Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Review Reviews: Aristocrats (2005)

Because it amuses me -- and Michelle finds it funny -- anytime I decide to talk about a movie or TV show I've already seen, I'll be sticking the posts under the Review Reviews heading. A companion piece to my Reread Reviews over at Comics Should be Good... and a stupid joke that I can't help but laugh at.

Speaking of which...

The Aristocrats (2005)

I actually reviewed this back in January of 2006 for UWO Gazette after we got the DVD for free. Meaning I got the DVD for free. That gig was awesome for free CDs and the odd free DVD or book. I'm rather fond of that review and it was one of the few things that had people around the office coming up to me to say they dug it. If you've seen the movie or know the joke it examines, you'll understand the odd structure of my review. The review strikes me as oddly short, but the size requirements for articles in the paper were different -- and work better in print.

What doesn't show up online is that I gave this movie a perfect five stars out of five (as we used five stars for movies instead of the standard four). Now, I wouldn't give it that much now. I'd probably give it somewhere around 3.5-4 stars. It's a pretty good documentary that is told entirely through the people being filmed, which is always nice. Narrators can work, but I prefer just jumping in and editing footage together in a compelling way that catches the audience enough -- and trust the audience to catch up.

The documentary revolves around an old joke called the Aristocrats. The basic premise is that this is a joke that comedians would tell one another -- a freeform thing with a framing device that could allow comedians to show off their skills by coming up with the funniest, most disgusting shit ever. The joke is: a man walks into a talent agent's office (or some variation on that basic idea), says he's got a great family act, proceeds to describe a disgusting act that involves sex, incest, bestiality, piss, shit, blood, whatever you want to make the act, and it all ends with the agent asking what the name of the act is and the man saying "The Aristocrats." Nice simple frame with an unlimited amount of room to work with in between.

The documentary is funny. It has over 100 comedians telling the joke in some form or another and it's more about showing the creativity of these people. The direction that each takes the joke. Who focuses on sex, who focuses on shit, who focuses on violence... As Penn Jillette (I believe) puts it, it's about the singer not the song.

The one that I found the funniest was Steven Wright's contribution, which was creepy and horrific in its focus on domestic violence. It stood out in a crowd of cocks, cunts, and shit.

At points, the documentary becomes far too repetitive as they highlight just how... limited the creativity of the comic community can be, cutting between a half dozen to a dozen different comedians basically saying the same thing in their versions of the joke. Some, like Wright, take it in different, unique territories, but, for the most part, it's the same joke in the hands of most of them.

That's part of the point as many comedians point out the common threads in most tellings.

I do love that the bonus features on the DVD give you many renditions in full plus some non-Aristocrats jokes.

I enjoyed this. I didn't laugh quite as much this time as previous viewings, but some tellings still make me burst out laughing. Stuff like the Cartman version when he gets to the family re-enacting 9/11 never stops being funny.

Definitely worth tracking down if you're not easily offended and are interested in the mechanics of comedy, as that's what the movie is really about.

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