DVD Review: The Onion Movie
World's largest metaphor hits iceberg; drugs win drug war; hijackers surprised to find selves in hell. These are just a few examples of the headlines that begin The Onion Movie, the film based on and created by The Onion, the satirical fake news newspaper/website. Having finished filming back in 2003, the movie is just now being released straight to DVD this month.
Plotless and scatterbrained, the film is made up of a series of sketches and television news stories reported by The Onion News Network. Even though these two elements dominate the film they rarely reflect what the other is doing. The viewing experience is a bit like watching an R-rated Saturday Night Live but instead of commercial breaks someone reads headlines from The Onion paper to you.
There are only two constants throughout the movie, The Onion News Network and the promotion of a Steven Seagal film within the film called Cockpuncher. There are times when the story comes close to really skewering television news and raising questions about journalistic ethics and integrity. But then that gets forgotten about and more focus is put on delivering random headlines that don't come to a point. There are two main problems with the news network aspect (basically 50% of the film), one, it doesn't look like a real television news show and two, if you are a fan of The Onion, chances are you've seen most of the stories before in the paper or on the website.
The other 50%, the sketches, are hit and miss and equally as random. The highlights include a murder mystery game parody called "How to Host a Rape" (which incidentally features Daniel Dae Kim--Jin from Lost) and a segment about "Little Known Racial Stereotypes", one of the more successful racially orientated sketches. On the other end, there is a very lengthy Britney Spears parody. But it's Britney Spears through the eyes of 2003, making it very dated and therefore unintentionally nostalgic.
The interesting thing is that even though 2/3 of the movie seems directionless, the end manages to bring back a lot of earlier elements and tie a lot of it together. The climax was funnier, more cohesive and more over-the-top than the film that preceded it. It felt like it belonged to a different, more intelligent film which successfully parodied ethics, terrorists, dumb action movies and corporate control of the news. It's an ending that this movie doesn't really deserve.
This is a movie best viewed in small doses. The idea that it should all relate and "work" as a feature length is probably the biggest thing working against it. Taking it apart and posting it in a series of 4 minute clips on The Onion website would create a much more enjoyable experience.
Review by Eric Werner