Gong Show Movie, The
Reviewed by Ned Daigle
Rating: 10 Beans
here are few films that could truly be determined to be unwatchable. "The Gong Show Movie", however, is one such film. Like Jerry Springer's ill-fated "Ringmaster" years later, using a variety/talk show as grounds for making a feature film is truly one of the worst ideas Hollywood has ever attempted to cultivate.
Some older readers may remember "The Gong Show" from the late 70s and early 80s. Basically it was sort of a talent show (I say "sort of" because the majority of contestants really didn't have any talent to speak of) where the contestants performed and hoped that the celebrity judges didn't bang the giant gong and send them home. Chuck Baris was the host who didn't do much except to parade around in funny hats and laugh at the freaks on stage.
And, yes, this was somebody's idea to make this concept into a movie. It's hard to discern who exactly would bankroll it; however, Baris's reported ties to the CIA and the mafia may have had something to do with it. So anyway, Baris hired legendary no-talent Robert Downey Sr. to help co-write the so-called screenplay and then decided to take the directing reigns himself.
So, what do we have here? "The Gong Show Movie" is part fiction part documentary, most of the film deals with Baris's daily routine of being the show's creative force and what a hard ordeal that is for him. The main running joke is that, wherever Baris goes, someone recognizes him and forces him to watch as they audition. Yep, it isn't funny the first time it happens, and it certainly isn't funny the 20th time it happens either.
These scenes are then interspersed with actual footage of "The Gong Show". We get such sights as singers who can't sing, morbidly obese strippers, clumsy dancers, noxious comedians, and other oddities such as an elderly woman who's teeth fall out when she tries to sing, a man whose talent consists of singing like a chicken, another who makes faces on a pane of glass, and two nubile teenage girls who simply sit and suck on popsicles.
The characters in the film include Baris, his boring, supportive girlfriend, his twitchy producer who becomes apoplectic at some of the "acts" on stage, and, of course, featured appearances by Jaye P. Morgan, Pat McCormick and Jamie Farr, amongst others, as the celebrity judges who 'gong' the freaks.
Basically, the film falls into a predictably awful rhythm: we get a day in Baris's life which consists of working on the show, he is then subsequently accosted by various people to get on the show, and then he goes home exhausted about why he does what he does and wonders if it is all worth it...then we get footage of the show itself and determine that, no, it most certainly is not worth it.
The attempts at humor are just jaw-droppingly horrible, and since Downey is a co-writer, that is to be expected (anyone who was misfortunate enough to see Downey's "Hugo Pool" or "Too Much Sun" will know what I'm talking about). We get a man who tells a story about his girlfriend who likes to eat cheese right before sex(!), two brothers who attempt to kill Baris because their mother got "gonged" on the show only to appear on the show themselves and get "gonged", and Jaye P. Morgan ripping off her top in hilarious exhultation.
The finale has Baris, who has had enough of his life, hightailing it the deserts in Morocco, only to be followed by the entire cast who appear and sing a grand finale to coax him back to his fans. (I also forgot to mention that Baris sings many of the film's songs as well, making him a quadruple loser)
"The Gong Show Movie" is a deservedly forgotten curiousity. Thankfully, there have been few films like it, and luckily, it was such a critical and commercial flop that a sequel never materialized. If it was a hit can you imagine what would have come next?
Images of a possible "Tic Tac Dough Movie" make one quiver with fear.
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