Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stay Tuned

It’s always nice when one of my childhood movies turns out to still hold up when I’m an adult, and such is the case here. It’s one of John Ritter’s best roles, and he has a perfect foil in the villainous Jeffrey Jones.

The film stars Ritter as a professional couch potato whose wife is on the verge of abandoning him, when a nicely Satanic Jeffrey Jones arrives and offers him a free trial on a big screen satellite TV that gets 666 channels. Soon Ritter and his wife are sucked into the demonic TV network, where they have to survive for 24 hours against such brilliant shows as Northern Overexposure and Driving Over Miss Daisy (no matter how many times I saw that when I was younger, it never failed to make me laugh hysterically) in order to win their freedom. Eugene Levy also makes an appearance as a hellish crony that also gets sucked into the network and occasionally begins partnering up with them to defeat his former boss.

The film is everything one might want in a movie like this: it’s funny, clever, and child-safe enough that you could watch it with your 8+ children (assuming you would want to have that many, of course). It throws in about as many great gags as one could possibly cram into a 90 minute film, up to and including a Three’s Company crossover and a music video that perfectly suits Hell (“Start Me Up” by Salt n Pepa). The children are a tad irritating, but I guess they’re there to give the children watching (you know, all 8+ of them) someone to identify with, and while they are annoying enough (especially the daughter) to knock this rating down half a star, they aren’t bad enough to outright ruin the film, so we can definitely celebrate that. It’s the kind of comedy that we stopped getting for a while, one that focuses on cleverness and doesn’t mind having a little bite to it, rather than veering to the extremes of super-sanitized and child-safe or gross out teen sex comedies. It should be supported for that.

Rating: ***

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