Viewer Discretion Advised

Directors: Tommy Blaze, Phil Morton, Eddie Beverly, Richard Peters
Tommy Blaze, Ken Donovan, Paul Murphy

In the spirit of The Groove Tube and Kentucky Fried Movie, Viewer Discretion Advised is an uproarious '90's look at media-warped culture. Ted Smith (Tommy Blaze of The Newz) watches far too much television. One day, he awakens to find himself the star of sexy public services announcements, wild westerns, hair-raising horror movies, and goofy game shows.

Tune in. Turn on. Crack up. Viewer discretion is definitely advised.

That's what the written description on the back of the video box claims Viewer Discretion Advised is all about. From this description alone, the movie sounds like it just might be a laughfest, right? However, if you know a few facts surrounding this movie, you'll start to get more of a feeling Ted tries to find out why he always feels cold in doctors' officesthat the description is actually a sign of desperateness rather than an accurate indication of what's to come. So the movie apparently stars someone famous, someone from a TV comedy show? Sounds good, until you find out that The Newz wasn't exactly a hit TV show, only lasting one season. And as for starring someone famous, well, Blaze was only hot enough after The Newz to generate two more acting credits before disappearing to who knows where. Incidentally, none of those credits include this movie; despite the release date of this movie being 1998, the movie was actually made before The Newz, in 1991. From that fact alone, it's pretty obvious to conclude that the end results were so unappealing to potential distributors that none of them wanted to pick it up even when Blaze became "hot" when his show came out. In fact, it took three more years after The Newz went off the air before Troma finally picked it up. Though Troma isn't exactly known for releasing a lot of quality movies, it's obvious that after they screened Viewer Discretion Advised that they were quite desperate to try to catch the attention of renters, and not just from the way they plug "star" Tommy Blaze on the back cover.

Blaze does indeed play a character named "Ted Smith", but that's about all the video box description has in common with the actual movie. The Ted Smith in the movie doesn't watch too much television - in fact, I can't recall even one shot of him watching television at any moment during the running time. There's also no scene of him awaking to finding himself the star of various TV programs, or even just simply awaking. Also, he's not in any game show parodies, and he's not in any sexy public service announcements - in fact, there's nothing really coming across as a public service announcement of any kind in the movie. And as for it being "an uproarious '90s look at media-warped culture", well, I'll get to that later. Instead, the movie starts out in the style of Kentucky Fried Movie, one skit coming after the other. The movie starts with a commercial with the representative of a state government selling off its execution equipment after capital punishment was abolished. A little later there is a sketch concerning some cowboys around a campfire comparing the awful experiences they've had, each subsequent one becoming more outlandish. One fellow claims he was kicked by a horse, his bones broken and eyes gouged out in the process. "Forged a new nervous system out of clay, used my face. Stood up, popped my eyes back in, finished shoeing the horse. Don't tell me about pain!"

With there also being some clips of a condom commercial, as well as some footage from a generic action flick thrown in, by the end of that cowboy sketch, we are all prepared to watch a continuing string of unrelated sketches. But then, things Feeble-minded rural people - never saw that beforesuddenly change with the introduction of the Ted Smith character, a schizophrenic with several personalities who is under the care of a psychiatrist. Each appearance he makes in the movie has him visiting his psychiatrist with a different personality (teenager, cop, army veteran, etc.), which makes the excuse of showing this alternate personality of Ted Smith in an extended sketch. Then the movie subsequently goes back to the Kentucky Fried Movie format for several minutes after the end of each Ted Smith sketch. With such an awkward narrative device at work here, a closer examination of it can only bring a conclusion that some kind of disaster befell the movie during the middle of production; even though I've seen plenty of badly handled movies, I can't imagine that someone actually intended this movie to go this way. The most plausible explanation is that the movie was intended to be a complete mix of unrelated sketches, but financial problems prevented the building of extra sets and the hiring of extra actors. So with Tommy Blaze happening to appear in several sketches (probably because he helped to write and direct the movie), he and his brothers in film used what was left in the budget to build one set, hire a few more actors, and shoot all the psychiatrist clips at one time. All of which just adds to the feeling of desperateness that surrounding the movie.

I'm almost halfway through this review, and I see I've yet to start commenting on whether the movie itself manages to be entertaining despite the mishandling in its packaging (both for the video box and the way the sketches are assembled.) Is it any funny? Well, sometimes it is. I liked it when Ted Smith was in his teenager personality and saw his pathetic romantic life as a horror movie trailer (Just Friends - where female zombies stalk him and moan "No sex" and "You're like a brother to me.") My favorite sketch was one concerning the TV game show I'm Sorry ("A show where you have to beat the show to win!") It's very funny, with the sarcastic game show host (played by George Cahill) mockingly saying the title to the female contestant who has played and won for days on end but is getting nothing. She's pissed, but is somehow willing to play the game once more when she's promised a million in gold bars... if she manages to dodge the arrows fired from bikini-clad female archers who are blindfolded. Though its production values are horrendously cheap, everything else about the sketch works. Cahill and the anonymous woman playing the furious contestant play their parts with the right amount of exaggeration to be hilarious. Plus the writing and editing pace out the sketch so that it not only clips along at a good speed, it stops at the right place before it begins to overstays its welcome.

There are some other sketches that have some equally good ideas behind them, as well coming up with a few genuine gags from these ideas. However, they not only go on far, far beyond the point where we get it and we don't need to see anymore, but they play out with a slowness that makes them These game show gals give contestants stiff shafts - males also get arrowseven more of an agony to sit through. For example, take that cowboy sketch I mentioned three paragraphs ago. The gag behind this sketch is that each cowboy tells his friends an example on how macho he is by telling them a horrendous experience he went through and survived. Then to further prove to each other how macho they are, they start right there around the campfire to cut their wrists, shoot themselves in the feet, cut off their legs with a rusty saw, etc. It sounds funny, and it could have been consistently hilarious had it been reasonably paced and trimmed of excessive fat. But because of its bad execution, it's only worth a couple of laughs at the most. To begin with, the... cowboys... talk like... this when they tell those stories about what happened to them in the past - and they tell too many of them, to boot. And while activities like a cowboy blowing the back of his head off and leaving a big bloody smear on the bale of hay behind him may sound lively and good gory fun, they execute... this stuff... with the same... degree of... slowness. As well, just like with the cowboys' stories, they keep showing one gory activity after the other far, going beyond the point of humor and into the "yeah yeah we get the gag" realm.

Some sketches not only suffer from this deadly slow pacing, but from the fact that the idea behind the sketch - even a legitimate idea - is just not properly thought out, even during the few opportunities the sketch has to rip it up. Take the longest and last sketch, a spoof of slasher films, where a group of young people go to an isolated country home for a weekend retreat. Though the slasher movie genre at first thought seems ripe for parody, when you think about it, the genre is kind of a parody of itself. We already know about the various elements that keep popping up in these movies - a place where there were violent murders years ago, sex before death, the girl who has never put out, etc. - so it's not terribly funny in this sketch when people simply repeat what we already know, as when at one point when someone says, "Well, since I'm the only one without someone, I might as well go downstairs to get the beer." Occasionally the sketch does take these gags a step further and make them somewhat amusing, such as the times when Blaze's character pleads with the cameraman not to cut to a point-of-view shot, or asks the cameraman if he had just cut away from a shot of the monster. But most often the sketch simply recreates the clichés, and thinks that is funny by itself. If it weren't for those few times when the sketch goes the extra mile to spoof those clichés, plus a few other somewhat amusing gags (such as the gruesomely funny fate of the fat loser in that basement), the whole sketch would be quite painful to sit through.

Then there are the sketches that simply have a bad idea behind them, so the sketches have a further hurdle to accomplish along with the slow pace and the movie's beat-to-death attitude. The gag behind a specialty cable channel spoof is that In this movie, the gags fall in the toilet - in more way than oneall the channel does is give out live reports as to what time it is at the home office and various places around the world. That's it. A news report on another channel - World At War - has a feature from a guy in the Khyber Pass, who all of a sudden is blown up during his report. That's it. There's are several spoofs on that "this is your brain on drugs" commercial, which simply consist of putting one object in another ("This is a tennis shoe. This is a tennis shoe in a blender." Zzzzzzzzzzz. "Any questions?") That's it. The worst of these sketches - winning by default simply because of its ungodly length - is the one where a businessman and his partner go to a bar... have a drink... one of them sees an attractive woman... goes to her... starts hitting on her... attracts her... she leaves the bar with him... they go to her place.... they get into bed.... they start having sex.... and then (heh heh, get this!)... the condom police break in to apprehend them, because they are not using a condom! And the poor guy will have to go into custody for six months while they fully test his blood, and the woman will have to go though something similar! That's it.

While Viewer Discretion Advised is definitely not the worst sketch comedy movie out there - for one thing, it does have some genuine laughs, which is more than you can say about Outtakes or Cracking Up - it could be considered the laziest of its kind. Even in the worst of what this genre has to offer, you can sense that at least everyone involved was trying hard to make their enterprise funny. In this movie, you get the feeling that (except for the game show parody) that nobody is really giving a full and thought-out effort, Tommy Blaze included. Though he plays several different characters, he seems to think that just playing these stock characters in the same exaggerated way (read: ham), that he'll automatically be funny. It's not funny, and it's quite exasperating that we have to sit though most of this movie with this mugging actor. The only times he is funny is when he's given a line that's funny, not because he is funny (if you follow me.) This might be the explanation as to just why Blaze hasn't made any new appearance for the past few years - maybe the Hollywood people in charge of casting viewed him enough to make some industry-wide discretion.

UPDATE: I received this letter:

"My name is George Cahill & I'd like to thank you for the review of that terrible movie I did! I played the game show host & later went on to win a Silver Telly for my role as Mr. Greenjeans on THE ALL-NEW CAPTAIN KANGAROO SHOW which ran for three seasons along with a spin-off called MISTER MOOSE'S FUN-TIME

"Viewer Discretion Advised was shot in (I believe) 1985 on less than a shoe string budget in Tampa Florida by Tommy & a shyster named Eddy Beverly Jr.. The talent was local except for Mr. Blaze & the sets were any unoccupied office or house they could beg (location fee? don't think so!) and an un-air conditioned warehouse for the game show sequence.

"You really hit the nail on the head in the review. What a bomb! I'd completely forgotten about it until someone emailed me that they thought that I'd been in a Troma film. I contacted Troma & they sent me three copies gratis. (not in big demand I guess!) Anyway, watched it, threw up & prayed no one else ever saw it..... then I ran across your site.

"That's about it. Just wanted to say thanks for the kind words & spelling my name right. Besides Tommy Blaze, mine was the only name you mentioned & you had good things to say about me. You've got great taste!"

Verdantly yours,
George Cahill

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Cracking Up, Outtakes, Prime Time