Grade school confidential
On the surface, Chairman of the Board, the film debut of comedian Carrot Top, seems perfectly aimed at young, creative, slacker types. It's about a bumbler who accidentally makes it big in business, and its plot can be summed up as "Technicolor Gen-X freak conquers the business world without really trying, wins love, and beats the stuffy suits at their own game." But the movie exhibits all the image schizophrenia Gen X'ers are known for; it never quite figures out who its audience is. And it grosses out the rest of us.
The movie doesn't just drift aimlessly. Chairman is extremely juvenile, extremely unpleasant; it's as if the writers dredged up all they thought was funny in third grade, aimed it at college kids, and added sex. (Creepily enough, the adult sketches feel as though they were written by third-graders.) There must have been a contractual obligation to include at least one joke or comic scenario involving each of the following: "turds," castration, erections, flatulence, incontinence, vomit, "French ticklers," diarrhea, tracheotomies, mammaries, corpse theft, "dingleberries," and male-pattern baldness.
Unlike other young people's comics of recent memory--Pauly Shore, Denis Leary, etc.--the prop-heavy slapstick of Carrot Top's stage show is whimsical and childlike; it would've been well suited to this tale of a zany inventor. Well suited, that is, if only the film hadn't been marred by so much vulgar humor. Sure, some kids may find bodily functions hilarious, but the addition of tasteless sex jokes casts a film that would've worked well for the pre-teen crowd adrift in a sea of gag-to-gag confusion.
Here's the story: When an inventor named Edison (Carrot Top) fixes the car of an aged surfer named Armand McMillan, little does he realize he's conversing with an unconventional exec responsible for such modern miracles as "odorless manure," "Note Stickies," and the "Thigh Dominator." When Armand catches that big wave in the sky, he leaves his empire to Edison, who bonds with the board members over a friendly game of Twister and vows to keep Armand's wacky inventiveness alive.
Armand's conniving nephew Bradford (Larry Miller) is steamed at this turn of events: He intended to sell McMillan Industries lock, stock, and barrel to an oversexed corporate raider (Raquel Welch) specializing in hostile takeovers. He plots, he pouts, he schemes, but somehow Edison succeeds, landing his orange corkscrews on the cover of all the business magazines and winning the heart of business-minded employee Natalie (Courtney Thorne-Smith).
When Bradford encourages Edison to put his own inventions on the market before testing them, you know there's a rat afoot, and he's wearing a power suit. Sabotage, romance, twists of fate ensue; good triumphs over evil, end of story.
Lately it seems as though every stand-up comic to finagle his own cable special has become movie material. Delusional filmmakers construct a movie around the comic's shtick and expect their humor to magically translate to the big screen. This does not always work. (Again, think of Pauly Shore and Denis Leary.)
Pee-Wee Herman is sorely missed, especially when you compare his comic genius (on the big and little screens) with something like this. Carrot Top is no Pee-Wee; he's more a young Gallagher. Though thankfully, no one ever cast Gallagher as Mr. Mom or Tootsie.
And Carrot Top is rather frightening (we're not even talking hair here). He possesses one of the rubberiest faces this side of Aerosmith's lead singer, speaks at ear-shattering volume, and molests all within view with his weird, lascivious facial expressions.
Chairman of the Board, though, is not a total loss. Visually, the film is scrumptious, vibrant, a cartoon come to life. First-time director Alex Zamms has a background in cartooning; it shows in the animated, unreal scenarios and psychedelic scenery drenched in orange fake fur, plastic gewgaws, and stuffed animals.
There is some swell character acting as well. Larry Miller as the loathsome, yuppie nephew matches Dabney Coleman's performance in 9 to 5 for sheer greed-head putrescence. The board members are particularly amusing, especially the senile biz-man caricature of Freemont (M. Emmett Walsh).
The bright colors and the poo jokes might draw kids for a while, but even they'll be put off by the film's humor eventually. But they'll have to stay home and play Street Fighter anyway, as Chairman has a PG-13 rating. Who will this appeal to? Teenagers will groan, and it's too roll-your-eyes dopey for any adult who's not a divorced parent padding out weekend visitation with the kids. It's straight to late-night cable for this stinker. Let's hope Carrot Top fares better with fellow nutcase Don Rickles in the upcoming Dennis the Menace II.
Chairman of the Board.
Directed by Alex Zamm. Written by Al Septien, Turi Meyer, and Zamm. Starring Carrot Top, Courtney Thorne-Smith, and Larry Miller. Opens Friday.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.