Monday, November 20, 2006

Let's Go to Prison

LET'S GO TO PRISON (Bob Odenkirk, 2006)

John Lyshitski (Dax Shepard) has spent more time in the clink than he has as a free man. As a kid he stole the Publishers Clearing House prize patrol van, which earned him a stay in juvenile detention. His behavior on the other side of eighteen hasn't been much better.

In the comedy LET'S GO TO PRISON John decides to take revenge on the judge who has sentenced him to time behind bars for each of his offenses. Unfortunately for him, Nelson Biederman III (David Darlow) died a few days before John was released. Hellbent on getting back at the judge, he turns his plan onto his son Nelson Biederman IV (Will Arnett), who runs his father's foundation.

John's vengeance amounts to spitting in Nelson's coffee and emptying his inhaler. These small actions have big consequences, though. Nelson has an attack and needs a puff from his inhaler. His reacts badly to it being empty, which results in some pharmacists mistaking him for a junkie trying to rob their store. Nelson's lawyer and the foundation board don't like their overbearing boss, so they conspire to put up a weak defense in court.

Nelson gets incarcerated, but John isn't satisfied. He commits a crime so he can go back to jail, become Nelson's cellmate, and really ruin his life.

LET'S GO TO PRISON is one of the strangest comedies to be released in theaters by a major studio this year. The humor derives from fear of prison rape, getting shivved, and other similarly hilarious aspects of life in the slammer. OK, so it's not very funny, and you could probably write down a high percentage of the jokes without seeing the movie. The film pins its success on being all kinds of weird.

That's to be expected with MR. SHOW'S Bob Odenkirk in the director's chair. (Odenkirk also appears as Nelson's lawyer and gets one of the few funny moments with his cockeyed logic for why Nelson's videotaped actions can't be believed.) As crazy and subversive as LET'S GO TO PRISON'S makers might believe it to be, it's too undisciplined and predictable to amount to anything.

Arnett sneaks in a couple Gob-like moments, but they only highlight how much wittier ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT was. At best LET'S GO TO PRISON is a sketch ballooned into a feature. At worst it's funny people grasping at straws.

Grade: D

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