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Entries in Orgazmo [1997] (1)

Friday
Mar052010

Orgazmo (1997)

Grime Capsule

Orgazmo reminded me of a line from The Beany and Cecil Show: “A [movie] so terrible, it couldn’t have been released—it must have escaped.”

This is a tough film to review because I can’t recommend it as a straight comedy. However, for fans of South Park and the adult entertainment industry, it’s an indispensible time capsule of late-90s low culture. It feels like a dumb, filthy, ninety-minute in-joke, and I can’t believe that Universal Pictures put it in theatres.

Orgazmo is the titular star of a new adult film. When the actor playing him breaks a finger during shooting, he’s replaced by a young Mormon named Joe Young (writer/director Trey Parker), who just happened to be witnessing in the neighborhood. The movie’s sleazy director, Maxxx Orbison (Michael Dean Jacobs), convinces Joe that he could both star in the picture and stay true to his religious beliefs by using a stunt double for the actual “love” scenes—he also offers Joe $20,000, which would pay for his wedding to the lovely Lisa (Robyn Lynne Raab) back in Utah. Under the condition of anonymity, Joe takes the job and embarks on a glamorous acting career.

Unfortunately, Orgazmo becomes the unlikeliest cross-over mega-blockbuster ever, and soon Joe’s masked face is plastered all over Time Magazine and the AVN Awards. Adding to his troubles, the owner of his favorite sushi bar is being harassed by the mobsters who own the dance club next door, and who want to demolish the restaurant for purposes of expansion (three guesses as to who the mob boss is). With the help of his on-screen sidekick, the diminutive Choda Boy (Dian Bachar), Joe becomes a real-life version of Orgazmo—complete with a fully functioning “Orgazmorator”, an arm-mounted canon that induces uncontrollable pleasure in its targets, man, woman, and animal.

The first twenty minutes of Orgazmo are pretty rough. I didn’t crack a smile, and felt no guilt over pausing the film a couple times to get some ice cream and use the bathroom. The jokes fell flat, the acting by everyone except Parker was unforgivably bad—cheesy not in the porno movie sense, but in the porno-stars-trying-to-act-outside-of-porno-movies sense. However, Choda Boy’s introduction marks a distinct turn in the feel of the film. At the outset, we only had Parker’s aw-shucks, one-note character to root for, and he was contrasted by overbearing sleaze-ball stereotypes. Dian Bachar brought a spirit of fun and mischief that, frankly, carried the rest of the picture (he certainly brought Parker’s character to life).

From that point on, the jokes in Orgazmo hit maybe half the time. There are a lot of misfires in the movie, but the bits that work really, really work. One sequence in particular, in which Choda Boy shares the origin of his “Hamster Style” fighting technique had me laughing hard. It’s a stupid bit, but one that’s executed with the subtlety and precision of an Airplane gag. Honestly, most of the porn-industry-centric jokes—the ones that are supposed to be shocking and hilarious—are just kind of sad.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who pops up as Dave the Lighting Guy) were working on Orgazmo, I’m pretty sure, when they inked their deal with Comedy Central to do South Park. I find it amazing that they made this movie before they rocketed to super-stardom. Orgazmo is the kind of failed vanity project that usually comes after a comedian has proven himself commercially viable (Parker and Stone had one of those, too, called Baseketball). What’s great about this movie is that one can see the dirty seeds of the humor they would soon perfect, and I wonder if all of the juvenile material that fell flat was purely their doing, or came from studio interference. Whatever the case, their talent is evident here, but not as much as one might suspect going in.

Additionally, this movie is fascinating for people who are fascinated by the adult entertainment industry. Not only can you play “Spot the Porn Star” (aka “Where’s Dildo”) with many of the extras, but you can—if you’re so inclined—reminisce about the more innocent days of mass-marketed sex. This was 1997, when everything was teased hair, mile-long thongs, and a pseudo-mainstream studio system that focused on storytelling; rather than the desensitizing, perversions-on-demand Internet Age of compilation videos and “sexting”.

By the time the movie had ended, I was kind of itching for a sequel. Yes, Orgazmo is a bad movie, but the earnestness of the main cast and the likely accidental homage to 80s crime-fighting movies made me smile. Hell, I wouldn’t mind seeing a remake, scripted with the well-honed, devious wit that Parker and Stone have cultivated in the thirteen years since this film was released; and Mormons are as funny as ever.