Straight-to-DVD is known as the last stop on the gravy train before the end of a fading star’s career. And there’s definitely some truth to that. But it can also be a low-risk, high-reward place to restart a career, where you can throw away the stuff that hasn’t been working and trying something new. Budgets and stakes may be lower, but so are expectations.
The DTV landscape is full of untapped opportunities and I give Pauly Shore credit for being one of the first guys I’ve come across in this column who’s clearly taking advantage of that. Completely dismissed by critics (Roger Ebert once compared him to “the cinematic equivalent of long fingernails drawn very slowly and quite loudly over a gigantic blackboard”), reduced to a punchline in the mainstream, the former MTV DJ and movie star has reinvented himself in straight-to-DVD land as “Pauly Shore,” the star of self-deprecating autobiographical mockumentaries like 2003’s “Pauly Shore is Dead” and his new film “Adopted.” As writer and director as well as star, “Adopted” is, more than anything he made in his ’90s heyday, a “Pauly Shore Movie.”
But is that a good thing?
Directed by Pauly Shore
Tagline: “First there was ANGELINA, then MADONNA, and NOW PAULY!”
Tweetable Plot Synopsis: In order to make fun of celebrities, African stereotypes, and himself, Pauly Shore travels to South Africa and tries to adopt a baby.
Salable Elements: Here’s what “Adopted”‘s DVD distributor, Phase 4 Films, lists as “Adopted”‘s “selling points” on the film’s factsheet:
“-Pauly Shore is a well known comedic brand with regular appearances on North American talk shows.
-Over $140 Million in box office hits (“Encino Man,” “Son In Law,” “Jury Duty,” “Bio-Dome,” “In The Army Now,” “Pauly Shore Is Dead”).
-Pauly is a regular on the comedy circuit, currently on a North American comedy tour (running through Summer 2010), and his comedy show Pauly Shore and Friends is currently airing on Showtime.”
Press materials for “Adopted” also boast that the film is “in the style of ‘Waiting For Guffman’ and ‘Borat.'” Which is true. But being in the style of something is not the same as it being as good as something. “Plan 9 From Outer Space” is in the style of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” That doesn’t make it any better.
Biggest Success: Though Shore himself has very little commitment to the reality of the world he’s pretending to document — the explanation he provides as to why he wants to adopt a kid is flimsier than a wet tissue — the South African actors he cast are terrific and totally believable. Shore is the only non-local in the bunch and his untrained co-stars, especially Odwa Mpambaniso as a charmingly outgoing orphan and the uncredited social worker who plays Allan, are far more believable in their roles than Shore is in his. And he’s playing Pauly Shore.
Biggest Failure: Again, give Shore credit: he shot this film on location in South Africa, and in doing so he did manage to capture a bit of the region’s flavor. Granted, you’ve got to go looking for it in establishing shots and brief unscripted moments between Pauly’s schtick, but it’s there. If he eased up on the material a little and really took an interest in this place, he might have had something truly worth watching. But mostly Shore’s just using the mockumentary format as a means to deliver a barrage of tasteless jokes. Truly satisfying mockumentaries have a few components that “Adopted” is missing: most importantly, they’re easily mistakable for real life. Even with the impressively authentic locations, does anyone really believe Pauly Shore is going to adopt an African orphan? No.
After 75 minutes of crass humor, the film ends with an Aldous Snow-esque message from Shore that reads “Even though I made fun of adoption, underneath it all, it’s no laughing matter. In Africa there are 34 million orphans,” (I’m telling you: try it in a Russell Brand accent. It’s a dead ringer). Shore’s commitment to educating audiences about the truth behind his satire is laudable. But a gifted filmmaker would have incorporated that truth into the body of his film. Shore’s got a decent idea and a unique setting but he’s lacking the intellectual curiosity of those films “Adopted” is “in the style of.” Adopted” really is a Paul Shore movie: an incredibly uneven, dumb, and, yes, occasionally humorously dumb comedy.
Best Moment: As you might expect from a guy who made a film entitled “Pauly Shore is Dead,” Shore’s greatest strength remains his ability to make fun of himself. Shore is repeatedly encountering — and getting rebuffed by — a series of attractive South African women. After one particularly disastrous romantic encounter, Shore moans “If we were back in the States this would not be happening. Don’t these girls know who I used to be?”
I Question: that an orphanage would allow someone to “test drive” their children.
Worthy of a Theatrical Release? No, but this isn’t the worst way to spend 75 minutes. I’ll cop to laughing at least a couple times. The film is currently available on Netflix Watch Instantly, so if you’re curious, that’s the way to go.
For Further Viewing: watch this YouTube clip, which requires no additional setup beyond its title: “Pauly Shore Drunk on Morning Show.”