The Onion Movie (2008) — Strangely lacking in actual humor

“This is nothing but vulgar, lowbrow potty humor thinly disguised as satire. It saddens me that the Onion has stooped to this lowest common denominator, pandering to the masses.”

Drew’s rating: You know, there’s a reason why onions make people cry…

Drew’s review: Let’s be clear about something — I love the Onion. Love it. I’ve read the mock newspaper for the better part of a decade, and I’ve found it to consistently be one of the funniest, most intelligent sites on the entire Interweb. (Don’t look at me like that, Justin, I said “one of.” Hush.)

I think it’s important to emphasize that because, in the words of the Onion itself, I’m going to tear these radish canapés with salmon mousse a new ***hole.

The obligatory background: I first watched The Onion Movie with some old college friends visiting from out of town. These are three bright, upstanding guys (and single, ladies of Cleveland, Philly and St. Louis), but it’s been two years since we were all together, so of course we did what all young guys do on such occasions: played drinking games, swapped vulgar insults, and discussed which old classmates have gotten fat and which have gotten implants. (At least one of each.) In short, we had a juvenile weekend. I say that not to apologize (God, no), but to explain our mental state at the time: immature. It would not be an exaggeration to say a monkey smoking a cigarette would have kept us amused for a good ten minutes. So when I tell you that during the course of the film, I heard and contributed to about two or three hearty laughs, a half dozen minor chuckles and smiles, but mainly protracted periods of silence? Well, that’s not a good sign.

The Onion Movie was actually made five years ago (hence the cameo by the late, great Rodney Dangerfield), and it shows: jokes about terrorism, commercialization of news media, and whether Britney Spears’ music sends the wrong message aren’t exactly fresher than today’s lobster. On the other hand, it’s kind of refreshing to recall a time when Spears actually was sexy, and some of the targets the film takes on are still relevant today… slightly depressing when you think about it, but at least it makes the movie seem newer. There’s not much in the way of a story tying the whole thing together — oh, they throw in a token plot about veteran newsman Norm Archer protesting management interrupting his newscasts with ads, but it’s mainly an excuse to show a bunch of unrelated skits. Nor would I be complaining about that, were it not for the teensy, middling little detail that…

…the skits aren’t very funny. Sorry, I didn’t want to believe it either – this is the Onion, for God’s sake – but they just aren’t. Actually, that’s oversimplifying: it would be accurate to say that about 1/3 of them are pretty good. There really are a few gems, like the Melissa Cherry segments. Unfortunately, one of the funniest parts of the movie involves a character whose name I’m not quite allowed to use on this site. So let’s just take it as given that he punches clocks. The man likes to hit timepieces, okay? He’s a clockpuncher. ‘Nuff said.

But another 1/3 of the skits start strong and just fizzle, generally because the idea makes for a cute headline but can’t sustain itself, or it just runs on too long. And then you have the final 1/3 of the sketches, which… the less said, the better. I mean, the “addicted to life” bit? What was THAT all about?

A while back, the Onion was itself parodied by a website that ran a mock headline saying something like “Onion Headline Funnier Than Story.” That’s not always the case, but it’s true enough of the time to be pretty hilarious. And sadly, that tenet applies in spades to The Onion Movie. I was exaggerating earlier when I mentioned ripping into the movie – it’s an OK rental, as long as you don’t pay too much or go in with high expectations — but nor can I truly recommend it. And when it comes to the otherwise brilliant Onion, words can’t express how sad that makes me.

And now, because I hate ending reviews on a downer, I present the top ten eleven Onion headlines that should have been sketches in the movie:

11) Desperate Vegetarians Declare Cows Plants

10) Clinton Goes Back In Time, Teams Up With Golden-Age Clinton

9) Amish Give Up: “This Is Bull****,” Elders Say

8) Suicide Letter Full Of Simpsons References

7) Mr. T To Pity Fool

6) McDonald’s Drops “Hammurderer” Character From Advertising

5) Woman Tired Of Men Staring At Her Breast Implants

4) Romantic-Comedy Behavior Gets Real-Life Man Arrested

3) South Postpones Rising Again For Yet Another Year

2) Dolphins Evolve Opposable Thumbs: “Oh, Sh**,” Says Humanity

And of course, the special Mutant Reviewers edition number one…

1) Aging Gen-Xer Doesn’t Find Bad Movies Funny Anymore

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