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Saturday, September 2, 2023

UNEMPLOYED -- Movie Review by Porfle


Originally posted on 6/27/10


The best thing about watching UNEMPLOYED (2008) is that from now on, every other comedy I ever watch is going to seem a hundred times funnier. In fact, after suffering through this incredibly inept and mind-bogglingly unfunny story about two struggling actors trying to find work before sundown to avoid getting kicked out of their apartment, watching C-Span will be a cavalcade of nonstop hilarity by comparison.

The black guy, Jamal, is played by Godfrey, who is, to my surprise, an actual comedian in real life and has been in several other films such as ORIGINAL GANGSTAS and ZOOLANDER. The white guy, Dexter, is portrayed by James Charles Leary, who appeared as "Clem" in eight episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as well as, among other things, a film entitled STUNT C*CKS, which he also wrote and produced. According to his IMDb biography, he "studied" with Second City in Chicago, but displays little evidence of this here.

Every time Jamal and Dexter crossed the street during their half-hearted job search, I kept hoping they'd get hit by a truck. They are, quite literally, the unfunniest comedy duo I've ever seen in my life. It might not have been so bad if they'd had some honest-to-goodness comedy lines or amusing bits of business, but writer Marvin Hayes and writer-director Dale Stelly apparently forgot to create any for them.

Jamal and Dexter go to an audition, make up some unfunny patter, and leave. They apply for a job as delivery men, are rejected because they don't have driver's licenses or a car, and leave. They steal some scooters, have the scooters stolen from them by thugs, and leave. They apply for a job at a dry cleaner's, find out the dry cleaner isn't hiring, and--you guessed it--leave. These are the comedy highlights, folks.

Oh yeah, and they actually do get hired at a place called Booty Burger, but before this premise is in any danger whatsoever of yielding a single funny line or situation, they quit, then leave. We're supposed to laugh just because the place is called "Booty Burger", and because Dexter asks an attractive female customer what kind of nuts she wants on her sundae.

Two things actually came remotely close to making me chuckle. One is when they decide to go to work for a gangsta named Mad Dog, and he turns out to be a tiny ventriloquist dummy that looks and sounds like Chris Rock. But before the scene threatens to become humorous in any way, they leave. The other thing is when Dexter thinks Jamal is dying and hastily calls 911 but accidentally calls 411 by mistake, and asks the operator the number for 911. Compared to the rest of the movie, this part is a flat-out scream.

Since UNEMPLOYED appears to have little scripted action besides "they go here" and "they go there", it's a largely improvised comedy performed by people who are totally incapable of either improvising or performing comedy. Their idea of riffing on a vague, random idea is to simply keep jabbering whatever pops into their heads in the vain hope that they'll eventually spit out something remotely amusing.

At the risk of setting Oscar Wilde spinning in his grave like a top, here's a sample of some of the funnier lines--

SECRETARY: "You can get yo' ass up outta here before I make it look like a scene from 'The Exorcist' up in here."

JAMAL (to Dexter):
"I'm gonna smash you like a transsexual on 'Jerry Springer' if you keep talkin'."

JOB INTERVIEWER: "What kind of experience do you have?"
JAMAL (riffing): "I'm very educated. Ha ha ha! Look at the way I sound. Ha ha ha! I'm a laugh educator."

A host of untalented bit players drift in and out of the movie, with the occasional semi-talented actor coming as a disorienting shock. Familiar character actor Tiny Lister (NEXT FRIDAY, THE FIFTH ELEMENT) gets featured billing for walking through a scene for about twenty seconds. Director Stelly plays a low-budget director named Spike Leroy who casts Jamal and Dexter in his latest film, in which they get brutally beaten with nightsticks--my favorite scene.

On the whole, UNEMPLOYED is so utterly lifeless and devoid of entertainment value that watching it is like observing the forensic examination of a bloated corpse that's been washed ashore after floating around in a swamp for about a month.  Only not as funny.


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