I guess when you have no real acting talent, being a professional jack-ass is the natural option. Johnny Knoxville failed to find the funny opposite Patton Oswalt in the silly comedy Nature Calls, which premiered at SXSW last week. Not only are the jokes in this Boy Scouts-meet-sibling-rivalry yarn just not funny, but many of them are bordering on the offensive.
The scenario in this film, in and of itself, isn’t without some comic potential. Oswalt plays earnest Boy Scout leader Randy, brother of the slick salesman-type Kirk, played by Knoxville. As boys their Boy Scout leader dad had them busy earning scout badges and learning to start camp fires and survive the outdoors. Randy always loved these forays into nature, while Kirk participated most unwillingly.
Fast forward a few decades. Randy is now a Boy Scout leader of his own troop, though with only a handful of members, it barely makes the cut as a troop. None of his Boy Scouts really seem to want to do anything fun or traditional, like camping. Things have changed since Randy was a boy, and now Boy Scout regulations, and parents‘ paranoia, have reduced campouts to sleeping in the back of a van in a well-lit parking lot.
Unfortunately for Randy, his Scouts would rather go to Kirk’s house for a slumber party with all the trimmings then campout in the parking lot. Kirk has a thriving cash machine business, and the slumber parties he throws for his son and the other Scouts includes watching sports on jumbo TV screens, pizza, snacks, and air-conditioned luxury.
Things get crazy when Randy decides to take his Scouts on a real campout, despite the rules, and despite the fact that they don’t have their parents’ permission. Oh ya, and to make matters worse, Kirk is frantically hunting them down.
Wheeling his aged father along, and finding a remote spot in the wilderness, Randy tries to reconnect with his childhood memories and share the Boy Scout magic with his troop.
The film doesn’t have a theatrical release date yet and I’m not sure if you’ll see it in theaters anytime soon, which isn’t exactly a shame given the quality of this dismal comedy. The jokes are either obnoxious, offensive, or just unfunny. The scenario might set up some laughs, but the execution falls flat.
The storyline doesn’t have enough substance to call for a feature-length film, and relying on a string of silly actions and lousy jokes gets old very quickly. Writer/director Todd Rohal (The Catechism Cataclysm) certainly didn’t up the ante with this endeavor. I’m not sure what you’re supposed to take away from this film. The brothers do come to a tenuous new understanding at the ending, but any great message about traditional values or family or enjoying the gifts of nature is just lost in the vacuous “comedy” chaos.
There’s not much to say about Knoxville’s wooden performance. He really tries to be funny, and it’s painful to watch him try so hard without ever really being funny. Oswalt plays to type, so nothing new in his performance. He does carry some natural humor in his diminutive size and demeanor, but he doesn’t have enough “weight” to carry a full-length comedy. Eventually, real acting is required and he falters.
Rob Riggle plays the obnoxious security guard Gentry. As usual, he provides plenty of obnoxious loudness and crude jokes. Riggle does add some comedic heft to the film, as do Patrice O’Neal and Darrell Hammond in fair supporting roles. Unfortunately, the overall weakness of the story and the quality of the humor/dialogue under-utilize their talents.
Overall, this is one comedy I hope never makes it to theaters. Ok, it’s a step or two above Bucky Larson, but it’s still not worth the price of admission.