Indictingly titled “Ass Backwards” proves that no amount of comic talent can shine — or raise a chuckle — in the absence of even halfway decent material. This painfully unfunny vehicle for writer-stars June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson is, depressingly, a comedy built on the amusement value of stupid people that is itself too stupid to be funny. Slick packaging and some cast names will make it viable for undiscriminating home-format buyers, but viewer beware.The pic owes a debt of near-plagiaristic gratitude to “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” making that reasonably cute and funny cult fave look like “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” by comparison. Kate (Raphael) and Chloe (Wilson) are BFFs whose relentlessly upbeat double act sustains interlocking sets of delusions. Chloe is supposed to be the talented one, though her showbiz career so far seems to consist of standing lingerie-clad in a glass box dangled above clubgoers. Alleged brainiac Kate is CEO of a company consisting of herself and her eggs, which she tries to sell to childless couples — although they don’t seem to be buying. Their formative trauma was being humiliated as dual last-place finishers in a hometown children’s beauty pageant. So when said contest invites past participants to a 50th anniversary fete, shared false confidence compels them to attend — why not, since they’re getting evicted from their Manhattan apartment anyway. Getting there is two-thirds of the non-fun. En route, they drive hours in the wrong direction, wreck their van, get sheltered by a commune of aging 1970s radical lesbian feminists (an offensively stereotypical sequence), hit a strip-club amateur night, and run into their favorite recovering meth/sex addict from reality TV (Brian Geraghty, whose scenes raise the bar a tad). Finally they reach the pageant, where lame physical comedy ensues. Upright Citizens Brigade vet Raphael and former “Saturday Night Live” player Wilson have been funny elsewhere; here, they’ve drafted for guest appearances such welcome faces as Jon Cryer, Alicia Silverstone, Lea DeLaria, Bob Odenkirk and Vincent D’Onofrio, none of whom are used to the slightest benefit. When the worst thing one woman can think of to call the other is “dum-dum,” it only reinforces the suspicion that “Ass Backwards’ ” script was hijacked by a 5-year-old. The film is bookended by two squatting-to-pee-in-public sequences. These are highlights. On the plus side, first-time feature helmer Chris Nelson and editor Joshua Salzberg keeps things moving at an admirable clip; Andre Lascaris’ widescreen lensing is glossy and colorful; all other tech contributions are solid.
A Prominent Pictures and Playmaker Images presentation in association with Indion Entertainment, Iron Circle Pictures, Hungry Iguana Films, Rode Hard and Put Away Wet Prods. (International sales: UTA, Los Angeles.) Produced by Heather Rae, Molly Conners. Executive producers, Elysa Koplovitz, Russell Friedenberg, Paul L. Woodring Jr., Chad Burris, Ky Chaffin, Dori Sperko, Paull Cho, Jeff Steen, Kali Conner, June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson, Jerri Moore, Reggie Brown, Jeff Pies, Christopher Woodrow. Co-producers, Michael Romero, Laura Mehlhaff. Directed by Chris Nelson. Screenplay, June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson.
Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Andre Lascaris; editor, Joshua Salzberg; music, Orr Rebhun, Erica Weis; music supervisor, Marguerite Phillips; production designer, Ola Maslik; art director, Max Piersol; set decorator, Almitra Corey; costume designer, Kim Wilcox; sound, Gillian Arthur, Dennis Haggerty, Jesse Malings, Meghan Underwood; re-recording mixer, David Bach; supervising sound editor, John Robert Mariani; assistant director, Dylan Hopkins; casting, Jennifer Euston. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City at Midnight), Jan. 22, 2013. Running time: 83 MIN.
June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson, Jon Cryer, Vincent D'Onofrio, Brian Geraghty, Bob Odenkirk, Paul Scheer, Alicia Silverstone, Sandy Martin, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Lea DeLaria.