Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The “Scream” and “Scary Movie” trilogies seemed to close the book on horror film parodies. Not so fast, says Broken Lizard, the five-man comedy troupe who gave us the vapid “Super Troopers” (2001). The group’s “Broken Lizard’s Club Dread” would have us believe there’s room for yet one more send-up of the genre. So long as the bikinis fly and the locales exhilarate, they might be right. But just what does a Broken Lizard stamp mean to a film? Here, the answer is a hastily concocted assortment of incomplete gags that hit their marks seemingly by accident.

It’s hard to muster much venom toward “Club Dread,” despite how low they’ve set the bar in terms of both execution and wit.

The amiable cast, a collection of interchangeably pretty faces, runs wild with the film’s general anarchy. The few laughs generated sneak up on us, hinting at greater things for the comedy troupe should they ever acquire a modicum of professional discipline.

“Club Dread” introduces us to the kind of island getaway MTV might land on for their annual spring break debauchery. Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton, buried under long hair and a scruffy beard) oversees this aptly named Pleasure Island. He’s a Jimmy Buffettclone still clinging to his expired rock star credentials.

A squadron of Pleasure Island employees carries out Pete’s mandatory hedonism. Jenny (the gorgeous Brittany Daniel), keeps tongues lolling, while Sam (Erik Stolhanske) enforces the Fun Police rules. Lars (Kevin Heffernan) is the new kid on the island, a masseur whose touch can, let’s just say, inspire bliss.

Their revelry dries up when a machete-wielding maniac hits the island. One by one, the killer takes out club staffers in a not-so-subtle nod to “And Then There Were None.”

Rather than alarm the guests, the remaining workers try to catch the killer without ever mentioning the threat. It’s one of several plot strands whose comic potential is abandoned prematurely.

For a few isolated stretches, “Club Dread” evokes the calculated silliness of Monty Python, although those Brits rarely drown their material in so much wanton vulgarity. Worse, the troupe possesses not a fraction of Python’s timing or slapstick grace.

It’s all director Jay Chandrasekhar, a fellow Lizard who also called the shots on “Super Troopers,” can do to distract us from scenes with no punch lines and infantile puns. “Broken Lizard’s Club Dread” can barely be bothered with the conventions of a proper parody beyond a few cheap scare riffs and multiple red herrings as to the killer’s identity.

Nothing emerges in “Club Dread” that strikes one as stylistically unique, and no single performer stands out amid the blood and rampant nudity.

After this second Broken Lizard film, audiences should be even more skeptical about the prospect of a third affair.


WHAT: “Broken Lizard’s Club Dread”

RATING: R (Nudity, rampant drug use, horror-style violence and sexual situations)

CREDITS: Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. Written by the Broken Lizard comedy troupe (Mr. Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske)

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes



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