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Laughing Boy   B

Toxic Monkey Productions

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Brazil J. Grisaffi
Writer: George Douglas Lee (based on his play)
Cast: Brazil J. Grisaffi, Anne Quackenbush, Michael Gray, Therese Kotara, Bob Gebert, Bryan Lee McGlothin, Tiffany Grant, Robin Craig, Garrison Wynn.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Laughing Boy, an indie comedy shot in Houston, Texas, chronicles an evening at a party to which Cody MacKenzie (Brazil J. Grisaffi) and his wife Judy (Anne Quackenbush) have been invited. While Judy thinks this may be Cody's chance to make a good impression on people who can further his career, Cody couldn't care less about trying to impress any uptight yuppies. He's only going because the party is celebrating a friend's engagement and, more importantly, it's being thrown by his boss, Elizabeth Sheridan (Therese Kotara), who he's desperately in lust with.

Watching the film, it was tough to decide if I wanted to cheer on Cody for saying and doing things that most people would never say or do at a corporate party or if I wanted to slap him for being such an obnoxious jerk. Cody says what's on his mind, political correctness be damned, and when an overweight televangelist (Robin Craig) arrives as party entertainment, Cody's juvenille look-at-me wit is unleashed full force. Of course, he'd already taken his pants off at least once by that point ("Can I have my pants back, please?") and he's showing no signs of slowing down on the booze. As played by director Brazil J. Grisaffi, Cody has a shaggy charm that comes through even when his hyperactive-kid-who-didn't-take-his-Ritalin act becomes annoying and it's clear that he's in dire need of a good spanking. Hey, at least he's never boring.

The film is spiked with amusing animated interludes that bring Cody's off-kilter thoughts to life; the animation (executed by Stone Soup Traditional Cel Animation) includes segments involving a fat woman masturbating with a chainsaw, which thankfully isn't shown in a graphic manner, and a burger joint with a crucified Jesus perched above the drive-through menu. They're quirky and fun, but the movie's strengths lie in its wickedly funny social satire, the frequently sharp dialogue (even if some of the verbal gags do fall flat), and the spirited performances from the cast.

Anne Quackenbush, in particular, gives Judy a strength and intelligence that's surprising because the role might have been reduced to a pitiful doormat of a wife stereotype had it been filled by a lesser actress. She puts up with Cody's antics not because she's powerless to do anything about it (she does know how to put her foot down when she needs to), but rather because his silly antics are part of why she loves him. It's actually kinda tough to believe that Cody would be drooling over his boss when his wife is similarly attractive and she has much more attitude and personality. Then again, Cody's eyes are opened to certain things as the night goes on and, yeah, he eventually realizes some things about love and friendship. See, it's not just about yuk-yuks -- this is a silly but smart comedy that actually has something to say and isn't pretentious or heavy-handed about saying it. It never loses its giddy sense of fun.

Review published 09.11.2002.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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