News Movie (aka The Onion Movie) DVD review

Steven Seagal dispenses knuckly justice in painful places in The Onion's fledgeling cinema outing...

As a general rule, comedy sketch shows shouldn’t last more than half an hour per episode. Anything longer than that makes watching them more of a chore than a pleasure, and you begin to pine for something with a plot.

However, as the old adage goes, rules are there to be broken, so it’s no surprise that a fair few attempts have been made to stretch this quick-fire format to fit a full feature film. Results have been mixed, but movies like Monty Python’s Meaning Of Life prove it’s not impossible to make it work. Of course, that benefited from being written by arguably the greatest comedy troupe of modern times. Can The Onion Movie, the latest pretender to the sketch movie throne, compete with such comedy heavyweights?

If you consider that the original satirical newspaper was founded 20 years ago, The Onion seems less of a newcomer to the scene, and more of an old hand. That said, it wasn’t until 1996 that it started its website and gained national, and later international attention. It’s from this notoriety that The Onion Movie was born.

Wisely, the producers chose to put two music video directors (Tom Kuntz and Mike Maguire) at the helm, who would obviously be used to producing short, visually appealing films. However, they’re credited as ‘James Kleiner’, having walked away from the project, along with one of the movie’s writers.

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Clearly a troubled film, it’s hard not to wonder why. Were they embarrassed by what they’d made? Who knows, but News Movie is a mixed bag, not just in terms of subject matter, but also in quality. Highlights include an armed gunman who goes into a bank demanding nothing more than a job, and an overly melodramatic fantasy board game player. The more mirthless moments include an ice hockey player with no hands or legs, who gets knocked out of his wheelchair and beaten up in every game he plays. This isn’t satire, it’s not shocking enough to be classed as gross-out, and it’s certainly not funny. Most of the time though, the movie is no more than unremarkably amusing, and is probably best characterised by the Britney Spears-a-like. Complete with sexual innuendo and blow-job dances moves, this might raise a smile (among other things. Ooh er missus, etc., etc.), but is rather clichéd and overused throughout the film.

Full of recurring themes and characters, at times, it all feels like one big in-joke, but for the most part NewsMovie treads ground that should be familiar to us all (just bought yourself a brand new Bates 4000 home computer? Well, the 5000’s out now, so “Throw your 4000 away – it’s a piece of shit!”). However, this familiarity is often the result of stereotypes, which are frequently used as the subject matter for the sketches. A couple of sketches explicitly address this, such as a section on lesser-known stereotypes and couple of ‘intermissions’, where three film critics discuss the very movie they’re in. While these are vaguely amusing, they merely add to the movie’s preoccupation with discussing stereotypes.

Fortunately, every laugh-light point is compensated for by the film’s pièce de résistance: Cockpuncher. Putting in possibly his greatest performance ever, Steven Seagal is Cockpuncher, the titular hero of a fictional action movie (the trailer for which you get to see in full during News Movie). Needless to say, his ‘special move’ is fairly self-explanatory.

Unfortunately, Cockpuncher’s appearances are often only fleeting, and sometimes you’ll find yourself wishing for another helping of nad-smashing fun. However, when the film reaches its finale, you may be able to forgive its weaker moments, as it neatly ties many of them together. If you’re looking for deep, thoughtful satire, you’re unlikely to find it here. If you’re looking for the odd hilarious sketch and Steven Segal destroying testicles with his fist of knuckly justice (who isn’t?), then you’re in luck. Ultimately though, if you took out the unfunny bits, you’d probably be left with a half-hour sketch show…


Deleted scenes and outtakes

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You can, er, find, the Cockpuncher Facebook group here.



3 out of 5