Dunk Tank Tuesday: SMOSH

09/22/2015  By  Joseph Wade     No comments

Every month, one hapless FRC writer will subject themselves to a terrible movie voted on by you, our wonderful readers. In this first installment, Joe sat in stunned silence as he witnessed the death of comedy as he knew it.

A few weeks ago, I presented our readers with a choice. Three movies, each brand spanking new and uniquely repellent…

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Even before we set up the actual poll, votes started coming in via Twitter and Facebook for Smosh. Some called it the obvious choice, which seemed odd to me, because I just assumed everyone would gravitate toward Superfast! Shows what I know about picking terrible movies. At any rate, the die has been cast.

Today, I sit before you a man apparently ill-equipped for dissecting a film as willfully stupid and ill-conceived as Smosh: The Movie. I feel pretty comfortable saying this, though: Smosh’s brand of humor is completely lost on me. I at least have enough self-awareness to realize saying things like “the comedy is poorly conceived” or “screaming is not a joke” is beside the point. That only serves to make me seem like even more of an angry old codger. But you know what? I’m okay with that. I can accept that my hair is starting to turn grey, and that I’m not as spry as I once was, so not getting some younger idiots’ idea of comedy isn’t the worst thing in the world. And after all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure; only in this analogy, the first man is a grown-ass adult and the second man is eight years old. However, the fact remains: The Smosh movie didn’t just kill my perception of comedy; it smothered comedy to death in its sleep with a pillow full of farts.

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“Oh man, here comes the pillow…”

We’re introduced to best friends Ian (Hecox) and Anthony (Padilla) in an Odd Couple-esque living situation more attuned to the plight of the modern millennial. Anthony is trying to better himself by getting a job and moving out of his parents’ house (and into Ian’s), while Ian seems content to sit at home and harass women on YouTube, because every Gallant needs his Goofus. When the two receive an invite to their high school reunion, Anthony panics because it includes a link to an embarrassing YouTube video. The YouTube video in question: Anthony makes a complete ass of himself singing a copyright-friendly knockoff of the Pokemon theme song to his high school crush, Anna (Jillian Nelson), at their graduation party. Still in a panic, Anthony marches Ian down to YouTube headquarters and asks CEO Steve YouTube (actual comedian Michael Ian Black) to remove the video before Anna can see it and remember what a stupid dork Anthony is. Instead, Steve YouTube sends the pair through a portal into the bowels of the website to retrieve the video themselves.

Did I say ‘YouTube’ enough times in that last paragraph? I don’t think I did, so I’ll try to compensate in this next one. YouTube, as I’m sure you’re aware, is a website where literally anyone with a camera can post any video they want. The beauty of the system is that for viewers like you and me, YouTube is completely free to use. And yet, the entire 85-minute torture gauntlet that is Smosh: The Movie feels like nothing more than a shameless plug for YouTube, a free website that regularly accounts for 15% of all internet traffic. If by some bizarre chance you know enough about Smosh to seek out their movie, but have no idea what YouTube is, then you’re probably either a unicorn or Smosh’s grandma. Naturally, I have to conclude that Smosh made this entire movie to explain to their grandparents what the hell they do for a living.

The lion’s share of the film — its entire reason for being, really — finds Ian and Anthony bouncing around YouTube, popping up in video after video. These range anywhere from generic cat videos to furry sex parties to videos from established personalities like Markiplier and Jenna Marbles, or even fake ads for celebrity endorsements like Steve Austin’s Stone Cold Creamery. Ultimately, Smosh takes the form of a sketch comedy film, but the tedious setup to get us there is excruciatingly elaborate, and the actual payoff of a massive YouTube video roll call is half-assed and unsatisfying. There are more stops than starts to the gags here, and every stop is accompanied by three minutes of jokesplaining, because I guess we need to be told why something is funny before we’re given the all-clear to laugh at it.

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Or better yet, let’s just skip the explanation and move on to the nightmares.

It should be noted that Smosh, the YouTube channel run by Padilla and Hecox, has been around almost as long as the site has, and is consistently one of its most viewed. Clearly, these guys are doing something right. Whatever that something is, though, sure as hell didn’t find its way into their movie. This either has high production values for a Smosh video, or low production values for an actual feature length film; I’m honestly not sure which. If you’ve been producing YouTube videos for ten years, it makes sense that you’d eventually want to make the jump to movie screens. One of the first things you’ll probably learn is that your homemade blue screen effects aren’t going to cut it anymore. And if you know that going in, you either need to step up your game or go the extra step and turn that shittiness into its own joke. Smosh accomplishes neither. (The above image notwithstanding, because there’s no way anyone meant for that to be so goddamn terrifying.)

To aid Ian and Anthony on their quest for global cinematic domination is director Alex Winter. Yes, that Alex Winter. The Bill to Keanu’s Ted. Lately, Winter has been keeping busy working on various documentaries and TV shows, but this is his first feature work in quite some time. It’s almost fitting that Winter directs these two in an ersatz Bill and Ted knockoff, or at least it would be if he’d stuck the landing. You’d think that Bill S. Preston, Esq. would have a pretty decent handle on how to put together a film about two bozos bouncing between planes of reality. Instead, his approach seems to be more of the “point, shoot and let Smosh do it’s thing” variety. He does get to cameo as a pretty cool dead guy, though, so I guess it’s not a complete loss.

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Alex Winter. Never Forget.

I don’t know, the more I think about this film, the more depressed I get. Smosh isn’t filled with jokes so much as incoherent screaming, forced references and callbacks to nothing. The film keeps repeating three or four of the same poorly-staged pratfalls, as though someone taught them the Rule of Three applied to literally everything. It’s true that you have to learn your craft before you can be a pro, but this movie is the result of a decade’s worth of experience from several different people. Kinda makes you wonder about Malcolm Gladwell’s whole “ten thousand hours” thing.

My granddad used to put bricks all over his front porch so the neighborhood kids would stop jumping their skateboards off of it. Now that I’ve seen the Smosh movie, I feel like I understand him just a little bit more. If I could brick up The Movies so YouTubers would stop trying to get in, believe me, I would. Maybe that’s an elitist thing to say, but what do I care? I’m old now.

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About Joseph Wade

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Joseph Wade is secretly three bulldogs in a trenchcoat. Their favorite movie is Turner & Hooch.

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