When Nature Calls (1985)

When Nature Calls

aka The Outdoorsters

Directed by Charles Kaufman
Written by Charles Kaufman and Stan Weisman

I find this gag to be ‘bearable’.

“How many people remember that Eleanor Roosevelt had great tits?”

Seven years after Kentucky Fried Movie, a different group of filmmakers decided to basically do the same thing: a theatrical experience that was a parody of the entire theater going experience. You get fake trailers, fake theater announcements, fake concession stand ads (here’s a hotdog doing another hotdog doggy style! brilliant!) and a feature presentation that makes mockery of a big hit.

It doesn’t help us much now that the object of the film’s scorn, the series of Wilderness Family movies in the late 70’s, are pretty much forgotten now. Those were a series of film where the dad took everyone out into the woods where they were much happier without the technology. And, you know, other people.

They use most of the film’s run time to skewer this, but rather than settle for a simple parody, they mixed their approach with the Airplane gag-a-minute philosophy, and while there are a lot (a lot) of misses, it still works out since the people in front of the camera seem to be having such a good time.

Baby Bullets (N/A) – A baby buggy that gets to reenact gangster movie cliches. It’s funny. Because it’s a baby.

Yeah. And this is the trailer they start with…

Gena (Cheryl “Gates” McFadden) – The future chief medical officer of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” plays Gena in a trailer entitled Gena’s Story. This involves a lot of pokes at ‘female pictures’ that Meryl Streep probably would feel comfortable in. It also involves dancing around in her underwear, uh, if that’s your thing.
Marty (Matthew Adams) – The third and last trailer parody is probably the deepest of them all, which ain’t saying much. This satire of Raging Bull involves a great deal of swearing, which is all bleeped out (because bleeping is much funnier than uncreative profanity). I think the title of this segment is apt (Raging Asshole) and it wisely doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Greg (David Orange) – The lead and madman who kicks off the plot of our feature, The Outdoorsters. Greg one day decides his city job (in “Shanghai, 1913” which looks suspiciously like 1980’s New York) and take his family out into the wilderness where they can build a life. He’s completely self delusional and narrates this movie which only seems to feed into his madness. But, hey, check out that physique and kinky scarf.
Barb (Barbara Marineau) – Greg’s wife who thinks he’s crazy. She also will not make love to him, resorting to sticking mice traps in her pockets for whenever he gets frisky.

Probably also nuts.

Bambi (Tina Marie Staino) – A teenage girl who loves her teddy bear too much. And when she finally meets a real bear, it’s love at first site.

She becomes his honey! :rimshot:

Little Billy (Nicky Belm) – Little Billy is what all parents worried their kids would become in the 80’s– an entrepreneur without a conscience. We start the movie with him deciding the fates of a bevy of prostitutes, and soon find him creating peep shows for elephants out in the woods. He’s a brat, but, oddly, probably the most sane of them all.
Weejun (David Strathairn) – Yes. Future Academy Award nominee David Strathairn. He plays an Indian (or at least a man who thinks he’s an Indian) who becomes friends with the family as they rough it in the wilderness. He has much to teach them, especially in the arena of bobcat wrestling.

Don’t ever challenge the man without pants.

I mentioned above the three fake trailers, which get better as they go along. Gena’s Song, a mockery of independent women’s pictures, gets saddled with a weird gag with a blind man trying to explain the action which causes more confusion than humor. Raging Asshole is pretty broad, though the film achieves something akin to the look of Scorcese’s movie.

The feature itself is pretty hit or miss. The movie dawdles quite a bit to get it to feature length, and there’s one long sequence in a grocery store that just drags. Things pick up when the family reaches the woods (they leave their car with the attendant) and nature seems to be just as messed up as civilization was.

In fact, the movie ends with the family deciding to move back to civilization after civilization threatens to move to the woods. The ‘back to nature’ impulse that Hollywood idealizes is an anti-social desire and might be, as the movie shows, a rather subtle form of racism.

That newspaper’s quality puts my hometown paper to shame.

This is a film released by Troma, but even it’s ‘controversial’ stuff is such silly material that it’s still easy to digest. Sure we may have the outside of a crib while two babies are going at it, or we may get a bit of POV from a bear as he and the daughter Bambi consummate their love, but this is probably the most tame bear-on-girl sex you will ever see.

I hope.

There are other briefly funny segments. G. Gordon Liddy, ringleader behind Watergate, pops in for a commercial break where he promotes a charity to help those who act like Jerry Lewis. Morey Amsterdam, one of those vaudevillians, keeps popping up, telling bad jokes while an interviewer begs him to talk about the film on hand.

I… uh… huh.

It wears its low budget on its arm, and it’s a mixture of cheese, dumb gags, and early 1980’s humor. Only one mystery about the film endures: does David Strathairn admit to making this? I’d be kind of sad if he didn’t.

Rating: 6/10 (More Morely, died in Vietnam, Hot Doggy style, before he was a star,
elephants love this stuff, Picard would jerk it to this)

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