Monday, November 22, 2010

A Decade of Dreck #35- Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

As a doughy intellectual, I make it my business to have at least a basic understanding of and appreciation for the working class. Call it middle class liberal guilt but I've always believed myself to share a common bond with the American working man; for instance, I listen to Bruce Springsteen! However my knowledge of the activities and pastimes of Joe Sixpack remain limited; all I've been able to glean so far is that they enjoy drinking Victory Gin, digging foundation pits, and partaking in the comedic exploits of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

This of course brings me to today's feature, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector. Even out-of-touch ivory tower types such as myself know of funnyman Daniel Lawrence Whitney's eponymous alter-ego, a sleeveless good ol' boy with a disdain for the manners of polite society, as the flagship act of the Blue Collar Comedy phenomenon. Like his comrades-in-arms, Larry's comedy is based around the worldview of the down home redneck, the type who drinks PBR, says what's on his mind, and drives a big ol' truck. I was sincerely hoping my years of liberal arts prejudice would have ended with some sort of realization that the comedic stylings of Larry the Cable Guy were in fact some sort of beautiful reflection of the life of the working man.

Boy, were my hopes ever dashed.
Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector stars Larry the Cable Guy as a health inspector named "Larry". While possessing none of the cable-installing expertise promised by his name, Larry is in fact a competent city health inspector, busting dining establishments that aren't up to code with an iron-fisted professionalism lacking in every other aspect of his existence. In the lead-up to a citywide competition between all the best restaurants, a mysterious string of poisonings drops many of the chefs from the contest. Who could be behind it? Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector is on the case! Git-R-Done (whatever that means)!

Coming in to LTCGHI, I was quite intentionally trying to squelch my elitist views regarding Larry the Cable Guy as the worst type of pandering comedy act in the name of objectivity. I wanted to know this movie was bad not because I'm some sort of egghead aristocrat but because it's just poorly written/acted/produced like the rest of the Rotten Tomatoes "Worst of the Worst".

Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector is just that: poorly executed in its every aspect. But now that we've got that out of the way, allow me to educate you on the abysmal horrors and offenses that lie in wait beyond.

This film is a racist, misogynist, homophobic, and overall xenophobic (in the sense of being afraid of difference or "strangeness") pile of shame. Larry's supporters defend his brand of humor as "telling it like it is". His dismissal of an Indian restaurant as "immigrant food" isn't a reactionary insult, it's just a good-natured laugh at the expense of a dumb redneck! Ha HA! Isn't it fun when we can laugh at ourselves?

Of course, this point is rendered moot when the universe around Larry fits in exactly with his insular worldview. The Subcontinental restaurateur at the butt of Larry's joke isn't presented as anything more than a one-dimensional punchline (much like the sushi chef he dismisses earlier, but it's okay because they're buddies!). Heck, Apu from The Simpsons is less of a caricature than the ethnic cast of this film! If Larry had been punished or at least somehow inferred even to be an out-of-line dinosaur because of his comments, maybe this could be passed off as satire. But of course, "satire" isn't really a word in Larry's dictionary (if he indeed has one, that's too "book-learnin"!).

Women fare especially poorly in this one, as well. A running joke involves Larry's newly-assigned partner (poor, poor Iris Bahr) and the fact that Larry mistakes her for a man because she has short hair and wears a pantsuit. To Larry and men like him, a woman isn't a woman unless she's blond, has big tits, and is offering you a beer and missionary sex with the lights off. Couple this with a gag that ends with Larry calling her a fag and I think one sees the nature of the beast.

Did I leave out the part where Larry makes fun of his mentally retarded neighbor and then immediately goes to making fun of his wheelchair-bound co-worker? Mental and physical handicap jokes in the span of five minutes! That's efficiency!

Everyone loves a good fart joke. But when it's coupled with a celebration of the willfully ignorant less as an object of ridicule and more as a paragon of Bible Belt masculinity, it becomes much harder to enjoy the flatulence.

Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector is ranked #85 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 6% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.