Midgets vs Mascots

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If you combine “Jackass” and “Borat” and remove all semblance of discipline or organization, you get something like “Midgets vs Mascots,” an occasionally very funny but often very sloppy mockumentary that is far too eager to show us how taboo it is.

The premise is that a Texas millionaire named Big Red (Richard Howland) has just died, and his will has unusual stipulations on how his fortune should be dispersed. Big Red was a little person and had great fondness for that group. He had also done work as a mascot early in his career, and always loved mascots. But as adult-film legend Ron Jeremy says, “Big Red knew there was no money in mascotting, so he did what any midget would do: porn.” Yes, Big Red made his money producing skin flicks, many of which involved actors of his height.

Anyway, Big Red wants a team of five mascots to compete with a team of five midgets in a series of ridiculous games and stunts, with the winning squad getting $5 million. (Big Red’s porn career is irrelevant, except that it gives the movie an excuse to show boobies.) He wants the team of little people to be coached by his average-height son, Little Richard (Mark Hapka), who hates midgets, and the mascots to be coached by his gold-digging third wife, Bonnie (Brittney Powell).

Auditions are held to find the competitors. The mascots chosen are a guy in an alligator suit, a Spartan, a cowboy sheriff, a bunny rabbit, and a taco (the kind that hands out fliers for a cheap Mexican restaurant). They generally do not take off their costumes, even when they’re not competing. The midgets — I’m using the word the movie uses most frequently — are a kleptomaniac, a flamboyant gay guy, a swingin’ bisexual man, an ordinary blonde woman, and Gary Coleman. Yes, Gary Coleman, as himself, or at least a version of himself.

The contests range from physical stunts like bull-riding to “How many times do you have to insult a stranger in a bar before he or she punches you?” Many of them take place in front of audiences that, “Borat”-style, didn’t know they were watching something staged. (Others, like the bar scene, obviously used actors.) Some of the slapstick is funny, in that “Jackass” kind of way, though it’s disappointing how often a situation devolves into the mascots and midgets simply fighting each other. That’s supposed to be the laugh, too: Look how funny it is to see a giant taco wrestling a little person! And while I acknowledge the comedic merits of such a sight, it loses its impact around the fiftieth time the film uses it.

Along the way, there is plenty of political incorrectness. One scene — apparently filmed at an actual restaurant, with other customers watching in horror — has the two teams discussing racial epithets and tossing the N-word around casually. Here we can admire the filmmakers (the director is Ron Carlson; the semi-improvised screenplay is credited to Kevin Andounian) for crossing a line that even most “edgy” comedies avoid, but then the realization settles in: There was no reason for it. All these taboos are being exploited, and to what end? None, really. Too frequently we’re meant to laugh at the mere fact that the film is being obnoxious, and not at what’s actually being said so obnoxiously.

The sheer volume of un-P.C. behavior is something of an achievement, though. Little Richard is a sharp parody of a Grade-A douchebag (complete with popped collar on his pink polo shirt); Big Red’s assistant, Deng Mann (Akie Kotabe), is an exaggerated Asian stereotype; the cowboy sheriff mascot is a marijuana enthusiast who can be seen smoking inside his giant foam head. (The vacant smile affixed to the costume seems appropriate in that context.) The film is dirty, vulgar, and sophomoric, and cheerfully so, if not always entertainingly. You’d think that with the success of so many raunchy comedies in recent years, filmmakers would have realized it’s not enough anymore just to be outrageous. You need to be clever, too.

C+ (1 hr., 28 min.; R, abundant nudity, a lot of sex, pervasive harsh profanity and vulgarity.)

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