Thursday, May 20, 2004

Martin & Orloff

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 19 May 2004 at Loews Copley Place #7 (first-run)

Well, sort of first-run. Martin & Orloff is the first movie from the comedy troupe "Upright Citizens Brigade" (whose DVDs I will apparently have to purchase now), and though cast member Amy Poehler has started to get noticed, no studio ever picked this 2002 film up for distribution. So, it's getting occasional bookings every once in a while, playing Boston six months after it played New York.

It deserves a little more exposure. Certainly, it's a peculiar movie; like a lot of films that grow out of sketch comedy troupes, the film is populated by weird characters doing weird things without worrying about realism. I imagine this is because the core group is on the same wavelengths, so when one suggests something bizarre, everyone else goes for it. In the case of Martin & Orloff, this leads to a movie that feels like sketch comedy - it establishes some odd characters, puts them in a situation, milks it for laughs, then moves on to the next situation, and repeats, with a few jokes recurring.

The main odd characters are Martin Flam (Ian Roberts), a mascot designer who recently attempted suicide, and Dr. Eric Orloff (Matt Walsh), the psychiatrist he's sent to see after being released from the mental hospital. Martin is, for the most part, the straight man, a sad sack obviously pained by everyone's sympathy (and comfort mentioning his attempted suicide in conversation). Orloff works out of a cockroach-infested office and seems to have no sense of boundaries between doctor and patient, or appropriate behavior. As Martin's supposed to begin his first therapy session, Orloff remembers he has a softball game, but it's okay, Martin can come along and they can have the sessions between innings. This, naturally, leads to a brawl, a trip to jail, and the first encounter with Eric's friend Keith (H. Jon Benjamin), a Desert Storm vet with odd bathroom habits. Soon, we'll meet Eric's stripper girlfriend (Kim Raver) and her friend Patty (Amy Poehler). Most amusing is Mr. Chan (Les Mau), the client of Martin's company looking for an eight-foot sparerib costume without eyeholes, which is causing Martin a great deal of anxiety. He's flat-out cacklingly evil-nuts, and he chews scenery with abandon. Arrested Development's David Cross also appears, and there are cameos by Andy Richter, Tina Fey, Janeane Garafolo, and others.

This movie is well-orchestrated bad taste. Much humor is improbably mined from Martin's suicide attempt, potential harm to small children, and references to the gigantic member of Patty's ex-boyfriend (pro wrestler Sal Graziano). The audience will know if they're up for this sort of thing early, and the movie doesn't just rely on shock value; it's got a fine sense of comic timing, and the characters, despite being peculiar, are generally likable. It also ends in a very enjoyable spoof of action flicks, including guards who act much more intelligent than the average action-movie guard.

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