Movies with possessives in their titles drive me nuts. You know, like “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Some genius somewhere thinks that’s brilliant marketing. Then there’s John Carpenter’s movies, most of which seem to always be “John Carpenter’s…blah blah blah.” I think it’s all pretty silly, so I choose to drop the possessive from the titles. I extend that to all those films that feature the words “National Lampoon’s” at the front. There have certainly been some classic films that came courtesy of the now defunct magazine…most notably “Animal House” and “Vacation.” And then there’s today’s film, the second to feature the National Lampoon name, but delays pushed it’s release back, landing it behind several other Lampoon films. It is little known today…and for good reason. 1983’s “Movie Madness.”
From it’s title, one would think this film is a spoof of Hollywood and the film-making industry. Far from it. The only thing that this film has to do with the movies is that it is one. “Movie Madness” is actually a comedy anthology, consisting of three different short films.
The first is called “Growing Yourself.” It centers on a man named Jason Cooper (Peter Riegert) who decides that he needs to “grow.” That’s kind of a different way of saying he needs to “find himself.” So he tells his wife (Candy Clark) that she’s leaving him. Now he is raising the kids on his own (and their number seems to dwindle as the story progresses). He quits his job, opens up a “plant orphanage,” and starts dating a teenage model (a young Diane Lane). His wife ends up becoming quite successful and having another baby, which she dumps with Jason…without telling him the child’s name. While trying to chase down her cab he runs into a beautiful woman (Teresa Ganzel) who he has an affair with. The wife then comes back to take the kids to California…if any of this strikes you as funny just say so.
The second film is called “Success Wanters” and tells the story of Dominique Corsaire (Ann Dusenberry), a young woman, fresh out of college, desperate for a job. She ends up taking a job to perform as a stripper for a convention of dairy company presidents. These geezers end up getting so worked up by her routine that they decide to have a “butter bang.” Yeah…I don’t want to know either, but I’m pretty sure that whatever it is was pioneered by Marlon Brando. Now, Dominique sets out to get her revenge on the dairy industry. She begins by seducing the head of a margarine company (Robert Culp) and getting him to leave the company to her before his death just a few hours later. From there she begins zig zagging around the world gaining more power by romancing a Greek tycoon (Tito Vandis), his son (Bobby Di Cicco) and eventually the President of the United States (Fred Willard). Laughing yet?
The final film is called “Municipalians.” It features Robby Benson as a rookie cop joining a precinct full of old, worn out LA cops. Meanwhile, a serial killer (Christopher Lloyd) is on the loose. He leaves a calling card with each of his victims, a copy of his driver’s license. I’m not even going to try to sum up the story on this one…it’s a stretch to say that there is a story. It’s all sort of a blur to me. I remember that Henny Youngman showed up at one point and Rhea Pearlman played a hooker.
Ok, how do I say this gently. I’m pretty sure that “Movie Madness” is shown in a daily matinée at the multiplex in the 10th level of hell. This movie is unforgivably bad. I didn’t laugh once. I mean, sure, the whole “finding yourself” theme of the first film is dated…but that’s giving it too much credit. I doubt that it was even funny in 1983.
There is no sense of structure, or timing, or cinematic prowess. Heck I’ve seen better cinematography done by a four-year old with an iPhone. For a supposed spoof of the movies, “Movie Madness” has nothing to do with movies. But the “Madness” part of the title is accurate. It’s madness to voluntarily watch this thing. You’ve been warned.