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The juvenile Belgian buddy comedy “Mother Schmuckers” seems to have been designed to test viewers’ patience and/or let its creators off the hook for making a movie that’s as proudly gross as it is amateurish. Co-writer/co-director duo Harpo and Lenny Guit’s apparent disregard for their viewers’ comfort can sometimes be quite funny, depending on your tolerance for messy, meandering absurdist comedy.
Keeping viewers on their back-foot seems to have been the Guits’ main aesthetic principal. There’s not much of a plot in this 70-minute doodle: two man-child slackers, brothers Issachar and Zabulon (Maxi Delmelle and Harpo Guit), must find their family dog January Jack (Fresco) before their mom Cachemire (Claire Bodson) disowns them. Most of the succeeding jokes are fixated on bodily fluids, inappropriate sexual advances, rude noises, etc. Imagine a disorienting European hybrid of Adult Swim’s stoner-friendly cartoons and the proudly crass dorm-room sitcom staple “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Pretty weird, right?
The Guits’ filmmaking also often seems frantic and slapdash with many establishing scenes being edited just ahead of whatever action’s happening on-screen; disorienting hand-held camerawork suggests a leisurely spontaneity that only does so much to enhance the movie’s repetitive and eventually predictable button-mashing.
There’s only so many places for such a small and dim comedy to go, so of course it inevitably climaxes with a gag about hobos and necrophilia. Both the set-up and duration of this finale are effectively unsettling, but many of the other jokes that are scattered throughout this concluding scene just sit there. Then again, dismissing “Mother Schmuckers” as uneven seems almost beside the point given that the movie’s often seemingly one scene away from trotting out thuggish pranks like Ding Dong Ditch and/or I’m Not Touching You.
If watching this movie is like playing a game, then the only real way to win is by refusing to flinch. Even Issachar and Zabulon get bored at one point and chase each other around with a loaded gun. To test this firearm, Zabulon first tries to shoot a pigeon. Then he points the gun at Issachar and chases his sibling around a public park. Some bystanders confuse them for terrorists and make cutting-edge jokes about “jihad.” Issachar and Zabulon also almost eat what may or may not be grilled feces. This is all within the first 15 minutes, by the way.
Issachar and Zabulon get into a few more whimsical and unpleasant encounters after that, but none are more consequential or dramatically compelling since they’re all seemingly designed for puckish discomfort. If you choose to watch this movie, you should know that the Guits’ jokes will often be on you, as the movie’s title—projectile-vomited by Cachemire onto the screen in relish green font—immodestly suggests.
The best gags in “Mother Schmuckers” usually poke fun at the movie’s bizarre conceptual set-up and/or utter shapelessness. At one point, Cachemire asks a cop (Yannick Renier) if he’s seen Daniel (Toni d’Antonio), her obese stalker and also the guy who’s kidnapped January Jack. "I'm looking for a guy running around in his underwear” Cachemire asks. “Have you seen him?"
“What kind of underwear?” the cop fires back.
In a later scene, Issachar and Zabulon meet up with their awkward father (Mathieu Amalric), who for some reason has a collection of Pez dispensers. Nobody remarks upon nor asks about this strange hobby, presumably because this is all very normal if you live in the movie’s reality. We obviously don’t, so that’s kind of funny.
Maybe you have to be stoned or just owe the filmmakers money in order to fully appreciate “Mother Schmuckers.” Or maybe there’s just not much here beyond some mildly amusing and generally overdetermined anti-comedy. There’s an appropriately creepy bit involving a party of pet-owners who are all a little too into bestiality. “That's reality,” grunts one overweight partygoer as a toy dog nibbles pepperoni slices off of his bare skin (which is funny because this pervert is fat, right?). “You and your brother don't live in reality,” says the fat guy to Issachar and Zabulon. The boys then spot January Jack, though they’re not reunited for very long. We occasionally see the movie’s world looks through January Jack’s eyes (a trippy purplish-blue camera filter). Then the next scene begins.
By the way, not that this really matters, but Issachar and Zabulon have a best friend named Choukri (Habib Ben Tanfous) and he aspires to make “the best movie ever.” Choukri is only in a few scenes of “Mother Schmuckers,” but his raggedy movie-within-the-movie plays during a post-credits wrap-up. Before then, Choukri sticks a gun to his temple and waves Issachar and Zabulon away. “Sorry about your mom, but I’m angry,” he says. I feel you. Now when does the next scene start?
Now playing in theaters and available on demand on March 15th.
Maxi Delmelle as Issachar
Harpo Guit as Zabulon
Claire Bodson as Cachemire
Habib Ben Tanfous as Choukri
Chaida Chady Suku Suku as Violeta
Mathieu Amalric as Le père