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Disc Covering: “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It,” an Apatow spoof, allegedly.

Disc Covering: “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It,” an Apatow spoof, allegedly.  (photo)

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Last week, the New York Times commemorated the 30th anniversary of “Airplane!” with a slideshow by Matt Zoller Seitz. After three decades, the spoof movie should be reaching, if not maturity, since that seems a poor choice of words in this case, then at least a refinement of form and style. But it just hasn’t happened; I’d argue the spoof movie is in a worse place now than at any point in its 30-year history.

Exhibit A of my argument: the new straight-to-DVD Judd Apatow parody “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It,” which may be the single worst spoof ever, worse than “2001: A Space Travesty” and “Meet the Spartans” combined. Anyone who thinks imitation is the sincerest form of flattery has never seen this movie.

06292010_virgin6.jpg“The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall And Felt Superbad About It”
Directed by Craig Moss

Tagline: Extra Virgin Unrated: Better Than Regular Virgin!

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: A send-up of Apatow movies, and by send-up I mean 75 minutes of recycled jokes and a bunch of gratuitous nudity and pop culture references.

Salable Elements: In the films of Judd Apatow, a clearly defined movie brand to make fun of; a cast that of lookalikes convincing enough to make you do a double take as you walk past the box in the video store.

Biggest Success: The producers found an actor who looks and sounds exactly like Jonah Hill (Steven Sims). And, uh, the title’s kind of clever, I guess. It’s even spelled correctly.

Biggest Failure: It’s not that the movie has a single biggest failure, it’s that the movie itself is the single biggest failure in spoof history. A spoof is supposed to have fun with the clichés of a particular genre. “The 41-Year-Old Virgin” simply repeats scenes from Apatow’s movies with more nudity, vulgarity and a smattering of racist humor. So a guy who looks like Seth Rogen and a guy who doesn’t look like Paul Rudd reenact the “You know how I know you’re gay?” scene from “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” with some extra dildo jokes. And a guy who looks like Steve Carell gets his chest waxed. And there’s a guy who looks like Christopher Mintz-Plasse in “Superbad” and he’s got a fake ID with the name “McAnalovin” on it. And so on. Director Craig Moss doesn’t make fun of Apatow’s movies so much as he makes use of Apatow’s jokes.

06292010_virgin4.jpgWorst Moment: Sarah Marshall (Mircea Monroe) thinks that Andy (Bryan Callen) has impregnated her. For a while, they seemed like the perfect couple; they both enjoy Shirley Temples and farting (note: this is not a joke, neither by me nor the movie). But their relationship takes a turn for the worse when Andy’s friend who’s aging in reverse like Benjamin Button has sex with Sarah in his place (don’t ask). Eventually, Sarah confronts Andy at a Hawaiian resort where they’re both taking a vacation. Even though she thinks Andy impregnated her just one day earlier, Sarah has an enormous prosthetic baby bump. Andy is understandably confused. So how’d she get so big so fast? “Oh, I’m half-Mexican,” says Sarah.

Poor Mexico. As if poisoning their Gulf wasn’t bad enough.

Special Features: The “Virgin” disc’s sampling of extras includes a featurette on the film’s special effects department, in case you ever wanted to know how to make a vomit cannon, and a short making-of doc, where Moss and co-writer Brad Kaaya defend their work. While considering the project, the pair took a meeting with David Zucker who, they claim, explained how modern spoof movies work. Says Kaaya:

“[Zucker] takes a simple storyline and then makes fun within that storyline, whereas a lot of the newer movies are just a bunch of pop culture references grabbed from everywhere…so what Craig and I tried to do was sort of combine those two. And that’s where the Judd Apatow throughline kind of made sense. We’d use his storylines as a thread and then we can make pop culture references outside of that story for the comedy.”

First, if you need David Zucker to explain what a spoof movie is, are you really qualified to make one of your own? Second, his explanation, at least as relayed by Kaaya, makes absolutely no sense. It implies that the newer spoofs don’t have storylines, but, of course, they do; they’re just not any good. What really sets the ZAZ spoofs apart from their lesser progeny is the fact that the characters in their movies were people we cared about and sympathized with instead of simple walking gag factories. Also, they were funny. Maybe Zucker was so offended that two guys were making a movie off his legacy without even bothering understand his work that he gave these guys bad advice on purpose.

06292010_virgin2.jpgWorthy of a Theatrical Release: No. Even though “The 41-Year-Old Virgin” is an Apatow spoof, at least half the jokes are random grabs from the pop culture landscape that have nothing to do with his movies: there’s the aforementioned “Benjamin Button”-esque character, a “Dr. Phil” look-alike, a Yoda with giant green testicles, and, naturally, an extended “Twilight” ripoff.

Like those new spoofs Zucker warned told Moss and Kaaya about, these “jokes” don’t even have punchlines; simply recognizing these famous characters and celebrities is apparently entertainment enough. This creates what we’ll call The Friedberg/Seltzer Paradox: the only way to get any pleasure out of these spoofs is to be extremely movie literate. But if you’re extremely movie literate, there’s no way you could possibly be fooled into thinking this so-called comedy is any good.

Maybe the most annoying fact about “The 41-Year-Old Virgin” is that it feels like a missed opportunity. There are spoofable elements in Apatow movies, Moss and Kaaya just don’t take advantage of them. Instead of having the Seth Rogen character start talking like Daniel Plainview for one random scene, why not make fun of the fact that Apatow casts him in all his movies, by having that actor pop up in a dozen different roles? Or consider “The 41-Year-Old Virgin”‘s parade of bimbo stereotypes. Instead of delivering even one female character that works as a critique of Apatow’s often negative depictions of women, they’re all underdressed hooter delivery devices.

The film reeks of desperation, and not simply because its protagonist hasn’t gotten laid in decades. Most parodies try to add humor to overtly serious genres; “The 41-Year-Old Virgin” starts with funny source material and proceeds to suck all the comedy right out of it. What’s left is a parade of tired gags, rehashed material, and a lot of gratuitous nudity. (It takes the movie only 41 seconds to hit the We-Don’t-Know-What-Else-To-Do-Throw-On-Some-Naked-Breasts Button, a possible non-porno record.) If Moss and Kaaya wanted to know how to make a spoof, they didn’t have to go ask David Zucker. Instead, they could have watched one of Apatow’s own movies, 2007’s ingenious mock-biopic “Walk Hard,” the only sign of life this once proud subgenre has shown in years.

For Further Viewing: Watch a small sampling of outtakes from “Pineapple Express.” These guys throw away more laughs in three minutes than “The 41-Year-Old Virgin” manages in 75.

[Photos: “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It, 20th Century Fox, 2010]

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

via GIPHY

IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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