (Ron Jeremy and Juli Ashton, among others).

First off, yes, it's pretty funny, but it's not up to par with Parker and Stone's best work.  Part of the reason for that is that Parker and Stone have developed into very sharp cultural satirists, but it took a few years to get to that point.  At this extremely early point in their careers, the anything-goes sense of humor is there, but the level of cleverness and insight isn't.  Putting a Mormon into the adult film industry sets up for a number of very easy jokes (funny ones, but still...), and "Orgazmo" doesn't get past that, ever.  Since Parker and Stone haven't really hit their stride here, they settle for faux-ineptness at times instead of really committing to the material in a more satisfying way.

So what did I like about "Orgazmo?"  A lot.  For one thing, it's paced pretty well.  There aren't any self-indulgent lulls (a pitfall when the director is also the star of the film), the jokes come at a steady pace, and things flow logically (at least as logically as they can).  Trey Parker plays wide-eyed pretty well, as does his on-screen girlfriend.  There's a few instances of going unbelievably (but hilariously) cheesy with "special effects," like when Young kicks Ron Jeremy's character in the face, or the mansion fire.  I found myself laughing all the way through - I can understand why some might not (the shock humor stuff isn't universally successful when not in service to a larger point, as Parker and Stone would correct in later work), but I did.

Unfortunately, the circumstances around the film are almost more interesting.  It's an ultra-low budget affair (filmed for $1.3 million) that got some attention because of the "South Park" explosion.  It also got slapped with a NC-17 rating (which is discussed in some detail in the MPAA documentary "This Film Is Not Yet Rated"), which meant that despite Parker and Stone's new-found fame, there was practically no way to even advertise this film through traditional means.  There wasn't any real way to edit the movie down to an R (despite the fact that nearly all the nudity in the film are male asses, the setting, language, and abundant use of sex toys for gags would have gutted it), and re-submitting to the MPAA would have been too costly on such  a shoestring budget.

"Orgazmo" is funny on a level of the first season of "South Park:" there's a lot of dirty language, shock humor, and fish-in-a-barrel targets.  Everyone's got to start somewhere (and yes, I know this is their second film), and this is pretty funny for what it is.  But, if you're going back and checking out Parker and Stone's work retroactively, it might be a little disappointing.  They don't aim very high, but being able to put together an entire movie on their own (and this cheaply) is a kind of achievement of it own.  Making an indie film free of pretentiousness and just focusing on being entertaining makes it unusual for it's time.  And I did laugh, even though I had already seen it a handful of times previously.  That means I'll probably watch it again at some point.

3 / 5 - Streaming

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