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'Let's Go to Prison': Miserable
A study of a comedy where nothing is funny
Brian Orndorf (briano)     Print Article 
Published 2006-11-19 06:39 (KST)   
John Leshitsky (Dax Shepard) is a lifelong troublemaker fresh out of prison, trying to make good on a personal vow to make life hell for the judge who put him there. Learning the judge has died while he was incarcerated, John decides to focus his anger on the judge's spoiled son, Nelson (Will Arnett). Framing him for a robbery charge, John follows Nelson to prison to begin his ultimate punishment. The problem is, once there, Nelson begins to blend in nicely with the ruthless prison system.

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Since this stars Shepard, a more appropriate title might've been "Relentlessly Awful, Laugh-Free, Cinematic Torture Device."

"Let's Go to Prison" is directed by Bob Odenkirk, a genuinely funny performer reaching back to the old days of "The Ben Stiller Show" and "Mr. Show." What attracted Odenkirk's fine-tuned instincts to the garbage heap is the very reason DVD director commentaries were invented.

"Prison" isn't so much a comedy but a series of jokes about feces, supplemented with gags about the part of the human anatomy that manufactures feces. The humor doesn't reach any further than the basest elements, leading to my theory that "Prison" was actually made on a bet to see if Odenkirk could make a feature film that doesn't have a laugh in it. I'm being shockingly literal: there's not a solitary smile in the 80 minutes this hellish dud needs to tell a story.

If anal jokes aren't your thing, Odenkirk and his screenwriters cough up every last prison cliche they can get their sweaty hands on. Awful prison food? Check. Male rape? Check. Nutzoid white supremacist gang? Check. It's odd that Odenkirk is trying to pass this material off as humor, when this has to be the 1,000th time someone has made these jokes about the prison experience. The only spark of originality I could find, and man oh man you have to squint hard to consider it creative, is a running joke about pungent toilet wine. Like everything else in the film, the gag is beaten to death soon after its introduction.

©2006 Universal Pictures
When "Prison" isn't making fun of the obvious, it rests upon the shoulders of Shepard and Arnett for merriment. These are the last two guys any director should seek out to anchor a funny flick. Shepard has his one deadpan speed that grinds on the viewer like a dentist's drill, but Arnett's lack of appeal is harder to pin down. Much like his contemporary Bradley Cooper, Arnett is another bland white guy with no discernable comedic timing or distinctive facial features. Teamed up, Arnett and Shepard poison everything they touch, and are quite insufferable to watch as they flounder for chuckles. Perhaps the next time Odenkirk directs, actual comedians might be a priority.

It comes as a surprise to learn that "Prison" is based on a, gulp, serious guide on how to survive incarceration written back in 1994. How something that was intended to help and inform was turned into a feature film that will harm your senses and steal your money, I will never understand. Suffice it to say, a real trip to the cellblock has to be easier than watching Shepard and Arnett in a laugh competition.

©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Brian Orndorf

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