dvd review: GUNS ON THE CLACKAMAS

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Contrary to popular belief, not all critics get off on hating movies. Take me for instance. I never go into a movie wanting to not like it. I go in wanting to be entertained. But sometimes certain films don’t do it for me, and I’m must face the fact that I didn’t like something. This is especially difficult when I went in hoping to enjoy the movie, only to find myself wishing I had not wasted the irreplaceable time that was forever lost watching a film that wasn’t worth watching. And it is especially difficult when the film is by a director whose work you’ve enjoyed in the past.

As an animator, I’ve always enjoyed the films of Bill Plympton. His unique animation style and his twisted sense of humor have always made his work entertaining and fun to watch. Back in the early 1990s, Plympton began production on Guns on the Clackamas, a live-action feature that was shot in and around Portland, Oregon. I knew about this film because at the time I was trying to make my first movie, and I knew several people who had worked on the production. For over a decade I had wondered what happened to Guns on the Clackamas—if it had ever been completed, if it was any good, and if it would ever be released. Well, the answer to two of my questions is “yes”—the film was completed and it has been released. As for whether or not it is any good…

Guns on the Clackamas is a mockumentary about the making of a western called Guns on the Clackamas, the latest opus from schlock filmmaker Holton P. Jeffers. Documentary filmmaker Nigel Nado (Keith Scales). As Nado explains, Jeffers is a prolific filmmaker described by many as a genius. Jeffers’ latest production, as chronicled by Nado’s documentary, is a western fraught with all manner of setbacks and tragedies, not the least of which is Jeffer’s own incredible lack of talent. His lead actress has a stuttering problem, so the movie’s financier (her lover), suggests the movie be turned into a yodeling musical (?). But that’s just the beginning, as things go from bad to worse, culminating with the death of most of cast from spoiled macaroni salad. I’ll pause here for a moment to allow the laughter to subside.

I could go into greater detail about the plot of Guns on the Clackamas, but there’s really no point. This is an endless stream of unfunny jokes strung together in an equally unfunny movie. At the thirteen-minute mark I had not laughed once, and was bored out of my mind. There was another 67-minutes left to go. And believe me when I say, I felt every one of those minutes as it was forcibly ripped from my being by a movie I hope to never watch again.

If Guns on the Clackamas had been made by a group of high school kids with no sense of film or storytelling, it might be almost possible to excuse this sophomoric, laughless mess. But coming from an award-winning filmmaker like Plympton, there is no excuse for this sad attempt at stupid humor that only gets one half of the equation correct.

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