At first glance, Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” may appear ripe for spoofing: It features memorable characters, indelibly loopy dialogue and several unforgettable scenes. In reality, however, the patented looniness of “Pulp Fiction” makes it virtually spoof-proof. “Plump Fiction” is a shallow and surprisingly unimaginative attempt to parody Tarantino’s work, but pic’s biggest service is to remind us — by contrast — just how rich and inventive Tarantino’s film really is. The parody should have anemic B.O. and is likely to come and go in a hurry.
Tarantino has never concealed his own tendency to pilfer from cinema history — whether it be from Godard or American gangster films. But when he borrows from films, he adds new elements that give his work fresh life and an original voice.
In contrast, “Plump Fiction” takes Tarantino’s indie classic and spoofs it in a way that becomes lamentably predictable. Revisiting most of the celebrated scenes of “Pulp Fiction,” the new pic also throws in a potpourri of references to other indie pics like “Reservoir Dogs,” as well as to commercial hits like “Natural Born Killers,” “Forrest Gump” and “Nell.”
In place of Tarantino’s hit men Vincent and Jules, we get exterminators Jimmy (Paul Dinello) and Julius (Tommy Davidson); coke addict Mia and her husband Marsellus are replaced by compulsive eater Mimi (Julie Brown) and her spouse Montello (Robert Costanzo); coffee shop robbers Honey Bunny and Pumpkin are portrayed here as aspiring writer Bunny Roberts (Sandra Bernhard) and her Gump-like companion Bumpkin (Dan Castellaneta). Pic’s convoluted plot, like the original’s, has each of the storylines intersecting briefly. It also interweaves appearances by sexed-up psycho-killers Nicky (Matthew Glave) and Vallory (Pamela Segall), as well as a host of gun-toting strippers disguised as nuns.
Instead of taking cliches and making them new — as Tarantino did when he had John Travolta do the twist — writer/helmer Bob Koherr takes “Pulp Fiction’s” inventive scenes and makes them feel like cliches. Mimi and Jimmy’s tabletop dance, for example, is a yawner, and their increasingly spastic gyrations seem like a desperate attempt to inject a dead metaphor with life.
Still, pic does have its moments. One of Koherr’s more promising ideas involves a restaurant called the Independent Cafe, where staff members dress as memorable characters from independent films. Unfortunately, the concept never really comes to fruition.
The few times Koherr’s script manages to be amusing are when it subverts expectations instead of catering to them. Initially, the gimp/basement torture scene seems to be heading in a painfully obvious direction, but, when the gimp is unmasked as Nell, the situation sets up a surprisingly funny turn of events.
Thesping is above average overall. Standout performances include Pamela Segall’s Vallory, a dead-on impersonation of Juliette Lewis in “Natural Born Killers,” and, too briefly, Kane Picoy’s, billed simply as “Christopher Walken character,” a walk-on part that impressively mimics Walken’s articulation and manner.
Showing with “Plump Fiction” in Los Angeles venues is a 3-minute short entitled “Swing Blade.” A cross between “Swingers” and “Sling Blade,” this clever spoof provokes more laughs in its few minutes than “Plump Fiction” does in its entire running time.