Another videogame adaptation, “Postal” is otherwise quite different from what audiences expect from oft-dissed helmer (and scenarist) Uwe Boll. This energetic if scattershot farce aims to be the “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” of bad-taste satires on an out-of-control post-9/11 world. Like that non-classic, its sheer exertion often impresses more than the number of actual laughs scored. Still, this anything-goes exercise isn’t dull — one just wishes the outrageousness were more consistently funny.
Deliberate flaunting of myriad taboos could make “Postal’s” planned October U.S. theatrical launch problematic with skittish exhibitors. But if marketed as a film with something to offend everyone (as “The Loved One” once was), it could draw youngish adults who enjoy rude humor with an edge. On DVD, the pic will no doubt acquire a fan base in many territories, Uncle Sam’s included.
Original three “Postal” vidgames have been widely criticized (and sometimes banned) as works of tasteless, desensitizing mayhem. Defenders say the games are too clearly over-the-top satirical to promote the violence, racism and other bad behaviors depicted.
Certainly, Boll’s translation is equal-opportunity cartoonish in embracing and sending up stereotypes and sacred cows, though most mainstream viewers — not the target demo here — will be appalled by certain ideas being used for comedy. They range from an opening 9/11 hijacker cockpit sequence to a fade with secret allies George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden skipping hand-in-hand into the nuclear explosion-riddled sunset.
In between, countless deliberate offenses are lobbed at the viewer, including much gratuitous child imperilment and Dave Foley’s exposed member. Targets skewered include not just the Taliban and the Bush administration but also gun-crazy Americans, tree-hugging Americans, motivational seminars, why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along inspirational speeches, Asian-American drivers, handicapped panhandlers and “Brokeback Mountain.” Boll himself, who appears as the director of a Third Reich-themed “Little Germany” amusement park cheerfully admits, “My films are funded by Nazi gold” (an actual Internet rumor).
Known as Dude (Zack Ward), then Postal Dude once he’s unfairly linked to various crimes, the protag is a hapless resident of ill-named burg Paradise. Unemployed and desperate, he turns to uncle Dave (Foley), founder of a New Age-y apocalyptic cult whose real purpose seems to be to provide him with Playboy Bunny-type worshippers. Unfortunately, the IRS has gotten wise and he needs a major cash infusion fast.
Dave and Dude come up with a plan to steal a valuable shipment of Krotchy Dolls, a toy in high demand but short supply. Unfortunately, the same idea is seized on by Mohammed (Michael Benyaer), fervent chief acolyte to bin Laden (Larry Thomas), who is hiding right here in Paradise. Once the two factions collide at Little Germany, the pic piles on one chase and splatstick set piece after another.
Boll achieves a bright, big-production feel on a reported $15 million budget, with tech and design contributions adding to the colorful overall impact. Cast was encouraged to invent business on-set, resulting in some nice riffing. But for every genuinely funny idea, there are others that play flat, while many others settle for scatological outrageousness of a non-envelope-pushing kind.
Boll does mean to provoke, but to pull off a satirical critique of the volatile subjects here would require sharper wit than he and co-scenarist Bryan C. Knight generally provide. “Borat,” “Team America: World Police” and “Hot Fuzz” mixed subversive commentary and bad-taste humor with a cleverness “Postal” seldom achieves, though its sheer antic energy does compensate somewhat.
Amid otherwise fairly broad performances, Ward’s deadpan transition from milquetoast to Rambo does a lot to hold the pic together.