In the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel in 'This is Spinal Tap,' "There's a fine line between stupid and clever." The best dumb movie comedies know this all too well -- 'National Lampoon's Animal House,' 'Caddyshack,' 'Airplane!' and 'Stripes' are just a few of the modern classics that prove there truly is a fine art in making the idiotic inspired.
Then there are movies like 'Delta Farce,' that simply scrape the bottom of the stupidity barrel, and are so cheap, obvious and dim-witted that they give dumb a bad name.
Down on his luck after losing both his job and his girlfriend on the same day, Larry (Larry the Cable Guy) decides to join his neighbor, Bill (Bill Engvall), and his combat-happy buddy Everett (DJ Qualls) for a relaxing weekend of drinking and target practice. But when the three hapless guys are mistaken for Army Reservists by the hard-nosed Sergeant Kilgore (Keith David), they're loaded onto an army plane headed for Fallujah, Iraq -- and then accidentally ejected in a Humvee somewhere over Mexico. Convinced they're actually in the Middle East, the clueless wannabe soldiers save a rural village from a siege of bandits and become local heroes. But when Carlos Santana (Danny Trejo), a ruthless, karaoke-loving warlord, strikes back, Larry, Bill and Everett will have to lay down their beers and take up their arms -- and prove they just might be real soldiers after all.
'Delta Farce's most obvious inspiration is 'Stripes,' but the comparison only points out how painfully anemic a satire can be when it has no target. As scripted by first-timers Tom Sullivan and Bear Aderhold, and directed by C.B. Harding (TV's 'The Osbournes,' and 'Blue Collar Comedy,' also starring Larry the Cable Guy), there is a potentially tasty narrative skeleton in 'Delta Farce,' but no meat -- simply put, the film isn't about anything. It simply plops three thinly-sketched caricatures into a foreign locale, and fails to develop either their characters or the situation in an interesting way. Instead, it trots all the same recycled, utterly lame white trash jokes we've seen a million times before. It's truly sad when a movie puts three rednecks in the middle of an imaginary war -- a potential powderkeg for political satire -- and all it can muster is gags about them getting lost.
Having seen thousands of films in my ten years of reviewing, it is also saying something that 'Delta Farce' is one of the cheapest-looking movies that I've ever seen. All of the sets look like they were constructed on old backlots left over from a fire sale at Cannon Films, while the "Middle East" our heroes find themselves in is strangely underpopulated (perhaps the budget apparently didn't allow for any extras?). 'Delta Farce' also has overly bland TV sitcom-style cinematography and such bad looped dialogue that I'd believe it if someone told me that the entire soundtrack was made on someone's old Powerbook.
If there is one surprise about 'Delta Farce,' it is that it's so bland that at least it's inoffensive. Perhaps because of the reputation that precedes any Larry the Cable Guy project, coupled with my complete unfamiliarity with his apparently ultra-conservative brand of humor, I expected 'Delta Farce' to be riddled with stereotypes and jingoistic cheap shots. While it is certainly low brow, there's nothing I actually hated about the movie -- it's only sin is utter mediocrity. Sadly, what could have been a modern-day 'Stripes' instead makes even a second-rate episode of 'The King of Queens' look like high art.
It's probably fair to say that picture quality expectations for 'Delta Farce' are pretty low -- the film was not a big box office hit, and is hardly the type of visual tour de force that has "demo disc" written all over it. That said, it's still a rather nice-looking Blu-ray release, and certainly as as good as the material has any right to expect.
Presented in a 1080p/VC-1 transfer, and preserved in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the generic but competent cinematography of 'Delta Farce' has a bright and pleasing look. The solid blacks and poppy contrast offer a healthy sense of depth and detail, even if the film itself is never so amazingly three-dimensional that I was wowed. Colors are perfectly well-saturated, though again, they are never superlative -- just average for a high-def presentation (which of course ain't bad). Sharpness is also solid, with softness rarely an issue.
There are, however, a few of problem areas. Considering that 'Delta Farce' is a brand-new release, I was surprised to see that the print is not pristine. Light dirt speckles are pretty consistent, and I even noticed few hair flashes on select frames, among other blemishes. More distracting is some odd print wavering -- contrast will occasionally fluctuate in the same shot. There are also patches of noise in solid areas of the picture, which occurs fairly often, since the majority of the film is shot outdoors in the desert, with big blue skies and other static backgrounds.
Still, taking into account the film's relatively low budget, and the lack of severity to any of these issues, overall this remains a pleasing presentation.
Far be it from me to look a gift horse in the mouth, but a film like 'Delta Farce' hardly warrants an uncompressed PCM 7.1 surround mix. Still, that's just what Lionsgate delivers, at a healthy 48kHz/16-bit/6.1mpbs, to boot. (There is also an optional Dolby Digital EX Surround mix, at 640kbps.) Unfortunately, the film's anemic sound design just doesn't benefit at all from the high-res audio, and if nothing else, 'Delta Farce' proves that it takes more than just a high number of channels to make a killer soundtrack.
Simply out, the cheapness of the enterprise shines through in this mix. In fact, the audio here is downright arid, with only sparse sound effects for obvious sounds (gunfire, etc.) and absolutely zero ambiance. Am I wrong to expect a war movie satire that takes place in the desert to actually include atmospherics like wind, score, echoing bullets, etc? Instead, all we get are obvious foley effects weakly directed to the rears, plus weak music cues that sound like plain ole' stereo. Even dialogue is somewhat muted, and even after pumping my volume up to a decent level, the track never sounded strong or impactful.
Still, I'm still giving 'Delta Farce' three stars for audio, because at least Lionsgate tried. In fact, short of re-doing the film's sound design, I just can't imagine this disc sounding any better, and to its credit, it certainly doesn't suffer from any obvious aural defects. Of course, that's faint praise for a PCM 7.1 surround soundtrack, but it's the best I can muster.
Hitting Blu-ray day-and-date with the standard-def DVD, this next-gen edition of 'Delta Farce' sports not only all of the DVD's special features, but also several of its own. First, let's take a look at the extras identical to both versions.
Things kick off with the screen-specific audio commentary with director CB Harding. Somewhat surprisingly, this is a very dry track -- although the director adeptly outlines the basics of shooting each scene and their specific challenges, there's little here in the way of on-set anecdotes, and the result just isn't much fun. I'm ashamed to admit that I nodded towards the end, but I'm guessing I won't be the last to not make it all the way through this track.
Next up are four short featurettes. Each is comprised of the same on-set interviews with the main cast (Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall and DJ Qualls), plus director CB Harding and other members of the crew, edited together with the typical mix of movie clips and some sparse behind-the-scenes footage.
"All the Way to L.A." (8 min.) sets the jokey tone, with each member of the cast explaining what attracted them to the movie -- a "free trip to L.A." Next is "The Queen of Mean Gets the Last Word," a 4-minute chat with special guest star, comedienne Lisa Lampanelli, who at least is genuinely edgy. "The Man Behind Carlos Santana" (7 min.), meanwhile, profiles actor Danny Trejo, who certainly has one of the more interesting resumes in the biz. A hardened ex-con, he's now an in-demand character actor. Although he's best known for his tough-as-nails onscreen persona, in real life he seems to resemble a big teddy bear. Finally, "Hacienda Confidential" (4 min.)features stars Larry, Engvall and DJ Qualls discussing their characters and a few specific scenes. As Larry sums up, "It's just fun to hang out with your friends and make a movie." Clearly.
I have to salute Lionsgate for presenting all of the above material in 1080p/i/AVC MPEG-4 -- as you might expect, it looks quite spiffy. But the fun doesn't end here...
Although fans of Blue Collar Comedy superstar Larry the Cable Guy will likely enjoy 'Delta Farce,' I found the film disappointingly bland. As a Blu-ray release, however, this one's better than you might expect -- the video generally looks good, and Lionsgate certainly went the extra mile producing a PCM 7.1 surround track, even if it's put to waste by the film's lame sound design. Add to that a ton of extras, and you have another case of a bad flick getting a disc that's arguably way better than it deserves.