Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Stupids (1996)

Before I get into the bulk of this post, I want to let you in on my life.  Things are going to get busier for the foreseeable future.  Summer is the busiest time of the year at work, which means that my free time could go down.  It has in the past.  It might not though, so summer isn’t a big deal.  I’ve also made it through three other summers with this blog.  It will survive.  I’m sure of that.

The bigger hurdle is going to be my return to school come September.  I am confident that I will keep up with this blog throughout the fall and into the future.  However, I’m going to have to work hard through the summer to get ahead on posts, and there will be fewer cases of me covering themes that encompass multiple movies.  Those will still appear from time to time, but I will be leaning into discussing the crazy aspects of bad movies more often.  You know the posts.  The ones where I bring up moments that seemed outrageous and discuss them.  You’ll be getting more of those posts.

Of course, sometimes the big themes will still come into play.  If I feel inspired to write something, I’ll write it.  I’m not going to stop myself from doing that because of a little thing like college.  I like this blog.  That’s why I’ve been doing it for nearly 190 weeks.  I enjoy these movies and sharing my thoughts on them or the themes related to them.  I’m not going to stop that.  There just may be a noticeable difference in how I go about doing it.  We’ll see as September nears.  Keep enjoying the blog.  I’m not going anywhere.

Onto this week’s post, I’m going to discuss The Stupids.  Tom Arnold starred as Stanley Stupid, a husband and father of two.  He, his wife Joan (Jessica Lundy), his son Buster (Bug Hall), and his daughter Petunia (Alex McKenna) were all as their name said.  They were stupid.  They were entangled in an imaginary conspiracy story about postal deliveries being returned to a mysterious man named Sender.  In reality, they were unknowingly involved in a weapons deal between criminals and the military.  I guess you could consider the military guys to be criminals too.  They were selling weapons illegally.

The Stupids is not a movie that has been fondly remembered since its 1996 release.  I hadn’t seen it until recently, but watching it, I can understand why someone wouldn’t like it.  In service of making the characters stupid, the movie came across the same way.  There were dumb situations resulting from the characters interacting with the world around them.  They did stupid things and caused stupid situations to unfold.  The movie received four nominations at the Golden Raspberry Awards (Worst director, screenplay, actor, and picture), eventually winning for Tom Arnold’s performance.

I enjoyed watching The Stupids.  Though I understand how people could dislike the stupidity of the characters, it truly worked.  The movie wasn’t dumb in the sense that it was poorly written.  It had the main characters acting stupid and wrote the world into that in a smart way.  The world wasn’t dumb.  It was a normal world reacting to the dumb antics of the Stupid family.  The world was the straight man to the Stupids.

This post is going to be one of those posts I mentioned at the top.  I’m going to cover some jokes that worked well in The Stupids and explain why they were well done.  This is a fine film that has gotten a bad reputation on the concept alone.  The writing, direction, and all that stuff keeps the movie from falling apart.  The writing was well crafted and allowed the movie to have stupid things happen without being dumb itself.  Here are some of my reasons why.

The Sender Conspiracy
The most thought out aspect of The Stupids was the conspiracy that Stanley and his family tried to unravel.  The movie began with Stanley discovering that his garbage had been taken during the night.  He wanted to find out who stole it so he followed the truck.  This led to him reopening his investigation into the Sender conspiracy of his days as a postal worker.

What works about this conspiracy is the fact that it sounds plausible, from a person who doesn’t properly understand the postal system.  Most people know that the phrase “return to sender” means that the letter or package is to be sent back to the person who mailed it.  Stanley didn’t know that because he is one of the Stupids.  He thought that the sender was an actual person.  He thought that all of the mail was being sent to this mysterious person instead of the people that it was addressed to.  In Stanley’s head, the postal service and Sender were stealing hundreds of pieces of mail every day.

This conspiracy theory didn’t end up being real, but it did sound more realistic than many of the conspiracy theories that are bandied about in real life.  It was as believable as Stanley Kubrick using The Shining to tell people that he secretly directed the moon landing footage.  The theory was also the crux of the movie and thus must have enough of a foundation in the characters’ minds to drive their story.  It took effort on the part of the writers to give this dumb theory credibility.

The True Conspiracy
A real conspiracy unfolded in front of the Stupids as they fumbled their way around in an attempt to find Sender.  A few military personnel were selling high tech weapons to the highest bidder.  Starting with Stanley, the family began to unknowingly ruin the plan of the bad guys, causing assassination attempts on the family members.  The real story was that the Stupids stopped the world from being destroyed by these weapons, without realizing that they were stopping the bad guys.

A lot of humour was mined out of this.  The Stupids accidentally defeated the bad guys in various scenarios.  It culminated in a final warehouse battle where the whole family got in on the action.  Stanley ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, causing the bad guys to run into one another.  Petunia took the pin from a grenade to use as a ring, and threw the rest of it away as waste.  She blew up some bad guys by doing that.  Things like this happened throughout the movie.  They weren’t simple bumbles.  They were thought out by the writers in order to generate laughs and move the story forward at the same time.

Also helping with this storyline was Mark Metcalf.  This actor is mostly known for his yelling appearances in Twisted Sister music videos, and his role in National Lampoon’s Animal House as Doug Neidermeyer.  The character was a military hopeful who liked nothing more than to yell and boss people around.  Basically, it’s a militarily inclined college version of his Twisted Sister video character.  He popped up in The Stupids as the main real bad guy, named Colonel Neidermeyer.  That’s right, it was the same name as his Animal House character.  Same director, same actor, same character name.  The Stupids could be some sort of a strange sequel to Animal House.  How about that conspiracy?

During the family’s escapades, Stanley and Petunia ended up in a planetarium.  They believed that they had died and gone to heaven.  The only other person in the room with them was a janitor.  The father and daughter duo immediately thought that the janitor was God, welcoming them to heaven.  At no point did they believe otherwise.  They would forever believe it. The only thing that changed in their beliefs was his name.  The janitor was named Lloyd.  This caused the two Stupids to believe that everyone had been misnaming him in scripture and life.

The clever little God/Lloyd joke became a recurring gag for the remainder of the movie.  Whenever Stanley said “Oh my God,” it came out as “Oh my Lloyd.”  When he said “For the love of God,” he changed it to “For the love of Lloyd.”  The writers took care in sprinkling this joke throughout the movie without making it overstay its welcome.  It was a joke that could be dumb, but actually ended up being fun whenever it came up.

I’m My Own Grandpa
This song from the 1940s made its way into The Stupids.  It wasn’t the most ingenious thing to do.  It didn’t represent how dumb the characters were.  It actually did the opposite.  The fact that Stanley Stupid knew the lyrics to this song is absurd, but showed intelligence in him.  That might go against my defense of the movie being more intelligent than people give it credit for.  Follow me though.  Let me explain why I think this song works.

The entirety of The Stupids was about the family failing upwards.  That is one of the greatest forms of comedy.  Watching someone make all the wrong moves, act dumb, and succeed all the same can create some great laughs.  If you watched the newest season of Silicon Valley, that kind of comedy was a big factor.  The scene in The Stupids where Stanley sang the song I’m My Own Grandpa was one of the many scenes where the characters failed upward.

Here’s how the scene played out.  The Stupid family visited a television studio to find Sender.  A man named Sender was going to interview on one of the talk shows being filmed.  While trying to find the man, Stanley ended up becoming one of four panelists on a talk show about weird families and marriages.  When the host got to him and asked what his weird marital situation is, Stanley thought fast.  His answer was that he is his own grandpa.  Then he broke into song.  The whole studio started singing along.

I’m My Own Grandpa was a perfect fit in The Stupids.  It has the same sense of humour in its presentation.  Both are about ridiculous people in a normal world.  In The Stupids, the family bumbled their way through a real conspiracy while trying to solve a fake one.  In the song, the mother and daughter marryied the father and son, causing a whole weird family tree through the marriages.  The people outside that foursome were normal people.  The listeners to the song (mostly) aren’t in situations like that.  It’s one crazy instance in a non-crazy world.  The two products share that sensibility, which makes the song a perfect choice for The Stupids.

Tom Arnold
This could be my favourite Tom Arnold performance.  I know this isn’t a point about the movie being intelligent.  This does not support my argument that people should give this movie a chance instead of tearing it down.  This is just me being a fan of what Tom Arnold does in this movie.  The role of Stanley Stupid was perfect for him.  He fully became the character.  His childish charm emanated through the role.  He made what could be an unlikeable dummy into a loveable goofball.  There aren’t too many actors who could have perfectly performed this role, but he did it.  Tom Arnold was the right choice for The Stupids and he helped make the movie better.

The Stupids is not as stupid as the name would have you believe.  It is a classic case of wacky vs. straight for the humour dynamic.  The main characters were the wacky and the world they lived in was the straight.  The jokes played off of this dynamic.  They incorporated how dumb the Stupids were compared to the rest of the world.  A lesser movie would not have pulled this feat off.  It’s a wonder that this one did.

Everyone should watch The Stupids.  It isn’t a great film.  As much as I have been praising it, it is not great.  However, it is respectable.  There was effort put into the writing and it tended to work.  There were good casting choices.  It presented a style of comedy that we could use more of in the modern movie world.  People need to watch this movie.  It is not nearly as bad as its reputation might lead you to believe.
These notes might be as bad as you believe:

  • The Stupids was suggested by @TheTalkingCan, who also suggested The Room, Stan Helsing, Bio-Dome, and Troll 2.
  • I discussed the straight man and wacky man dynamic in the post for Mom and Dad Save the World.
  • Nicu Branzea was in both The Stupids and Ice Soldiers.
  • The Stupids was the second Sunday “Bad” Movies appearance for both Tom Arnold and Phillip Jarrett, who were in Exit Wounds.
  • Have you seen The Stupids? What did you think of it? Do you think it was a strange sequel spin-off thing to Animal House?  There is a comments section below where you can discuss the movie or the post.
  • The comments section is also a good place to suggest movies for me to watch in future weeks of the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  If you want me to watch a movie let me know.  Another place to get a hold of me is Twitter.
  • I have a snapchat account.  It is jurassicgriffin.  I sometimes post stories of the bad movies I watch.  Clips and stuff.  Find me and add me if you want to see them.
  • Next week’s movie is Blubberella, another Uwe Boll movie.  This is number 4 for me, I believe.  I never know what I’m going to get with the guy but it will probably be bad.  We’ll see next week now, won’t we?  See you then.

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