O.C. and Stiggs

28 Mar

O.C. & Stiggs – directed by Robert Altman. Parody. Two 16 year old middle class high school boys wreak revenge on a mean insurance agent. 109 minutes Color 1983-87.



Thrown full our faces and we are expected to find it funny.

Robert Altman detested teenage movies, and when he was offered one, presumed to make it as a satire of the genre he was expected to produce. It fails. Things that looks funny on paper sometimes no amount of fancy cutting can enliven with actual fun. On paper alone is where they are funny. It is not a satire. It is a parody, a quite different thingamajig.

What’s wrong with it is the casting of the two boys, which resulted from a national hunt that ended up snaring two perfectly ordinary youths. Broad comedy never requires ordinary youths. What it requires is young people with marked quirks. Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor were wonderful together because they were most peculiar people. Their eyes were odd, their bodies were odd, their voices were odd. Likewise, this odd film requires boys who are absolutely odd; instead they are Wonder Bread.

Cavorting on the sidelines, we have Louis Nye momentarily amusing as a gay high school drama teacher, and Jane Curtin consistently droll as a relentlessly drunk housewife in a teetotal household. Visible also is Dennis Hopper as an NRA maniac, Ray Walston as a  talkative codger, and Cynthia Nixon as a charming young thing –– all peculiar, each and every one of them, and all belonging here because all inherently funny. So there is entertainment value to be sighted from time to time.

But the film itself fails because Altman’s detestation of the genre is insufficient to realize that the film is not a teen-flick, but a flick for eleven year olds. It is their fantasy of what teenage license would be like.

The story resembles a mayhem movie from The National Lampoon, which in fact it is.  I was on the writing staff of the National Lampoon, and, while I could not have done it, my friend Chris Miller who wrote Animal House would surely have patted this material into better shape. But what Altman has permitted is not a satire but a satyricon, an adolescent phantasmagoria, which is not to say there are not amusing and arresting passages.

But Altman, who never wanted to make the same movie twice, took on the new genre without considering whether farce was actually right for his instrument as a director. In the end and overall the film suffers from The Auntie Mame Syndrome which is that if you try to show up stuffy people by torturing them, they turn into teddy bears in the minds of the audience who tend subconsciously to cuddle up with them and take Auntie Mame to be a Nazi.

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Posted in ACTING STYLE: HOLLYWOOD CRISP, Dennis Hopper, DIRECTED BY Robert Altman

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