Director: Michael A.
Cast: David Lander, William Windom, Bruce Mahler
Special guest review!
By Michael Sullivan
One of my greatest joys in watching Unknown Movies is
well known celebrities in truly bizarre roles. Take, for example, Gary
Burghoff as the extremely creepy murderer in Small Kill,
Judd Nelson as the talentless comedian with three arms in The
Backward, Richard Kiel as the star of The Humanoid
(not really a strange role for Kiel, but strange in the fact that a
"stars" Richard Kiel) and David Lander as a psychotic clown in Funland.
In many of these actors' cases (except for Kiel) they
take a chance (or were really desperate) playing disturbing and truly
unlikable characters, and you can tell they got a real kick out of
playing sad, pathetic
pissants, and God bless 'em, because they're usually the sole reason
watching the movie.
Which brings me to Funland. Without
Lander, the movie
would be mostly unwatchable. It's the kind of movie where half the
could be eliminated and it wouldn't hurt the film at all. Anyway, our
satire of theme parks (Well, a biting satire if you consider Cracked
to be a masterstroke in social commentary) begins on a somewhat funny
with Bruce Burger, a Ronald McDonald parody (David Lander) filming a
alongside a Jerry's Kid-type poster child. After the commercial is
Bruce innocently asks, "This kid isn't contagious or anything, is he?"
After this, we are introduced to our usual menagerie of
'80s teen film
stereotypes (The Cool Guy, The Fat Guy, The Nerd, The Mean
Guy, etc.) who are all applying for summer jobs. But before you figure
these are the characters we'll watch trying to get laid or drop a box
bras on top of Authoritarian Guy's head in front of uptight old people,
the focus shifts back on Bruce (who we find out is constantly in his
costume), barging into executive Mike Spencer's office, demanding
to have the name on his checks changed to "Bruce Burger" (plot point!)
This creeps Mike out, so he talks with park owner Angus Perry (William
Windom). Angus reveals that Bruce was originally an accountant named
Stickney who snapped, and is only being kept on as an employee because
Neal and Angus were once friends.
Time to shift focus on our idiot teens again, who are
being bored by
a speech ("And that employee had a wooden foot.") But things pick
up when Angus gives a "prophetic speech" about investors hounding him
sell the park and the only way he'll sell the park is over his dead
Guess what happens?
Next day at the funeral, it is revealed that Angus' wife
has sold the
park to the DeMorrow family, a cartoonishly stereotyped mob family, and
- how's this for originality - the head of the family is a parody of
Brando in The Godfather! Wow! Finally somebody had the
to thumb their nose at The Godfather something
films, and TV. never had the guts to do. Hopefully someone will follow
this films lead and we'll see the shower scene in Psycho
mocked, or better yet a feature length satire of the Blair Witch
Project! (Sigh...) Mario introduces his sons - Carlo, a sleazy
business man, and Larry, a thug-like enforcer. They all decide to cut
expenses and hire the National Bruce Burger, which means our Bruce gets
Run! It's a nonsensical shift to our Cool Teen Guy,
who's trying to
pick up Love Interest Girl. Cool Guy tricks her into going out with him
in a ploy that could only work in the movies or the borderline
Thankfully, the scene ends, but Mike has to break the bad news to
Bruce doesn't take the news too well, and soon Bruce angrily argues
his puppet Peter Pepperoni. This climaxes when Bruce throws down the
and yells, "You can't puke, you're a puppet!"
The national Bruce Burger finally shows up, and he turns
out to be a
pretentious has-been actor who hates children, and throws Bruce out of
his dressing room after Bruce threatens to shove a pole up his ass.
nowhere left to go, Bruce is forced to live in the abandoned wax museum
(as seen on Scooby Doo), where he talks to a wax sculpture of
Bogart and his puppet pal Peter.
Meanwhile, in movie "B", Cool Guy tries to pick up Love
but Mean Authoritarian Guy (BTW, his name is Chip Cox - where would a Porky's
rip-off be without a cock joke?) won't let her (awww). So Cool Guy
to retaliate. Cool Guy does this by taking a picture of a couple Mean
Guy happens to be with, and they are all, of course, in front of a log
flume ride. Cool Guy asks the husband to put his arm around his wife -
this (in a very unnatural and really fake way) knocks Mean
Guy into the water behind him, and with that we bid a fond farewell to
our idiot teens for pretty much the rest of the movie. These
characters and their stale antics will be sorely missed.
But with open arms, we greet the next scene, which
features the DeMorrows
discussing ways to promote the park. One of the ideas is to replace the
wax museum with a twisted Disneyesque ride called "Celebrity Death and
Disease" - a weird-ass ride that has robots re-enacting Natalie
drowning and Elvis dying on the toilet, all in a replica of the Betty
At this point, the film gets slightly weirder with Bruce
that the entire cafeteria is "getting down" to a wretched song, while a
woman in pseudo-S&M gear wanders amongst them. Then Angus's
corpse reveals that the DeMorrows killed him to get Funland. (Excuse
me..... DUUUUHHHH!!!! ...Thank
So basically, the remainder of the film has the
DeMorrows trying to
find Neal to buy out his partnership in Funland, and Bruce's attempts
sabotage Funland's opening day by attempting to assassinate the
I'm ashamed to admit it, but for years I searched for
this film everywhere.
I read capsule reviews of it in reference books, and it sounded really
cool. A mafia family takes over a theme park, and an insane clown wants
to stop them? How could this miss? Well, it can miss when the writers
hacks Terry and Bonnie Turner) can't decide whether to make it a Porky's
rip-off, or a character piece about Bruce's progressive insanity. Also
throw in heavy amounts of bland executives arguing, lame pokes at The
Godfather and plenty of missed opportunities, and you got
a tape that will proudly collect dust in between Rockula
and the Hudson Brothers' movie Hysterical!
on the shelves
at your local video store. But what do you expect from two ex-SNL
who created the ultra irritating Coneheads?
Despite these setbacks, it does have its fair
share of moments.
Thanks to David Lander, who really throws himself into his role.
Whether he's violently shaking a kid in a wheelchair or showing up at a
funeral in a black clown wig and a giant painted tear under his eye to
give a wildly inappropriate eulogy, he proves to be a great overlooked
comedic actor and it's unfortunate he's stuck in mostly direct-to-video
kids' films nowadays.
As for the rest of the cast, they're either wasted, like
Jan Hooks as
a slutty secretary or Bruce Mahler as a very dull executive, or
like the generic '80s teens. Who, if there's a God in heaven, are all
their true talents to good use - that is, cleaning the toilets at
So to those who still might get the urge to search this
out I say go
ahead. Just remember - you've been officially warned.
(Editor's note: Speaking of those having the urge to
seek this out,
they may be surprised to find out it may be shelved in the action or
section at their video stores, which is where I've seen it placed in
video stores in my city. No doubt it's because of the wildly
video box art - it shows a homicidal-looking clown in a black jacket
a shotgun, with the caption, "Welcome to the abusement park.")
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See also: Big Man On Campus,
Good Times, Hollywood