Orgazmo (1997)
Directed by Trey Parker

Artistic Value: * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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Joe Young (Trey Parker), a young Mormon missionary selling his religion door to door in Los Angeles, accepts a job playing a superhero, Orgazmo, in a pornographic movie in order to pay for his wedding to Lisa (Robyn Lynne), his sweetheart in Utah.

Trey Parker's Orgazmo is rarely truly hilarious, but it is so pleasantly quirky, so deliciously naughty, and so happily irreverent that it is always fun to watch.

The movie's characters, most of whom appear to have been lifted from some other film, are especially entertaining, usually because they are so overdone or caricatured. Joe is an obscenely decent, clean shaven young saint. Ben (Dian Bachar), a porn actor who plays Orgazmo's sidekick, Choda Boy, and who becomes the hero's best friend in his new home, is such a stereotype that he is often hilarious. The director has centered so many clichés on the character that there is hardly a moment he is on screen that is not likely to entertain the viewer. Joe's fiancée is even more of a vacuously pious non-entity than he is, and the porn director (Michael Dean Jacobs) for whom the hero comes to work, with his hairy chest, half unbuttoned silk shirts, and sleazy exploitativeness, is so over the top he is a joy to see. I cannot say that Parker has displayed any great subtlety in his creation of these persons, but they are generally well realized and do add to the movie's appeal.

What is more, all these characters are brought to life with such stiff or exaggerated acting that Orgazmo frequently has the feel of the poorly realized adult films it often mocks. In fact, the movie repeatedly introduces unimpressive qualities, such as bad acting, shoddy sets, predictable, hackneyed plot developments, and the like to add to its satiric impact. When the result of real ineptitude, such qualities make a film bad. When, however, these are deliberately inserted into a movie and used to remind the viewer of countless bad movies he has previously seen, their presence can actually add to that film's ability to amuse the viewer. Fortunately, the satire Parker has so created usually works and allows the viewer to laugh not only at the film industry but at several strands of American society as well.

Although the director generally makes good use of such devices, he never really displays the sort of creativity or insight that could have raised his film above an ordinary comedy. Parker's comic routines, which mock religious zealots, Hollywood conventions, and pornography, are skilfully done, but they are never exceptional or incisive. Moreover, in spite of the film's title and subject matter, it is remarkably tame. Had the director been more outrageous, more willing to shock, and more biting in his parodies, it is possible that he could have made a much funnier and much more memorable movie.

While Orgazmo is not likely to impress the viewer in any profound way, it is always enjoyable to watch and is, consequently, well worth seeing.

Review by Keith Allen

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