Brain Donors review by Mike Long

I'm not here to be the homage police. It doesn't bother me that the 1992 comedy Brain Donors was "suggested by" (read: remake) the 1935 Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera. There are some who would same that this is blasphemy -- that instead of remaking this classic, people should simply see the original. As a bonafide Gen Xer, I say nay. I'm part of a generation who, on the whole, have no interest in older black & white films. But, seeing a remake of one of these movies may spark my curiosity, leading me to seek out the original. Now, that we have that argument out of the way, let's look at Brain Donors, one of the dumbest movies ever made.

John Turturro stars in Brain Donors as Roland T. Flakfizer, attorney at law. Roland is literally an ambulance chaser and loves to get involved in personal injury cases. He's summoned to the home of Lillian Oglethorpe (Nancy Marchand) for the reading of her late husband's will. Roland had assisted Lillian after an accident and she insists that he be present, much to the chagrin of her late husband's lawyer, Lazlo (John Savident). Lillian sends handyman Jacques (Bob Nelson) to fetch Roland and they catch a ride in the cab of Rocko Melonchek (Mel Smith) to the Oglethorpe estate. The late Mr. Oglethorpe's will decrees that a ballet company be created in his name. Roland and Lazlo both volunteer to oversee this undertaking, and Mrs. Oglethorpe grants them both the power to put together a company. The boastful Roland promises that he will recruit the great Volare (George De La Pena) for their troupe. Roland hires Jacques and Rocko to be his assistants. Of course, the bumbling Roland knows nothing about ballet and is soon shaking up the dancing world with his odd behavior.

Brain Donors is certainly an interesting film, as it attempts to recreate the rapid-fire comedy stylings of the Mark Brothers, while throwing in some modern twists. (It should be noted that although there are some mild sexual references here, things never get overly raunchy and the film stays well within the limits of its PG rating.) The jokes come very quickly and there is rarely a quiet moment in the film. The characters are all over-the-top stereotypes and the film lampoons everyone. But, is it funny? And the answer is: sort of. I laughed out loud only two times while watching Brain Donors, but there were many more moments where I chuckled or simply smiled to myself. The problem with the movie is that it simply tries too hard and most of the jokes are so stupid that they result in eye-rolling rather than laughter. Director Dennis Dugan, who has had his share of ups-and-downs, having hits with Adam Sandler and misses with the likes of Saving Silverman, keeps things moving very quickly and when you subtract the animated opening credit sequence, the movie is only around 72 minutes long. The best part of Brain Donors is certainly John Turturro. This is an actor who has made his named with dramatic roles, most notably in Spike Lee movies, but he clearly loves to get crazy in comedies. (If you've seen him in Mr. Deeds, then you understand.) Turturro is in almost every scene in Brain Donors and while he's kind of doing a Groucho Marx impression, he brings his own style to the role. Brain Donors is not a great comedy, but it offers a few chuckles and could be good for a rental.

Brain Donors scrambles onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear. I realize that the film is only 12 years old, but it's an obscure oddity and I was surprised by how nice this transfer is. The image shows very little grain and there are no defects from the source print. The colors look very good and the only true defect is the nominal amount of edge enhancement. The DVD sports a new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue, but has little muscle. The music at the ballet sounds fine and the audience's applause come through the rear channels, but there is little bass response. There are no extra features on this DVD.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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