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Movie survives with funny, fake news tidbits

The Onion Movie

NNNN (out of 5)

It seems funny to me that The Onion Movie came out on DVD the same week as the dreck-fest Meet the Spartans. While one was utterly unfunny and a travesty on celluloid, the other was quite clever.

While I blame Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer for the absolute mess that was Meet the Spartans, I blame David Zucker's guiding hand as a producer and the spirit of The Onion for The Onion Movie's cleverness. It's sad that the spoof genre has turned around so much that garbage makes $50 million at the box office and something that is actually funny is relegated to a direct-to-DVD release.

The Onion Movie plays out very much like The Kentucky Fried Movie. It bravely kicks aside the need for pop culture relevance and doesn't spoof a particular film. Rather, it presents itself as a newscast with some hilarious fake news tidbits.

The movie is nothing more than an assembly of silly sketches and goofy news bits, but it survives by throwing so much at you that you're on to the next joke before anything really becomes tedious or annoying.

The wraparound story follows a stuffy news anchor who is fighting against the corporate big wigs who are trying to taint the news with shameless promotions. Other continuing jokes include the young, hot pop star Mary Cherry (a thinly veiled satire of Britney Spears... before all that head-shaving nonsense) and Steven Seagal getting in on the joke as himself starring in a new action piece called Cock Puncher.

In the cinema landscape that has been polluted with Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer's work, The Onion Movie is a breath of fresh air. Think of it as The Daily Show without the connection to reality. Sometimes the jokes don't go far enough, but there's still vastly more funny moments than unfunny ones.

Don't look to this movie for high story concepts. Also, don't look to this film for high brow humor. The funniest moments comes when it is at its crudest, especially in the final reel which includes fake deleted scenes. As you might expect from The Onion, things go over the top and might offend. But for me, that's the best part.

The Onion Movie gives me hope that filmmakers might keep their senses of comedy instead of lowering themselves to humorless references to pop culture figures. I loved The Kentucky Fried Movie and Amazon Women on the Moon. It's nice to see that someone is at least trying to make something with the same flavor.

Sadly, the special features are a bit slim with some deleted scenes (that are, as I expected, pretty good for a sketch comedy movie) and some outtakes. Still, the movie itself is worth watching even if the disc had nothing else on it.

Kevin Carr is an independent writer, journalist and filmmaker who lives in Columbus, Ohio.