Help! My Gumshoe's an Idiot!
25 Jul 2022
Arnie Pantoja, Rachele Brooke Smith, Aaron V. Williamson
A detective spoof with gags that are fast-paced but flat.
There was a time when the genre spoof was dominant. Scary Movie, Walk Hard, and Disaster Movie among others all proved to be hugely successful financially. In recent years the genre has faded. Comedy generally seems to no longer exist as a distinct category, instead being folded into the far more popular hybrids of superhero adventure and indie horror. So when we do get a straight-up comedy, particularly a spoof which is entirely dependent on its gags, there’s an added pressure to make us laugh.
This did not. Its thin overall premise follows a down-on-his-luck New Orleans private eye, Biff Basham, as he gets caught up in a web of conspiracy. First approached by Krista, wife of champion boxer Mauler Maretti and blackmail victim, Biff follows leads that takes him from local murders to international espionage. The story sticks to the traditional beats of a detective caper through winding paths of clues and hints.
Pantoja is good as Biff, effecting a good balance between physical comedy and hapless detective. His attire and mannerisms hearken back to PI’s of the ‘40s, with Bogart’s fedora and trenchcoat combination. At times his distinct way of speaking leads others to question his incongruity with the present day. Yet other moments suggest everyone is committed to this old-timey pastiche.
Some sight gags work, capitalising on surprise to make a visual pun come from nowhere. For instance, Biff walking listlessly down the street internally pondering on how the “case was about to take a nasty turn,” while two paramedics wheel a suitcase past him on a gurney. At a certain point though, these jokes come so thick and fast that the film becomes oversaturated, preventing any real reaction to each of them. Some other attempts at absurdism were just confusing and too wilfully random to be anything other than alienating.
Obviously what’s funny is subjective. It’s impossible to say what is and isn’t in any definitive way, but it’s not a good sign when there are 94 minutes and 0 laughs.