Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SERVITUDE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Low-brow Canuck comedy replete with laughs and sits nicely in the same territory as Adam Sandler movies, Harold and Kumar and, of course, Freddy Got Fingered!

Servitude (2012) dir. Warren P. Sonoda
Starring: Joe Dinicol, Dave Foley, Margot Kidder, Jayne Eastwood, Wayne Robson, John Bregar, Rachel Skarsten, Kristin Hager, Linda Kash, Enrico Colantoni, Aaron Ashmore


By Greg Klymkiw

I am the world's biggest apologist for Adam Sandler and Tom Greene. While I won't dare declare that Jack and Jill or Road Trip were even remotely good, I will admit they both made me laugh several times. That said, I will proudly proclaim that You Don't Mess With The Zohan is genuinely terrific and that Freddy Got Fingered is a bonafide, utterly brilliant masterpiece.

Though perhaps questionable to a few pole-up-the-ass types, my taste in such matters is lofty enough that I believe it deserves a pedestal-like status. For example, while there is not a single Harold and Kumar movie I didn't like, I had the necessary acumen to declare The Hangover Part II as one of the most embarrassing, disgraceful, unfunny comedies I've ever seen.

If you go to see Servitude, you will be the judge of my critical reason.

You'll probably also have a good time.

So, let's do the math on Servitude.

Vomit jokes.

Fart jokes.

Homo jokes.

White Trash jokes.

Nazi jokes.

Babes (multiplied by three, though one of them is a mega-babe).

A goodly number of cute and/or hunky (and funny) stud-muffins.

A grotesquely hilarious Margot Kidder with (I hope) mega-Botox makeup.

Kids in the Hall's Dave (Always Funny) Foley.

Jeigh Madjus as the funniest mincingly delicious faggot in Canadian Cinema.

Jayne Eastwood (Canada's Phyllis Diller, but way better looking and funnier).

Wayne Robson (Canada's estimable answer to Wally Cox).

A fetish I've not seen extolled in a comedy of recent vintage - one that makes the attributes of Stifler's Mom in the American Pie franchise utterly old hat.

A variety of amusing non-vomit-fart-homo-WhiteTrash-Nazi-fetish jokes.

Oh, and babes.

Have I mentioned them yet?

The babes?

So, what do these figures all add up to?

Well okay, so we're not talking the most sophisticated comedy of the year, here, but we are talking about a decent low-brow, low-budget Canadian-made knee-slapper involving a rag-tag band of restaurant workers who find out that a Nazi - oops, I mean, German - corporation is taking over their place of employment and will probably fire the lot of them.

In retaliation they spend the rest of the night turning the tables on all their rude, obnoxious customers - the annoying old couple, the family of inbreds, the table of vile preppies - a veritable cornucopia of every jerk that every server has ever wanted to decimate.

Even when revenge does not involve a hobo with a shotgun, it proves to be decidedly sweet.

The leader of this revolt is Josh Stein (Joe Dinicol), a sweet, young lad who has been toiling for three years at The Ranch Steakhouse, part of a chain of family bistros where all the servers are referred to as "Ranchers" and the cowboy-hat-adorned manager Godfrey (Dave Foley) is as genial as he is perpetually harried. Josh has agreed to this life of servitude in deference to his Dad who wants sonny-boy to get some real-world experience before he pulls out the chequebook to put Josh through Law School.

Funny thing is, though - Josh kind of likes his job. His social climbing girlfriend (Kristin Hager), however, can hardly wait until he turns in his order pad to dive into the soul-sucking world of law. God knows, it's humiliating enough to have to explain to her equally success-oriented friends that her boyfriend is a waiter, but the thought that he actually enjoys what he does simply mortifies her.

On this good night, two people enter Josh's life that will change it forever.

The first is the Nazi - oops, I mean, German - auditor from the corporation. During his inspection, Franz (Enrico Colantoni) declares that changes will be in order. Passing around the corporation handbook (emblazoned with a prominent Swastika-like logo), Franz is especially eager to examine the ovens.

The second potential life-changing personage who waltzes into Josh's sphere is a new waitress trainee whom he is asked to coach. Alex (Rachel Skarsten) is a babe. No, let me re-phrase that - she is a MEGA-BABE. She's also funny, friendly, charming, smart and unpretentious - everything his emasculating girlfriend isn't.

Hell is just around the corner from breaking loose.

Servitude is just plain fun. Granted, it occasionally feels like a glorified feature length pilot for a sitcom (albeit a naughty one), but in spite of this, the proceedings are deftly directed by Warren P. Sonoda who wisely understands that the best comedy is played, Howard Hawks-like, in simple two-shots and mediums with a minimum of unnecessary cutting. He also understands when and how to move the camera and when he does, he dazzles us with a few Scorsese-inspired dipsy-doodle steadicam and dolly zingers (courtesy, no doubt, to cinematographer Samy Inayeh).

At times, some of the movie feels a trifle shrill in terms of performance and a handful of scenes tend to drag on a bit long, but for the most part, the picture delivers the goods required of its entertaining lowly station.

Another fun element of the film is its production design. Given that most of the picture is set in the steakhouse, there's always something cool to look at during the film's occasional longueurs. Art Director Diana Abbatangelo delivers a restaurant that looks real and lived-in; from the tacky dining room - blending every western-themed cliche known to the human race - the grotesque kitchen (with its filthy, blackened oven that the Nazi - oops, I mean, German - is obsessed with), the packed-to-the-rafters storage rooms and Godfrey's grungy office - all have the whiff of reality and imaginative touches of humour.

An element in the film that is of supreme importance to the art of cinema is its emphasis upon several actions involving Josh's best buddy, fellow server Tommy (John Bregar). Few low-brow comedies would take the opportunity to examine elements of contemporary anthropological significance as is done here. The filmmakers have truly put themselves on the line to go the extra distance required to not simply deliver laughs, but plunge us, almost Robert Bresson-like into a semi-neo-realist exploration of the human condition.

Tommy is, first of all, a master of the "cuppie" - a unique physical action involving the cupping of one's hand over one's anus, releasing a rank fart and immediately cupping said cupped hand over the nostrils of an unsuspecting recipient of the delectable aroma. Secondly, we are witness (a la Bresson) to Tommy's obsessive fetish involving MILFS with rounded, squeezable bellies that have not been liposuction-ed of all their glorious fat content.

This, of course is where Margot Kidder comes in. Hubba-Hubba!!!

Fetishists take note!!!

Servitude is a fun, good-natured youth comedy. It doesn't quite ascend (or descend, depending upon how you look at these things) to the heights/depths of American gross-out comedies - it's a wee bit too Canadian to go there - but when the completely nutzoid gags come, the movie inspires more than its fair share of belly laughs.

God knows, Margot Kidder's belly inspires some of the film's most aggressive yuk-yuk-grabbers. (Damn, she's a good sport in this one! Hats off to her!) Lois Lane with Botox and a Belly is a sight to behold.

Speaking of sights to behold, Servitude might also be of considerable interest to Canadian filmmakers. The first credit that blasts upon the silver screen when the movie ends is that it was developed with the assistance of the esteemed Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab. An official Telefilm Canada release on their website dated 2010/11/03 tub-thumps this program from the esteemed Canadian Film Centre (founded by Norman Jewison) in collaboration with the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. Projects accepted to the program become eligible for up to $75,000 in development funding through the Canada Feature Film Fund. According to Telefilm's "what's new" bumph:

Successful inaugural year

As a result of last year’s program, Servitude will go into production later this month.

Through last year’s program, the workplace-revenge comedy from Buck Productions and Victory Man Productions (participants in 2009) received assistance by such Hollywood heavyweights as producer Ivan Reitman, director Donald Petrie, screenwriter Etan Cohen and Gloria Fan of Mosaic Media.

It appears that the applications are closed for the program, but keep your eyes and ears peeled. If and when the next application deadline rolls around, anyone who has a feature screenplay with vomit-fart-homo-WhiteTrash-Nazi-fetish jokes and/or non-vomit-fart-homo-WhiteTrash-Nazi-fetish jokes, the Gouvernement du Canada via Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Film Centre are clearly your go-to guys.

Comedian Yakov Smirnoff was often astounded with the freedoms in America with his oft-repeated line, "What a country!" Perhaps the Gouvernement du Canada needs to enlist Smirnoff's services to promote its liberal support of films featuring vomit-fart-homo-WhiteTrash-Nazi-fetish jokes and/or non-vomit-fart-homo-WhiteTrash-Nazi-fetish jokes.

In the meantime, anyone in Canada who enjoys solid laughs should probably hightail it down to their multiplex and see Servitude.

Oh, and full disclosure is necessary: I was kicking around the Canadian Film Centre for 13 years in a number of capacities (as you can plainly read on my biography pasted onto this site), but I had had absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned Comedy program. Though a blood relative at the Canadian Film Centre had quite a bit to do with the program, he started at that esteemed joint long after I was there and never talked to me about what he was doing behind the scenes.

All we ever really discussed were the best places to get kishka and garlic sausage.

"Servitude" opens March 30 in Toronto and Vancouver via Alliance Films.

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