Occupying the bottom rung of the cinematic step ladder and maligned as morally corrupt and misogynistic, the “sex comedy” is a staple of American popular culture not for its crudity, but through the enduring power of its lurid imagery. Pubescent boys, the primary audience for this type of hot-blooded fare, blossom into sexuality by way of the buxom coeds and unrepentant horniness on display, embodying the desires and fetishes of each film’s protagonist, indoctrinated into the sub-genre’s culture of male supremacy and skewed version of sensuality.
Despite the worst of intentions, the reliance on photographic and eidetic attributes actually lends the “sex comedy” a certain merit, capturing raw emotion through the coded progression of image and sound, working in unison like an orchestra to wring out sexual desire and snickers in equal measure. If deprived of this attention to detail, we’d be left to focus on the quality of the storytelling, which is often as plausible as a Penthouse letter, and usually written with far less aplomb.
Orgazmo suffers this fate at the hands of an unskilled crew, plagued by haphazard framing and poorly blocked shots, making for a messy field of vision that limits the potency of its sight gags. Any goodwill generated by the amiable protagonist and surprising lack of objectification is immediately washed away in a sea of cheap phallic pyrotechnics and pictorial redundancy, further exposing the limited scope of the writing and staggering amount of racial stereotyping.
Spearheaded by Trey Parker, creator of TV’s South Park, Orgazmo beckons comparisons to that series, particularly in its willingness to push boundaries and confront religious hypocrisy, but fails to transplant the gleeful absurdity of the popular cartoon to a live-action environment. It succeeds in some capacity as blue comedy, getting extra mileage from an utter lack of prudence and profane penchant for porn-industry buzzwords, but has shocking little subtext, rarely utilizing its fascination with pornography or the Mormon faith as fodder for anything beyond a two-bit punchline.
Struggling to make ends meet as an LDS missionary, Joseph Young (Parker) accepts the lead role in a pornographic superhero movie, exchanging his moral piety for a $20,000 paycheck and an old-fashioned wedding at the Salt Lake Temple. An ex-theater major at Brigham Young and proficient martial artist, Young’s acting chops and physical build attract the attention of an enterprising producer, one that sees the crossover potential in his uncommonly wholesome leading man.
Though Young’s performance is purely platonic (a “stunt cock” handles the dirty work), his sidekick, “Choda Boy,” sees the sex industry as a natural outlet for his overactive libido and an easy way to subsidize his homemade science projects. The most amusing of these contraptions is the “Orgasmatron,” a raygun that incapacitates its victims through knee-weakening orgasm, something the pair humorously test on Orthodox Jews and geriatric women along the Sunset Strip.
The story of this budding friendship and the hijinks of porn production are tolerable enough for the opening 30 minutes, harmlessly riffing on the business of selling sex to an undiscerning audience. The film’s rickety foundation is completely thrown off when Parker tries to make a statement on consumerism, morphing the eponymous tawdry skin flick into an international hit, replete with action figures and a cover shoot for Time Magazine. If that wasn’t enough to induce a roll of the eyes, it manages to get even more implausible after its twist, mutating into a tale of superhero vengeance that consists of nearly 60 minutes of crudely choreographed “chop-socky” spoofs and a cornucopia of illogical resolutions.
Nevertheless, all infractions could have easily been forgiven if Orgazmo had managed to be a tad insightful or intermittently funny. Only one moment elicited a chuckle, a stereotypical montage sequence that wittily name checked its cinematic point of reference, following a blur of spinning newspaper headlines with an image of Orgazmo adjacent to Citizen Kane on a theater marquee.
Apart from this brief moment of clarity, Orgazmo is a foundation built on half-baked ideas, masquerading as satire without the acerbic wit or conviction required to lampoon its subjects. As it stands, this is just an early curiosity from a talented social critic not yet developed beyond creative puberty.
Orgazmo (Rogue Pictures, 1997)
Written and Directed by Trey Parker
Photographed by Kenny Gioseffi