Whoops Apocalypse

Director: Tom Bussmann   
Stuart Saunders, Grame Garden, Marc Smith

Note: The following are excerpts from my upcoming memoir
Diary Of A Mad White Movie Critic ("Mad" Being The Crazy Yet Lovable Kind Of Mad)

NOVEMBER 1, 2010
- Well, it has happened. I could have said something earlier to get out of it, but it's too late now. I am now committed to this December's "Secret Santa" roundtable, which is being run and organized by myself and the other B-Masters. Just what exactly is the "Secret Santa" roundtable? Well, like the other roundtables, it revolves around all the participating B-Masters reviewing movies with the same theme. The theme this time, however, is that each B-Master will assign another B-Master a certain movie to review. The last time this happened - years before I was allowed to join the B-Masters - the movies that were assigned were not exactly high quality. Some of the movies that were inflicted on the other B-Masters included such megaton bombs like America 3000, The Apple, Prayer Of The Rollerboys, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and The Video Dead. With picks like those, maybe one might understand why I would be reluctant to get involved, even though I have always tried my best to stay on the good side of all the other B-Masters. There's another reason why I was thinking about opting out of the roundtable. What if I got one of those rare movies where I find it difficult to impossible to review? All the other reviews I've done to this point have been movies of my choosing, movies I felt comfortable reviewing.

But it's too late to speak up now. I am committed to the roundtable now, and I better make the best of the situation. In fact, earlier today I made a step into making the best of the situation. Being assigned to assign Nathan of Cold Fusion Video Reviews a movie, I thought back to all the awful movies I had seen in my lifetime, and promptly sent Nathan via an e-mail his assignment, one particular awful movie. (Ironically, that same awful movie years earlier prompted me to write what I think is one of my best movie reviews.) Sending Nathan his assignment filled me with sadistic glee, despite Nathan always being a fine fellow towards me. I am curious as to how he'll react to the actual movie when he watches it. I am even more curious as to what movie I'll be assigned to watch. The individual assigning me a movie is El Santo from the web site 1000 Misspent Hours And Counting. I wonder what I'll have to watch.

[Later in the day] Well, El Santo has given me my assignment. It's the movie Whoops Apocalypse. Whoops Apocalypse? It did ring a bell with me. I remember years and years ago spotting this British movie at my local video store. All I remembered about it was that it was a comedy based around the idea of nuclear destruction. In fact, I almost got around to renting it, but ultimately didn't because I heard it was based on a British TV series. I felt that since I hadn't seen the TV show, I might not understand the movie. But despite what reservations I had, or may still have, it's now time for me to watch it. So I went to Amazon and found I could have a brand spanking new VHS copy of the movie for only $2.83! However, upon ordering the movie, I discovered I would have to pay an additional $12.29 to ship the movie to my country. Such is a price for being a B-Master.

NOVEMBER 2, 2010 - Today I got notice that my order had been shipped. The e-mail notice I got also noted that I should expect my order to arrive by December 3 at the earliest, January 5 at the latest. Will I get the movie in time to participate next month?

NOVEMBER 9, 2010 - It's been a week, and no sign of the movie in my mailbox yet. True, it's a bit early, but already I am a little concerned that I might not meet the deadline in time. And what if the movie gets lost in the mail? Trying to look at the situation more positively, maybe the delay is saving me from watching an awful movie.

NOVEMBER 16, 2010 - Two weeks now, and Whoops Apocalypse still hasn't arrived. The movie may be bad, but I would really like it to arrive before mid-December so I can properly participate in the roundtable.

NOVEMBER 18, 2010 - How about that - today in my mailbox I found my copy of Whoops Apocalypse. So my worries about the movie being stuck in customs hell were for nothing... this time. And the tape arrived in Whoops Apocalypsegood shape, still sealed in its cellophane wrapping and no visible damage seen when I slid the tape out of its box. And the movie played okay when I stuck it in my VCR to play the first few seconds. So it looks like I'll be able to make the roundtable on time. I've reserved time next week to watch and review the movie. For now, I have just read the description on the back of the video box to prepare me for what I will watch. The description was as follows: "Based on an award-winning British television series, Whoops Apocalypse is an irreverent send-up of international politics. Loretta Swit (M*A*S*H) stars as Barbara Adams, America's first female president. No sooner does she take office than her first international crisis arises: the tiny Central American country of Maguadora invades the British protectorate on Santa Maya, and England vows to reclaim it. A simple territorial dispute quickly becomes a game of nuclear roulette involving some of the zaniest political players since Dr. Strangelove learned to love the bomb. Veteran British comedian Peter Cook turns in a wonderfully dry performance as the lunatic prime minister Sir Mortimer Chris, whose peculiar form of diplomacy forces a superpower conflict that edges the world toward nuclear war. Can President Adams save the world before it's too late? A distinguished supporting cast, including Herbert Lom (The Pink Panther series), round out this insightful black comedy, delivered with audacious British wit."

NOVEMBER 23, 2010 - Well, today I sat down to watch Whoops Apocalypse, and as I write this I am sorting out my many thoughts and notes I made while watching the movie. Taking a quick glace at the back of the movie's video box lying beside my keyboard, I see beside the plot description a blurb that the movie is "...a hilarious comedy in the tradition of Airplane!" Well, they are partially right; the humor and the attitude towards the plot material in the movie are right out of Airplane! There are sight gags both in the foreground and background of scenes, the jokes come at a rat-tat-tat machine gun-like pace, and there are goofy characters, some who play it straight and others who joke it up. There are even jokes in the closing credits. But the fact that this movie was imitating the brand of humor that was made in Airplane! gave me a problem. Yes, I liked the movie Airplane!... when I first saw it years and years ago. In the years after it was first released, its success lead to an eventual downfall of this particular kind of comedy. As the years went by, there were many attempts by filmmakers (both the same ones who made Airplane!, as well as others) to duplicate the successful humor of that movie, and most of them were utter failures, like Loaded Weapon 1, Fatal Instinct, and all those recent movies written by hacks Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg (Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet The Spartans, etc.) Watching all these bad movies and their relentless bad humor coming from misunderstanding of the proper comic timing (as well as what would be considered genuinely funny gags) in Airplane!, the entire genre (at least to me) suffered as a result. What was previously zany, clever, and biting now comes across as forced and desperate. In fact, when I rewatched Airplane! recently, it didn't seem as funny to me as it once was.

This may be the reason why I didn't laugh very much while watching Whoops Apocalypse. I did not laugh when the British prime minister was making a speech in parliament, while behind him a couple of dozen politicians were in a fist fight and a horse was stumbling through the aisles. I also didn't chuckle the least bit later in the movie when a politician was sent a "Rambogram", which consisted of a Stallone look-alike croaking out a message to the recipient. And when one character says, "We would sell our grandmothers for such a man", guess what supposed hilarity the movie immediately cuts to. This kind of attitude, of doing anything for a laugh instead of coming up with carefully thought out gags for a fictional yet somewhat more realistic world that usually should be limited (even for a comedy) as to what could possibly happen, is the kind of thing that has killed other comedy genres before. Just look at the spy spoof genre. In fairness to the movie, I have to admit that I did find a few things funny while watching it. The carefully selected cast, for one thing, makes a number of gags work that would have undoubtedly fallen flat had they been acted out by other hands. The plot description on the back of the video box got it right about Peter Cook, playing the British prime minister. He plays his role with utter seriousness, even when the insanity of his character starts to reveal itself and has him telling the British public that the problems of their country come from pixies and trolls. The character really seems to believe what he says, instead of delivering it like a joke, and some welcome laughs come from this. However, the character that really steals the show when he appears is the terrorist Lacrobat, played by Seinfeld star Michael Richards. His devious character, sporting a number of different disguises and aliases throughout the movie really show off his comic talents and had me chuckling at times - though I must confess that I didn't laugh during the scene where he wears brown makeup on his face and acts like an African-American in a way that would judged by many as being uncomfortably stereotypical.

Herbert Lom, on the other hand, doesn't get much of a chance to show off the comic skills he showed in The Pink Panther series. Though he plays the leader of the country that invades Santa Maya, his character soon becomes an afterthought, even disappearing for a lengthy part of the movie despite the British making a major military strike at his military and country at this point. An odder decision concerning the characters comes with Loretta Swit as the American president. While you might think that the movie would make fun of her, curiously the movie doesn't do so at all. Her character is instead shown to be sane and intelligent, an island in a sea of insanity. There seems to be no reason for this except maybe that the filmmakers needed an American distribution sale to finance the movie, and an incompetent president would make the movie seem insulting to Americans in the eyes of Hollywood. Whatever the reason, this character doesn't really seem to fit in the rest of the movie. While I'm speaking of the characters, while they may be funny at times, it comes at a price. There are simply too many characters in this movie. I haven't mentioned British royalty member Princess Wendy, two reporters that track her, members of the Soviet Union government, plus a number of other characters that each get enough focus in the movie that the central plot of the movie comes to a shrieking halt when it is not moving very slowly. Along with the "anything goes" attitude towards the comedy in the movie, this illustrates the main reason why Whoops Apocalypse fails - it simply tries to do too much, as well as doing so in too little of an amount of time. Maybe this problem didn't exist in the television series that inspired this movie, seeing it played out in six thirty minute episodes. But as it plays here, the "whoops" part of the title really seems apt.

NOVEMBER 19, 2010 - Ah, Pola, my Russian beauty! What would I do without you? How you charmed those certain members of the Russkaya Mafiya of my city as you translated the negotiations I had with them. Without you, they wouldn't have their new armaments and we wouldn't have that suitcase of money. How charmed I was when we were back home and you covered yourself with a fistful of the money as you lay in bed and said in that seductive voice, "Don't I look extra inviting?" And I remember that crafty smile of yours when I responded, "You look even better with absolutely nothing covering you." And as you brushed off the money with one sweep of your hand, unbuttoning your blouse and pulling it open, revealing your succulent [Note: The free preview of my memoirs ends here.]

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See also: Gas-s-s-s, Hysterical, When The Wind Blows