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When Nature Calls
(1985)
 

Director: Charles Kaufman                 
Cast:
David Orange, Barbara Marineau, Nickey Beim


Troma movies - you either love them or hate them. That's the impression I've received from others over the years; they either love these intentionally schlocky movies, or they hate them, claiming that these intentionally bad movies just end up being plain bad.

Which category do I fit in? For me, I find I don't fit in any of these two - I've found that when I rent a Troma film, it's a 50-50 chance of whether I'll like it or not. For example, I greatly enjoyed The Toxic Avenger, Troma's War, and Tromeo and Juliet. But I extremely disliked Killer Babe From The CIA, Splatter University, and Surf Nazis Must Die. So I knew that when I rented this Troma movie, my feelings would be one of two extremes - no in-between. Fortunately, this time I lucked out - When Nature Calls is a very funny low-budget comedy. Not just a comedy, but a rare gem from Troma, a genuine comedy, not a movie with intentional camp. It's one of the more amusing comedies, new or old, that I've seen for some time.

Before the movie really starts, we are treated to three "Coming Attractions"; the first is for Baby Bullets, a 30s style gangster movie, though with a real toddler as the title figure. The site of a baby going through the standard clichés creates several genuine laughs. Next we get a trailer that, for the benefit of blind people in the audience, is narrated in a kind of early Descriptive Video Service, here called "Blind-O-Vision". Unfortunately, for the trailer's narrator (who we get to see while the trailer is rolling), he himself is blind, so he finds describing the movie quite difficult. An amusing idea that somehow doesn't quite come off (maybe because of its length). Fortunately, the final trailer for Raging Bullshit compensates with a juvenile but hilarious spoof of Martin Scorsese's masterpiece.

(Observing the length of the movie - 75 minutes - it is clear why these three seemingly unnecessary comic trailers were made along with the main feature - to pad out the running time to an acceptable length. But never mind.)

Then, the "main feature" starts, and I guess that's what gives the movie its title (though we never actually see the title "When Nature Calls" anywhere in the movie.) In New York city, the Van Waspishes family is very unhappy - at least that's what patriarch Greg Van Waspishes decides during his lunch break at a construction site. Later that day, he breaks the news to his son Billy and daughter Bambi that they are going to leave everything behind to move to the country. Needless to say, they are not very happy to hear this. Despite their protests, the family quickly packs up and drives to the country. And like The Wilderness Family, they slowly learn how to find shelter, gather food, and make friends with the animals and a Native American who lives nearby.

I know that plot sounds pretty skimpy, and doesn't seem to hold the potential for many gags. But it does. For starters, there are a lot of sight gags and background gags, enough to rival a Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker movie. In fact, there were several times when I had to rewind, because there were gags that almost slipped by me - this is a movie that you might have to watch several times to catch all the jokes.

The filmmakers also place twists on the usual clichés associated with serious wilderness pictures. The daughter not only makes friends with the animals, but also has an, um, deeper relationship with a bear. The family's native friend, "Weejun" from the Ka-o-pec-tate tribe is not quite knowledgeable or heroic as you may think. During a cougar attack, the family's dog does not turn out to be able to earn his keep

And there are plenty of comic situations along the way. When the family, deep in the forest, finds the right place to build their new home, they find a parking attendant to look after their car. The movie's theme song starts out normally, but then degenerates into such incomprehensibility, even the singers ask, "What the hell are we singing abooooootttt????" And a number of cameos by minor celebrities, such as Willie Mays (stepping out of a maize field), G. Gordon Liddy, and the best one, Morley Amsterdam, who steals the show with his completely irreverent stories.

A comedy like When Nature Calls will be dismissed by some people, claiming to be a piece of fluff with no substance. But do you always have to have a solid base for any kind of movie? If it makes you laugh, how can it be bad? Maybe it wouldn't be good to have a diet of this kind of movie, but I can't - and won't - deny that fact that I laughed.

(Oh, and be sure to check out those closing credits!)

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See also: Mountain Man, Love At Stake, Fire Sale

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