Monday, April 13, 2020

'Butt Boy' (2019) Movie Review

Yes, this movie is called Butt Boy. Really. But it’s not what you think. Okay, it’s kind of what you think, but it’s also something very different than that.

With a title like Butt Boy, this sounds like you’re in store for a gross-out comedy full of dick and fart jokes. Okay, again, there are some fart gags. And it gets plenty disgusting. But writer/director/star Tyler Cornack’s film is…not a comedy. I don’t think. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. It takes is absurdist concept and plays it totally straight. Rather than sophomoric humor, this watches like a gritty throwback crime thriller, or a ‘80s-style slasher.

When Chip Gutchel (Cornack), a bored IT drone with an wife who hates him and a life he can’t stand, goes to the proctologist, he learns something about himself, he likes to stick things up his butt. But what begins as a new kink escalates. Before long, he’s putting remote controls, a small dog, and, the last straw, a baby up his butt. Nine years later, Chip has tackled his addiction thanks to AA. When he sponsors a new member, grizzled detective Russell Fox (Tyler Rice), he has a relapse, and wouldn’t you know Russell is the man assigned to the case.

As patently ridiculous as this set up is, Butt Boy tackles it in the most deadpan fashion. To the point where you’re not even sure if it’s supposed to be funny or serious. It never winks or uses the insanity for jokes. More than anything, it takes pains to be as uncomfortable and awkward as possible in every situation, eliciting uneasy chuckles rather than out and out laughter. When Russell and Chip go out for coffee, or when Russell comes to Chip’s for a family dinner, the discomfort is squirm-inducing. 

Most of Butt Boy watches like a cop drama about a tortured detective trying to crack the case, chase down a theory that no one believes, and get his guy. It’s grimy and dark, but with an undercurrent of strangeness due to the fact that it’s about a killer who sticks his victims up his butt.

Rice, who looks like a sweaty, greasy Stephen Baldwin—which is saying something—sells Russell better than you might expect. Again, playing it right down the line, he delivers a solid rendition of the driven, tormented cop. He’s seen some things, things that haunt him, which is why he battles the bottle as well as this case that leads him in unexpected directions.

And then things get dark, and very, very weird. For a movie built on a WTF foundation, this takes the WTF to a whole new place and right into a bonkers climax that is sure to leave you shaking your head. 

Butt Boy drags in the middle act and is overlong by ten or 15 minutes. Some of the connective tissue in the plot doesn’t hook up entirely—there are moments that feel like there’s a scene missing because of the jumps in logic and narrative. And overall, you spend a lot of time wondering what exactly the filmmakers are up to. That’s not always a bad thing, and a film doesn’t need to spell everything out for you, but for much of the film it’s easy to wonder what they hope to achieve. They want cause the audience discomfort, but it’s never certain why. Too often, it’s obtuse solely for the sake of obfuscation.

I’m still not entirely sure what to make of Butt Boy. I think I like it, and it’s definitely a curious sight to behold. Much of the movie made me think of The Greasy Strangler, where the unease is the point, but less obvious in its comedy. There’s going to be both love and hate for this movie, which if I had to hazard a guess, is the goal, and in that regard, it’s a success. [Grade: B]

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