2 July 2008 | bob the moo
Has some good laughs but never convinced me that it suited or deserved to be a film
The Onion network is famous for the impartial nature of its news coverage as well as the quality of its delivery and journalists. Anchorman Norm Archer in particular prides himself on keeping the standard high and serving Americans the real stories without dumbing down. However when the network is purchased by a new parent company (who have a major new Steven Seagal film to promote) and Archer starts to notice significant slippage in his beloved network.
The name "The Onion" was enough to attract me to this film given that I frequently dip into the satirical newspaper for a few easy chuckles; however even as I was pressing play I wondered how a newspaper can be adapted into a film maybe a TV show in the mould of "The Day Today" or "The Daily Show" but a film? Well the answer to my wonderings turns out to be "not that well" because The Onion Movie is a mess of hits and misses that works when it hits but rapidly annoys when it is missing. It will depend on sense of humour but it is undeniable that there are misses in a film that is essentially a sketch show with a bit of a plot that satirises the commercial nature of news networks. You can see the intelligence behind it but yet it doesn't really work as well as it should. The fragmented nature of it prevents a flow but this wouldn't matter one bit if the laughs were consistent.
Sadly this doesn't happen. There are some really great moments that had me laughing out loud but there are also plenty of sketches that either just don't work or simply extend the joke for much longer than it can actually sustain or, in the case of the film's ending, both. Fans of this style of humour will just about find enough to make it worth watching but even I (who does) found parts of it to just be poor. The cast are hard to judge in strict acting terms but mostly they work well to support the material, which is what counts. As with his recent Orange cinema adverts, Seagal is better at spoofing his career than he is at making proper films and he is enjoyable (even if this is one joke really over-extended).
I can understand why the Onion Movie sat in release limbo for so long because it never really convinced me that it suited or deserved to be a film. The sketches throw up as many hits as misses which will suffice for some but was not good enough for me even if it did produce a handful of good laughs. Worth a look for Onion fans but not good enough to tickle a mass audience.