The comedy of pathetic loserdom gets a new antihero in “Ron Goossens, Low-Budget Stuntman.” A trifle thin but very funny nonetheless, this latest from the Dutch duo of Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil (of hit tube-to-cinema series “New Kids” as well as feature “Bro’s Before Ho’s”) is packed with local pop cultural references that won’t mean much to offshore audiences. Yet foreigners, especially those susceptible to off-kilter yet accessible humor in the general “Napoleon Dynamite” realm, will still find plenty to enjoy in this brightly produced tale of one very dim, alcoholic, blithely self-destructive amateur daredevil.
We first meet Ron Goossens (the writer-directors’ ongoing collaborator Tim Haars) in a moment of characteristic peril: blind-drunk, about to perform some ridiculously dangerous stunt just for the hell of it. He barely survives this one, which involves driving a car across an open drawbridge. After an explosion, personally catching fire, then reeling into the canal to quell the flames, unemployed 40-ish Ron emerges sodden to insouciantly slur, “I’m like totally shitfaced.”
That becomes a national catchphrase when someone posts a video of the “Jackass”-style hijink online. But overnight fame barely impacts our feckless protagonist, who has more important things to worry about — like his inevitable hangover, and being banned from the local pub (for failing to pay his tab rather than habitual drunkenness). Yea more pressing is the crisis that ensues when he discovers wife Angela (Maartje van de Wetering) shagging a drinking buddy in their own bed. Worse, it seems she’s shagged half the town. Worse still, she’s pregnant but plans to abort, and also to leave Ron, all thanks to his chronic, libido-impairing booze hounding.
This news does manage to penetrate Ron’s perpetual haze. Offering to do anything (short of sobriety) to win Angela back, he’s rather arbitrarily tasked with seducing celebrity sexpot Bo Maerten to prove he has some mojo left. Conveniently, his YouTube notoriety brings a showbiz offer from agent Berrie (Michiel Romeyn), who figures the podunk Evel Knievel’s complete disregard for grievous bodily harm makes him the perfect “low-budget stuntman” for a cash-strapped Dutch film industry happy to cut costs in any realm, including safety.
Soon he’s shooting Bo’s new vehicle “Straight Outta Alphen,” and awkwardly attempting to ingratiate himself with the repelled actress. Not only is she a teetotaler, she’s already involved with co-star Waldemar Torenstra. Ron and best bud Peter (Henry van Loon) manage to gain some traction with Bo by slipping her veteran popular hunky boyfriend a dose of GHB, prompting some highly objectionable behavior. But it takes yet another near-fatal stunt for Ron to get a grip on what he really wants.
“Ron Goossens, Low-Budget Stuntman” barely makes it to the 70-minute mark before commencing a lengthy closing-credits sequence punctuated by further gags. The sense of a somewhat curtailed narrative arc underlines Haars and van der Kuil’s background in skit comedy — and recalls the Lonely Island gang’s 2007 comedy “Hot Rod.” This feels like a protracted sketch that should’ve been filled out a bit further. (It also ought to have jettisoned some overly crass jokes, particularly a current of racial humor that’s no less irksome for being semi-ironical.)
Still, much of what’s here is inspired goofiness, mixing the genially rude with plenty of mockery at the expense of the country’s character and institutions. Maerten and Torenstra are just the most prominent personalities who gamely send themselves up here; longtime pop crooner Dennie Christian is deployed as a sort of kitschy Greek chorus in music video-style sequences. Topped by Tim Haars’ stoically dense lead, the comic character turns (most played by thesps who’ve often worked with the creators) are sharp.
Typically, comedy is the genre that too frequently skimps on aesthetic care, so it’s a pleasure to see how well-thought-out this exercise is in overall packaging terms, from handsome, colorful visual design contributions to the mock-heroic spaghetti western strains of Sizzer Amsterdam’s original score.