How Bad Is…Farce of the Penguins (2007)?
Bog Saget’s bawdy take on March of the Penguins melts faster than the ice caps, with just as much tragedy involved.
Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson are becoming quite a super team. Besides this week’s big release of Captain Marvel, they have worked together on Kong: Skull Island, and have a comedy, Unicorn Store, due out on Netflix next month. Way before these films, they starred in a mockumentary called Farce of the Penguins, directed by Bob Saget. Whereas the source material, March of the Penguins, made over 100 million dollars in 2005, Farce of the Penguins made 6 thousand dollars in 2007. Let’s see how bad it really is.
Farce of the Penguins (2007).
Carl (Bob Saget) and Jimmie (Lewis Black) are two bachelor penguins making the annual trek to the mating grounds. Carl is hoping to finally find the one this year, and his self-doubt is bringing everyone around him down. Meanwhile, Melissa (Christina Applegate) and Vicky (Mo’Nique) are freezing their butts off, waiting for the male penguins to return. Melissa is also hopeful of finally finding Mr. Right, after a series of awful suitors have left her blue. As Samuel L. Jackson narrates their adventures, Carl and Melissa try to beat the odds and the elements in order to find penguin love.
What Went Wrong?
- Stumbles Out of the Gate. I’m going to include the DVD promotional material in this review, since absolutely nobody saw this movie in theaters. Things begin ominously with trailers for the White Boyz in the Hood comedy special and the ill-advised Strangers with Candy movie. We then move into a gimmick laden menu select screen where Saget and Black poor mouth the whole proceedings. We haven’t even pressed play yet, and the writer/director/star is already trying to lampshade the whole film. Yeesh.
The opening monologue shows us that we’re in for A-list celebrities presiding over D-list material. The stock footage being spoofed is grainy and cheap. The opening titles are in a chintzy font that belongs in a straight to VHS infomercial for funeral homes. There’s also more than a few off-color jokes in the monologue that don’t pass the sniff test in 2019. Overall, the film reeks like a past-date can of anchovies from the get-go.
- Pick up the Pace. The process of penguins marching 70 miles one way, briefly mating, and then marching 70 miles the other way is not exactly gripping material. March of the Penguins required gorgeous graphics and the voice of god (Morgan Freeman) to catch your attention. Farce of the Penguins has paltry graphics and doesn’t rely on the heroic efforts of Samuel L. Jackson nearly enough. The results is tedium filled with mildly amusing skits and non-sequitur one-liners dropped by the telephone book of guest stars this film managed to wrangle.
- Light Blue Humor. Farce of the Penguins sells itself as an irreverent send up, with edgy jokes and rampant innuendo. Hell, the cover has penguins holding bongs and beer, dressed in speedos and bondage gear. The reality is that the blue humor in this film is a wet fart. We get rote poop and fart jokes, a few hardly-incendiary dick jokes, and mostly dry Seinfeld-esque dialogue. Anyone hoping this film would blister your ears with shocking material is in for a disappointment. Anyone hoping the film would be a light romp of riffing, Mystery Science Theater style, over stock film is likewise in for disappointment. The result…disappointment.
What Went Right?
- Samuel L. Jackson. Sam Jackson pretty much demonstrates he can be entertaining reading the phone book. Even when he’s tasked with reading mean-spirited trash, he has the instincts to minimize what doesn’t work and lean into what does. They film shines where he’s present and suffers when he isn’t.
- An Embarrassment of Riches. Farce of the Penguins had an estimated budget of 5 million dollars. 4 million , 999 thousand, 999 dollars and 99 cents of it must have gone to voice talent. Saget and Black are surprisingly entertaining as they bounce neurotic banter off each other. Mo’Nique and Tracy Morgan have a funny back-and-forth duo, and Applegate leans into the winsome style of comedy she perfected in films such as Anchorman.
Besides the leads, the film features one-offs from a list of comedians that could staff a season of Evening at the Improv. They don’t get much more than thin gruel, but occasional moments from Whoopi Goldberg, Dane Cook, and Norm McDonald help keep this iceberg afloat.
- It’s Not a Wayan’s Brothers Spoof. I don’t know. I ran out of nice things to say and needed a third item on this list. Despite the suggestions of the cover, Farce of the Penguins isn’t the shitty pop culture name drop pabulum found in any of the Scary Movie franchise spoofs, so at least it has that going for it.
How Bad Is It?
There’s just enough that works here for Farce of the Penguins to, ironically, be in-offensively bad. Sure, it makes too many swipes at shit jokes aimed at trans and gay folks (here defined as pretty much any), but it doesn’t devolve into the edgelord trash it felt destined to be. It’s more of a snapshot of an era of comedy where you were expected to at least have a comic relief gay character. It’s more that the character is there and unexpectedly gay that’s the joke, as opposed as any real nastiness.
As a comedy, Farce is that kind of film that must have been hilarious on paper. You can pretty much imagine Saget and friends getting high and riffing on March of the Penguins, then reaching a point where they thought “shit, this would make a funny bit!” Unfortunately, it’s only enough premise for a bit, not a full length film. It’s not edgy, but it’s not clean, putting it in no-man’s land. You’d be better off firing up MST3K and watching Santa Claus Conquers the Martians if you’re looking for an ice laden riff comedy.