I found it semi-ironic and somewhat flattering that, last week, many of the commenters on my V for Vendetta review took the opportunity to call me “pretentious” for overusing “long” and “foreign” words. For a dumb guy from Arkansas, “pretentious” is the closest thing to intelligent I’ve ever been called. Indeed, given my Confederate-state upbringing, I was actually kind of looking forward to sitting through and reviewing Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector and had made plans to do the South justice in easy-to-read language that my extended family could understand, if only they weren’t illiterate (sorry, Meemaw). Living in the Northeast for the past decade, however, I knew nothing of Larry the Cable Guy; my introduction to the catchphrase he smuggled into the zeitgeist was a bottle opener my father-in-law stuffed into my stocking over Christmas that announced, “GIT-R-DONE!” every time I opened a beer — a bottle opener that, unfortunately, I will now have to take a sledgehammer to, rendering Larry mute forevermore in my household. It’s a shame, too, because I had high hopes for a movie that might offer a Foxworthyesque brand of ribbing to the South, prodding us about our lack of teeth, the broken appliances that litter our front yards, and the state of our transportable houses (for the record, my mother lives in the nicest mobile home in her entire town, which says a lot in a place where the mayor’s office, the video store, and the bank are all trailers).
Unfortunately, I was harshly warned of Larry’s brand of humor on a recent car trip, in which I took the opportunity to do some research by listening to the Blue Collar Comedy radio station. Though many of the comics broadcast that day captured the humor inherent to the states below the Mason-Dixon line (particularly, a bit about Wal-Mart by a guy named Bill Engvall), it was Larry who lowered the bar, reminiscing about how Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction made him “want to drink chocolate milk for the next six months.”
Yeah. Racist jokes are clever, aren’t they?
To my mind, there are two types of Southerners, both of which are well reflected in country music. First, there is the South that I am fond of: the laid-back gentility; the charming drawls; the good old boys who occasionally tell off-color jokes but who on the whole, are good people — unpretentious, winsome, and good-natured Christian folks who love their country, their kids and, above all, biscuits and gravy. These are the Garth Brookses, the Randy Travises, and if you’re lucky, the Willie Nelsons of the South.
Then there are the other Southerners — the people that Larry the Cable Guy depicts: the nasty, racist, homophobic mullet-wearing rednecks who trumpet the N-word whenever possible, think that gay-bashing is their birthright, wrap themselves in Jesus and the Flag to justify their bigotry and excuse both their ignorance and slovenliness, and who spent a good deal of their formative years beating the shit out of kids like me. These folks are, of course, represented by Toby Keith, Darrel Whorley, and Robert Duvall characters, and — thankfully — most of these people are too fucking lazy to get out off their ripped, yard-sale couches to attend a movie they can’t afford to see anyway (I told you bastards that you should’ve invested my lunch money in Apple stock).
I offer all this exposition by way of telling you I don’t have a lot to say about Health Inspector other than to compare Larry’s brand of “comedy” to the dumbassery of Toby Keith — humorless, vile, and not even well intentioned. In fact, I suspect that many Southerners would revile Larry themselves if they knew that he was a carpet-bagging Nebraskan fuckwit who attended private schools in Florida, presumably to learn how to trade in the most contemptible stereotypes Southerners for a goddamn dollar. Indeed, Health Inspector only served to remind me of why I left the South rather than suffer round after round of disparagement for my use of long words and my tolerance for anybody that doesn’t shop at Wal-Mart or beat his wife.
As for the film’s plot summary — I don’t care, you don’t care, and there is very little to offer anyway, but here goes: Larry plays a health inspector, a plot contrivance that gives him license to visit many ethnic restaurants and offer up lame “immigrant food” jokes at the expense of Indians, Asians, blacks, and Greeks. (Don’t worry, though — he’s got a black friend, so there’s no way he could be racist, right?) Unfortunately, because Larry is a shower-pissing loose cannon, he’s ultimately saddled with a partner, Amy Butlin (Iris Bahr) — a prim, flat-chested woman who wears her hair in a pony tail, which, according to Larry, means she is a “fag.” (Gay jokes are a running theme throughout Health Inspector — in Larry’s eyes, apparently, there is no better way to emasculate someone than to call him gay). Amy and Larry are trying to find the saboteur who keeps poisoning the area’s finest restaurants with diarrhea-inducing additives, an element that easily plays into Larry’s penchant for flatulence humor, giving him free reign to fart at whim or, even better: plant his petite, attractive girlfriend (Megyn Price) onto the toilet for an evening of defecation sound effects — plops and reverberations that you, too, can listen to simply by paying the price of admission!
As the plot progresses, many of Hollywood’s finest character actors find ingenious ways to sully their names: Tom Wilson (Biff Tannen to most of you) plays Larry’s sexually confused boss; Tony Hale (“Arrested Development“‘s Buster, who just isn’t as funny without a hook on his arm) is wheelchair bound, and thus the target of Larry’s handicapped jokes; David Koechner plays the “semi-retard” who keeps hitting himself with a soccer ball; Joe Pantoliano is the mayor who can’t stop ogling women’s breasts; and even Kid Rock found the lone project that could further debase a man who had already starred alongside Scott Stapp in videotaped sexual shenanigans.
Through it all, Health Inspector takes shape as the cinematic equivalent of middle Pennsylvania (Pennsyltucky), demonstrating all that is ugly about the South without incorporating any of its charm. Indeed, Health Inspector is the lowest form of comedy: repulsive and proudly ignorant and, perhaps worst of all, Larry ridicules those he means to amuse, while propagating unfair cultural stereotypes about the South, validating and confirming the opinions of their uppity, intellectual counterparts in the North. Of all the films I’ve had the displeasure to sit through as a movie critic, I can safely say that none are as abhorrent as Health Inspector, and I beseech anyone who will listen to avoid it at all costs and, please, throw sharp objects at those who choose to attend, and when they are writhing in pain and bleeding from their open wounds, stuff their pie holes with a Confederate flag and tell them Pajiba sent you.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector / Dustin Rowles
Film | May 13, 2006 | Comments ()