The Stupids (1996)

Written by Brent Forrester, based on characters created by Harry Allard & James Marshall
Directed by John Landis
Hosted by Tom Arnold, Jessica Lundy, Bug Hall, Alex McKenna, Mark Metcalf


Released by New Line
Rating: PG
Region: 1
Anamorphic: No.

My Advice: Avoid it.

Meet the Stupids. As you might surmise from their name, they're not the brightest of families. Stanley (Arnold), for example, was fired from his job at the post office for demanding a full inquiry into who the heck this Sender person is and why so much mail seems to be returning to him. Now he's determined to find out why a large metal truck with flashing lights is always coming and stealing his family's garbage. This will set off a chain of events that he's convinced are the work of the nefarious Sender. And it's up to Stanley and his family to stop the evil before the world pays the ultimate price.

Holy mackerel. While I appreciate John Landis' desire to make a family flick, did it really have to be this one? It's based on a series of books I've never heard of--and I'm sure the books are really cute things to read. At least there they're children's books, so they're very short: five minutes and you're out. But a cute running gag for five minutes in a book does not necessarily translate well to a live action ninety-minute feature film. Granted, if you're six, you'll think this is a cinematic gem, but even at seven you'll get bored and want to hurl the television out the window.

It's certainly not the cast: Arnold is so incredibly earnest in his portrayal of Stanley, it's really hard to dislike him. However, the script helps us overcome that very easily. The other members of the family are eminently forgettable, as they are just the same character (i.e. dumb as a post) in different bodies. The only high points of the film are both incarnations of Sender--one a satanic figure portrayed by Christopher Lee in a cameo and the other the mild-mannered Bob Keeshan in his only feature film appearance. Also interesting are all the other filmmakers that got roped into making cameos, like Cronenberg as Stanley's postal supervisor and Atom Egoyan as a guard.

The film has very little to redeem itself, even if you are six. It's poorly executed. Imagine my confusion when, suddenly, there's a stop motion animated cartoon cat sharing a scene with the two child actors. Not really adding anything to the scene, but...just kinda there. And then, just as suddenly...the cat is nowhere to be found. Then a dog suddenly appears later in the film of the same fashion: at least it tries to interact with the characters and move the plot forward. Again, this could all be straight out of the books, but still: why take that kind of pain and make it into a feature?

The DVD doesn't have anything to save itself with: just the trailer and a DVD-ROM feature that really doesn't go anywhere interesting. In fact, the menu features the Stupid family as bobbleheads--and you know I'm certain those things are the spawn of Satan. I'm not even certain that Landis or Arnold completists should grab this, since it's sadly irredeemable. It's probably best to just pretend like it's not there.

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