Monday, August 8, 2011

REVIEW: The Ice Pirates (1984)

Ugh, who even cares...just start the damn thing.

Director: Stewert Raffill
Starring: Robert Urich, Anjelica Huston, Ron Perlman, Mary Crosby, Michael D. Roscoe

"I never thought this would happen!"
-One character about to be turned into a eunuch...

The Ice Pirates, a film that isn’t very well known and for good reason, is the kind of thing that I can only compare to that kid in your class who always tried to tell funny jokes but just never was very good at it. He kept trying, though, and although nobody laughed, one can’t deny that he was indeed persistent. Persistently annoying, persistently grotesque and persistently awkward, but persistent! If that’s all you care about then this movie should serve you quite well.

The film begins with an uninspired text scroll that informs us briefly that the world we’re about to see is one in which water is the highest form of currency. And…that’s really it. Nothing too dramatic, just that. I'm glad this movie is so intent on setting us up the right way. Well, OK then! The film kicks off with a bunch of guys in spacey-looking armor and tights running around on some pretty lame looking sets that come off less like ‘Star Wars parody’ and more like ‘what Star Wars would have been like without all the adventure and wonder sucked out.’

What is that? The contents of the neighborhood junkyard? Jesus Christ, that looks less convincing than Angelina Jolie's performance in Taking Lives.

And check out these awesome special effects for the laser blasts!

Because when you have no cash for special effects, just get your kid to scribble some blue crayon all over your film!

So the guys get this big machine and go through a whole hoohah about trying to open a door to what ends up being a bathroom. We’re greeted with what is perhaps a fitting metaphor for the film, a scrawny, ugly yellow alien sitting on the toilet. And to complete the metaphor, he gets passed over by most of the crew but gets a whack on the head from the last one. This kind of neglect followed by abuse is pretty much standard for the rest of the movie.

Did I mention this movie is another gem that Ron Perlman had a supporting role in? Because it is. I have a feeling he won’t be putting this one on his resume any time soon, but then, it is more dignified than 5ive Girls or Dark Country, so there’s that.

They initiate a big battle with the guards while trying to steal the water, but end up finding a hot chick sleeping in a giant glass case with the bongwater smoke that was inhaled while the writers created this movie. Why is she in the glass case to begin with? You know…there’s probably a reason, but this whole movie is directed so poorly that I have a hard time telling. A lot of the time it’s like that; you can’t even really tell what the hell is going on! It’s not like I’m asking to be spoonfed every little thing on a silver platter, but some clearer direction and action logic would be nice. Most of the time, the movie can’t even be bothered to explain ANYTHING AT ALL. How would you like it if, in my next review, I started off in the middle of the movie and didn’t bother to explain the events I’m mocking in any sequential order? THAT’S ABOUT AS MUCH SENSE AS THIS MAKES. Use transitions and segue ways! It’s not that hard!

Oh, and I can’t possibly go over every single weird thing this film does, but seriously, this about sums it all up:

I think these guys got lost on their way to a Monty Python convention. Oh well, not like they would have won any contests there anyway...they're about as funny as John Cleese's toenail clippings.

So after main character Jason is done kidnapping that princess who was randomly in a glass case for no reason other than plot convenience, they all get captured by the very vague force of law and government in this galaxy, and are sentenced to be castrated and turned into space eunuchs. Uh huh. Space eunuchs. That’s…so bizarre and strange that I don’t even know what to say about it. They’re put naked on a conveyor belt and shaved, and then they’re run through a clamp that cuts off their balls. Well, gee. I knew some feminist groups were hardcore, but this is just unrealistic!

And that's how you de-size a population properly.

After that, we see that the Princess has spared the pirates if they’ll help her with her quest to find her father. Why do they still have to dress up like eunuchs then? Why couldn’t she just take them directly to the ship and start the mission immediately, if they’re going to do it anyway? Because the movie wouldn’t be long enough without padding, and because it’s funny to have rugged space pirates dressed up in pink tights and fluffy wigs. Me, I just think it’s kind of creepy, but then, I have the right number of chromosomes. So I guess I’m not quite the audience this film is aiming at.

They go for funny AAAAAAAAAND mostly just hit 'awkward.'

Ugh, so on their way out, the pirates discover a robot that talks in jive and acts like a pimp:

This is like a really bad South Park joke or something...eugh.

…and a model toy police car with spikes on it that actually drives inside the hallway:


You know what the chief problem with this is? It isn’t funny. The timing just feels off most of the time on the jokes, the characters don’t really have much comedic charm and the jokes are incredibly forced, like trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Not to mention the set-ups are completely convoluted and overly long. You want an example? How about this one part where two characters find a weird bug that definitely is NOT ripping off Alien, which they declare is a ‘space herpe.’ Yes, a space herpe. And yes, this is all just a waste of time set-up for one line about how the ship has herpes now. Wow. An overlong set-up leading to a pointless non sequitur joke that adds nothing to the plot and is in no way humorous or enjoyable. And people wonder why I’m so cynical.

On the ship, they figure out that they need to go to this bar, or something, to find out where they can get a land cruiser to go find this guy who knows where the princess’s father is. But that’s not important. What is important is that this whole thing is a set-up for Jason to make the princess go and flirt with this frog-alien-human-hybrid thing to get the land cruiser, because he knows the frog-thing has one they can use. Only when the princess comes back, she tells him the frog-thing is a woman, and wants Jason to come and sit with her! So…if Jason knew the frog-thing had a land cruiser, how did he not know it was a woman? You know movie, there’s this little thing called logic that I hear is very useful when trying to write a story. Try it sometime!

What is that thing, Rosie O' Donnell on a bad hair day?

The film wastes some more time with an overlong fight sequence between one of the pirates and some guy at the bar…why am I mentioning it in the review if it’s such a waste? Because the film really seems to think it’s something worth watching, so of course I must waste more of your time in turn by talking about it! It just simulates the experience of watching the movie better that way. GET ON WITH IT, MOVIE.

Then the movie falls into some pitfalls of ungodly annoyance when you hear the frog-lady talk in the most horrific croaking voice you can possibly imagine, asking Jason if her blouse is nice (shivers will run down your spine…). It’s annoying. Then, when we actually see the guy they’re trying to find, we get an info dump of crap that I bet you anything the actors didn’t care about. And it’s boring. Boring and annoying, people; those are your choices with this movie.

Anyway, the guy’s (who looks something like a bargain bin Obi Wan Kenobi...charming) story is that he was aged by a time-warp he went through (it happens) while searching for the mysterious ‘seventh world,’ which was lost in time and is a source of unlimited water – gee, I have no idea what this joke could be building up to! A planet filled with water lost in a place where no one knows? The mystery is just astounding. Seriously, COULD THESE JOKES BE ANY MORE OBVIOUS? It’s Planet Earth if you haven’t figured it out! This joke is old before the punchline even hits!

Oh, but I just love when a movie gives me a chance to see a robot wearing a tie and cufflinks getting run over by one of the rejected ideas for Wacky Races in the middle of the desert. That’s just a treat.

No robots or skeleton-faced cars were harmed in the making of this scene.

Back on the ship, the crew has now adopted a host of farm animals on the ship…if you’re surprised, you haven’t been watching the movie long enough for your brain to be melted into a fine, pulpy goo to where you can accept this garbage yet. Don’t worry. It’ll happen soon enough.

They then go to see a man who wears glasses. Yes, glasses, in a sci fi movie. Isn’t that like having a guy wearing a watch in Middle Earth? Just doesn’t add up. Anyway, they talk to him for a while and he’s pretty annoying and terrible, like the worst standup comedian you ever saw in your life. Oh, and his head comes off. Why? Oh, come on; like the movie’s going to start making sense now. And yes, the head-coming-off thing is just a big set up for Ron Perlman to say “he really lost his head.” Again with the lame jokes with overlong set-ups. You could at least try to make this a little funny, if you’re going to continually abuse our senses with your nonsense, movie. Just asking for a little mercy!

So yeah, they’re there because unfunny glasses-man apparently knows where the princess’s father is, but it turns out to be a robot. I really don’t get the point of this scene – she finds out her father is a robot, cries a little, and the scene fades back out. What? Was half of the scene cut out or something? Did they really just like that scene so much they couldn’t get rid of it? What? Give me some answers, movie!

Since this is a parody, we’re treated to a love scene between Jason and the princess, with some machine putting different backgrounds for them to have sex in front of. And I guess I’m supposed to find it funny, but mostly I’m just wondering why they would have that damn machine anyway. Also, why would they even need it when they’re not even looking at the backgrounds anyway? That’s not really the point of having sex, movie. “Honey, why’d you stop?” “I’m just mesmerized by this beautiful fake sunset in the background!” Yeah. Pretty bad, huh?

Then we get the final battle, in which our heroes also go through the aging vortex that got that other guy. It causes time to speed up at alarming rates, and all the characters to grow older. Sorry, but unless that time warp can make the movie end faster, I’m not interested. This scene does have a few clever moments, like Jason and the princess’s baby being born super-quick due to the time speed-up, and I actually do like the final shot where the whole family is together. That was kind of nice.


But the rest of this movie is totally insipid! I mean, Christ, what more can I say? The humor is terrible, the jokes are poorly set up and it’s not at all entertaining. Is this really the kind of thing I’ve come to accept as worthy of reviewing? I feel like I used to have much higher standards…I need a vacation, man. I’m out of here. Blowing this joint. Not comin’ back for a while. So long, suckers!