Release Date: November 8, 2013 (Limited)
Director: Chris Nelson
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 5/10
[This is a repost of our review from Outfest 2013, Ass Backwards hits theaters November 8th]
Kate and Chloe have been best friends forever. They live in a studio apartment in the city. They are very supportive of each other. Kate is an entrepreneur, she harvests her eggs while using Starbucks as her office and Chloe is an entertainer, she dreams of being a singer but spends most of her time suspended in a glass box above a dance floor. Both of them are former beauty pageant contestants and when they receive an invitation to the pageant’s anniversary celebration they pack up their things, well more like they are forced, and hit the road bound for glory. Unfortunately both live up to the stereotype of the vacuous pageant contestant as they are about as smart as Harry & Lloyd from Dumb & Dumber.
This intermittently funny road trip comedy is a droll amalgamation of numerous funnier films. From Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion to Dumb & Dumber, the film is chock full of familiar, low-brow, sit-com level comedy that is hit and miss. For every guffaw inducing bit there are two or three that just hit with a thud. There are some truly inspired moments like when they sing-a-long to a-ha’s “Take on me,” when they try to pay for their groceries with multiple credit cards or the film’s opening featuring two streams of water rolling downhill. Unfortunately it lacks consistent and like a typical road trip comedy it is pieced together with random comedy skits. Some go nowhere and others are sort of funny.
June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson are likable as Kate and Chloe. They do have great comic timing and have great chemistry together. Many of the situations they are put in feel forced and reeks of desperation for a laugh. The scene in the strip club is a prime example. It wasn’t funny at all. Much of the comedy relies on the audience suspension of disbelief. A situation comedy can illicit laughs because the situations are relatable. However in this film the leaps in logic will likely leave people shaking their heads instead of uncontrollably laughing. When it’s just the two of them the comedy is fine however when the comedy involves other characters it comes to a stop. Alicia Silverstone appears as a rival pageant queen, Vincent D’Onofrio appears as Chloe’s dad Bruce and Jon Cryer does someone a favor and plays a very unfunny stage coordinator.
As Romy and Michelle and Harry and Lloyd have proven dumb can be funny. Raphael and Wilson had the right idea it’s just unfortunate that the low-brow humor just didn’t work. The film culminates at the beauty pageant from hell but oddly enough it’s the film’s final scene that upstages the entire proceeding. Perhaps it lost some of its impact because of scenes we’ve likely seen before in many other films. The two leads make it tolerable to sit through but there are far funnier things to do then spending a few hours with these ditzy beauty queens. It has its moments but nothing to brag about.