Hell BabyOverview -
''Hell Baby,'' a comedy scripted by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (''Night at The Museum,'' ''Reno 911!: Miami'') marks their co-directing debut. Jack (Rob Corddry) and Vanessa (Leslie Bibb) are an expectant couple that moves into the most haunted fixer-upper in New Orleans -- a house with a deadly demonic curse. Things soon spiral out of control for Jack and Vanessa, as well as their-not-so-helpful neighbor F'Resnel (Keegan-Michael Key), Vanessa's friendly psychiatrist (Michael Ian Black), Vanessa's Wiccan sister Marjorie (Riki Lindhome) and the detectives assigned to look into the rising body count (Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer). Only the Vatican's elite exorcism team (Garant and Lennon) san save them -- or can they?
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Comedy is a tricky business: one person's side-splitting, rolling-on-the-floor guffaw-fuel is another person's eyebrow-raising, anger-fueling time suck. There's really no point in trying to make sense of it or attempting to understand it. It's simply a fact of life: what's funny to one is not necessarily funny to all. I've always known this to be true, but amazingly, after decades of film consumption, from the most vile and terrible garbage, to the pinnacle of snooty high art, I don't think I fully appreciated this truth until now, thanks to 'Hell Baby.' If for nothing else, I'll give it credit for making me put more thought into it than I really ever bothered to before.
For the full 90 minutes it took to sit through a ridiculous and banal assortment of visual gags, potty humor, and unsubtle innuendos, I rarely broke a smile, let alone laughed out loud. Admittedly, I chuckled at a few of the more unexpected moments, yet most are not memorable or worth mentioning, except perhaps for some of those jump-scare clichés. But that only accounts for about a minute or two of the total runtime. I spent the remaining time fidgeting in my seat, waiting and hoping for something funny to happen. The movie is an unfunny hodgepodge of stupid.
'Reno 911!' creators Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon wrote and directed this over the top but ultimately humorless silliness, which is rather sad, since I consider myself a bit of a fan. (Well, so long as we pretend they had nothing to do with 'Taxi,' 'The Pacifier,' or even worse 'Herbie Fully Loaded.') For the most part, they can usually get a rise out of me, but it's not meant to be in 'Hell Baby,' which sees Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb play expectant parents while moving into a rundown house with a gruesome history. Bibb doesn't do anything particularly interesting and mostly seems bored with the material, while Corddry, on the other hand, appears to be having a great time screaming and yelling about how freaked out and scared he is.
The plot is meant to be a spoof of supernatural occult horror movies where Garant and Lennon play badass priests straight out of a Quentin Tarantino flick. However, one specific film or subgenre never serves as the actual target of the parody. Rather, it's a jumbled, topsy-turvy mélange of almost everything we've ever seen before, from as far back as 'The Exorcist' to the slightly more recent 'Paranormal Activity.' The jokes range from immature absurdity to eye-rolling tediousness, each of which are dragged out for far too long and leave one wondering who would find any of this the slightest bit funny. A restaurant scene with Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel is absolutely boring, a roundtable vomit fest is more of a snore fest, and the naked shower sequence with Riki Lindhome, Keegan-Michael, Key and Corddry is a mind-numbing experience of reaching for the very lowest common denominator.
And before accusations come flying in about lacking a sense of humor or any other such nonsense, I'll be the first to admit that yes, I don't in any way, shape, or form get it. It's not because of lowbrow, gross-out humor or because the jokes are in any way offensive. Indeed, there's absolutely nothing in 'Hell Baby' I found offensive to my sophisticated tastes or hoity-toity sensitivities. The low-budget movie simply doesn't do it for me, and I don't see how it's funny at all. Not shockingly, of course, I'm sure it will find its audience. Somewhere out there, there is someone who finds it hilarious to see a group of grown adults play hot potato with a bloody, devil-horned baby while a still attached umbilical cord swings in the air.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Millennium Entertainment brings 'Hell Baby' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc inside the standard blue keepcase. This is also dubbed as the unrated, 97-minute version, which is three-minutes longer than the theatrical cut, but I have no idea what the differences are. After several skippable trailers, viewers are taken to menu screen with music and full-motion clips.
'Hell Baby' delivers an excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that far exceeds the quality of the film itself. Shot on HD cameras, the digital-to-digital transfer displays vivid, bright primaries and warm secondary hues with healthy facial complexions that show lifelike textures. Black levels are rich and luxurious with good gradational differences between various shades and strong shadow delineation. Contrast is comfortably bright and very well-balanced, but the 1.85:1 image largely feels artificial with the sort of soap-opera smoothness that's unattractively distracting. Except for one or two slightly but negligible soft scenes, fine lines are highly detailed and distinct with superb visibility of background information. I also detected a couple minor moments of banding, but otherwise, the video is first-rate.
The ridiculously over-the-top but terribly unfunny movie also arrives with a surprisingly good and better than expected Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Admittedly, it's a front-heavy presentation with the majority of the action spread across the three channels, creating a rather engaging and well-balanced soundstage. But several sequences employ the rear speakers effectively and with great directionality. Along with those atmospherics, the music nicely extends the soundfield and fills the room. Dynamic range is shockingly extensive and richly detailed while low-frequency effects are hearty and quite responsive, though not very demanding. With intelligible, well-prioritized vocals in the center, this lossless mix delivers the goods and makes the movie more enjoyable than it really is.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 30 min) — Nine unfunny, rightly-removed sequences.
- Gag Reels (SD, 14 min) — Two separate collections of flubbed lines, missed marks, mistakes, and improvisations.
'Hell Baby' is an unfunny spoof of supernatural occult horror movies, where writing and directing duo Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon play badass priests straight out of a Quentin Tarantino flick. Starring Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Riki Lindhome, and Keegan-Michael Key, the low-budget flick did nothing for me, but someone out there will likely love it. The Blu-ray, on the other hand, arrives with a surprisingly excellent audio and video presentation and tiny set of bonuses. In the end, this is only for the most devoted of fans, but others will be better skipping it altogether and watching 'Reno 911!' instead.
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