Altman's Marxist Lobsters Pinch the Fingers
Weed. That's the only way to explain O.C. And Stiggs.
And not just any weed, but KILLER WEED. Hopper-Quality Home
Grown. That's how Robert Altman took a WHACKY! National Lampoon
comic and turned it into, as the tagline very specifically
tells us, "Adventures in Upper-Middle Class Suburbia."
"Stiggs" is Mark Stiggs (the never-heard-from-again
Neill Barry), who has a soft spot in his heart for the country
of Gabon. "O.C." stands for Oliver Cromwell Ogleby
(the never-heard-from-again Daniel Jenkins), and like his
namesake's subjugation of Ireland in the battles of Dunbar
and Worcester, O.C. And Stiggs must use confusion as a weapon
to overthrow the royalty of Scottsdale, Arizona (The Schwab
family, whose patriarch is an evil racist insurance salesman)
and reign like kings in their victory over the plutocrats.
Insurance companies are not a parliament willing to dissolve,
so our mutinist rebels must forcibly eject the Schwab family
from their seat of power, using the most powerful forces known
to man: Dennis Hopper's Apocalypse Now! persona, army
chopper, and secret stash of the good stuff. And barbecued
O.C. And Stiggs are supposed to be Ferris Bueller-esque 1980's
high school cool guys: They wear linen pants and rayon shirts
unbuttoned to their wispy chest hairs. But Stiggs wears Bono
"Fly" goggles so big he looks like a fifth grader
in them. Most of the movie consists of our Marxist rebels
wearing WHACKY! outfits: tuxedos, football jerseys, and these
bermuda shorts, mismatched plaid shirt and tie outfits that
make them look like a cross between junior high kids on "Nerd
Day" and Jesper Parnevik. Their vehicle, the WHACKY!-ily
named "Gila Monster," is a rusty black Studebaker
jacked up on monster truck wheels and hydraulics. They keep
their retarded friend Dennis around because his mom's the
hot school nurse, and they use some sort of remote control
device to make the water fountain explode when Randall Schwab
Jr. (Jon Cryer) takes a drink. The obvious problem is this:
If these guys are supposed to be "cool," then why
are they such dorks?
Well, they're more than just dorks. There's more homoerotic
tension between O.C. And Stiggs than between Dude and Sweet
in Dude, Where's My Car?. We get a flashback montage
of their "ludicrous" summer together, which included
snorkeling with their pants down and kissing while surfing
together. Stiggs also doesn't seem to keen on O.C.'s new girlfriend,
either, but let's just get to their targets of torture: the
evil Schwab family. Randall Schwab (Paul Dooley, who performs
the entire role from his gall bladder) is an insurance salesman
who likes to refer to his daughter's Asian fiance as "it"
and enjoys vanilla ice cream because "it's not colored."
He also enjoys barbecued lobster, which if he vomits it later,
he'll swallow it right back down. His wife Elinor Schwab (Jane
Curtin) spends, literally, every second of her screen time
sloshing around drunk, hiding her vodka in binoculars and
heads of lettuce. Altman makes fun of her alcoholism by having
her prick her fingers on cacti, accompanied by Boing! sound
effects. Their Randall Jr. (Jon Cryer) son looks like Arvid
from "Head of the Class" and slobbers on himself
reading sex mags. And their daughter Lenora (Laura Erstein)
marries a "Chink" to be a caddy for her dad.
O.C and Stiggs tell their story in flashback during a phone
conversation to the king of Gabon. That's going to need some
explanation. O.C.'s crazy grandpa (Ray Walston) tells Abe
Simpson-style rambling stories, but he can't get medical help
because the Schwabs canceled his insurance, even though he
was a cop for forty years. The two friends seem to have a
little more than just friendship at stake, because Stiggs
gets pouty when he learns that O.C. will have to move to Arkansas.
So to earn revenge, O.C. and Stiggs jump the Schwab fence
to steal their lobsters from the grill while the family is
in watching dad's insurance commercial. Then they tap into
the Schwab phone line and call Gabon to talk to King Bongo
(?!) about their WHACKY! antics. That's Altman's brilliantly
complex, Soderbergh-esque narrative structure. Altman seems
to forget about the whole flashback thing by the end, but
that still doesn't stop the WHACKY! Marxist antics. Hey, not
only does the O.C. stand for Oliver Cromwell, Stiggs tells
the school counselor that he's "Out of Control!"
Actually, it's Altman who's out of control. O.C. And Stiggs
are determined to ruin the Schwab/Chink (Altman's word, not
mine) wedding, so in their nerd outfits and the Gila Monster,
they pay none other than Dennis Hopper a visit. They need
a present for the wedding, so Dennis, obviously high and crazy,
walks out in his fatigues and headband from Apocalypse
Now!. Apparently, his character Sponson hangs out in a
shack down by the river, playing on his ham radio, tending
to his "thirty acres of pot," which Altman lovingly
soft-focuses on while Dennis dispenses the following wisdom:
"Guns are disease, man. You know what I mean, man? I
mean, to save yourself from the disease, man, you've got to
vaccinate yourself with more guns, man. That's why doctors
never get sick, man. They own all the vaccine! So if you're
going to survive in this world, man, you've got to vaccinate
yourself with guns....man!" And then he squeezes off
a few rounds from his Uzi and gift wraps it for the Schwab
Back at the wedding, pigeons are pooping all over the rich
people. This is another Brilliant Altman Motif ®, but
not as brilliant as O.C. and Stiggs showing up in the backfiring
Studebaker Monster Truck in their tuxedos. O.C. dances with
the Redeeming Female Who Thinks Her Rich Boyfriend is a Prick
(Michelle, played by Cynthia Nixon). She threatens Stiggs'
turf, I think, so Stiggs convinces Retarded Friend to take
out the machine gun and start firing, which, in a brilliant
Altman-esque Thematic ® brings a chandelier crashing into
the wedding cake. You know, like Oliver Cromwell's brilliant,
subversive maneuvers at Dunkirk in which he used the Irish
army's own tactics against them.
O.C. asks Michelle to go out for lobster (!), which doesn't
work out to well, so Phase Two of the plan goes into effect.
O.C. And Stiggs need alcohol, so they go to their old friend
Bob the Wino, played by Melvin Van Peebles. Altman has no
chance at ever winning the NAACP award after making drunk
Melvin do a Lincoln joke ("I freed the who?") and
drink wine that's not any of that "Uncle Remus bullshit."
O.C. And Stiggs are wearing American flag collared shirts,
which to Altman makes them race crusaders. So later, when
Wino Bob dies, they bury him on the golf course, and Cromwell
chips his approach shot over Wino Bob's grave. I'm not sure
what any of these means, other than it's "Altman-esque,"
but after toking up with Dennis Hopper all day, I'm sure Altman
got a good laugh out of it while scarfing down a bag of Funyons.
Really, what the hell is Altman thinking?
Well, Altman obviously thinks he's onto Preston Sturgis-meets-Animal
House brilliant satire. Martin Mull is the "cool"
neighbor who tells O.C. and Stiggs when Schwab isn't home.
For some reason, Mull is having lunch with Bob Uecker (?!),
who is rambling on about Yogi Berra while Mull's Altman Overlapping
Conversation ® with Stiggs drowns him out. Mull ponders,
"I wonder where all the poor people are tonight?"
and declares that his job is to "drink and make a lot
of money." Altman can't let a line like that go without
an Altman Bourgeois Visual ®, so he films Mull from behind
an ejaculating fountain.
Ok, finally we're to the end of this crap. Since Mrs. Schwab
is too drunk to care, O.C. And Stiggsin typical Altman
Misogyny ®get a couple of "sluts" and
invite all Wino Bob's friends over to the Schwab mansion.
Mrs. Schwab is having a party, which Stiggs declares is "full
of philanthropic rich women," so the neglected rich housewives
skivvy down with the winos, and everybody boils a lobster
in the hot tub. "Look," says Altman, "There's
no real difference between cheap vodka and Skyy vodka alcoholics!"
That is insightful. Altman obviously thinks this whole
lobster idea is pure genius, but not as funny as the grand
finale. O.C. and Stiggs find Schwab's underground bunker,
fully stocked with survival goods and a TV. So O.C. and Stiggs
watch a television preacher talking about how "Democracy
has failed!" while they and Schwab have a fireworks fight,
which Altman sets to banjo music. Now at this point in the
shoot, Altman is so blasted from the KILLER WEED that he thinks
this is hilarious, biting satire. But alas, it's merely a
prelude to the coup de gras. Desperate, Stiggs calls Dennis
Hopper on the radio, who, to the tune of "Ride of the
Valkyries" (Yes, the piece from Apocalypse Now!),
jumps in the chopper and heads to Upper Middle Class Suburban
Scottsdale. "All the goddamn houses look the same!"
notices Dennis. "Look for the one with the American flags!"
instructs Stiggs. Even the characters are aware that this
is "Altman-esque!" So Dennis storms through
the Schwab house taking "Gooks" prisoner until the
"Slant" husband of Lenora leads him to the tunnel.
O.C. tosses a grenade into the bunker, which explodes into
the sky with the rest of fireworks in front of Altman Chandeliers
and Fountains ®. And to the tune of "America the
Beautiful" played on the electric guitar, Dennis drops
Schwab off at the "America's Playland" Water Park.
And that's Altman's victory over the rich.
I didn't even really make fun of this movieI merely
reported the plot. That's the worst thing that could have
been done to it. Seriously, you be the judge. If you think
we owe Altman one glop of pigeon shit for his body of work,
then you haven't sat through the amount of unwatchable Altman
crap he has made. He's made more bad movies than any respected
filmmaker I can think of. O.C. and Stiggs is easily
one of the five worst movies I've ever seen, and the worst
is yet to come this week from JimmyO. "But Altman's a
brilliant visual stylist...." Fine. But this shit doesn't
make any sense. Please explain the whole obsession Stiggs
has with Gabon. Stiggs gets really pissed off when he thinks
he's lost his stamp of King Bongo of Gabon (which he stole
from Schwab), and yet, somehow, they prank phone call King
Bongo from Schwab's phone and talk to him for hours about
their WHACKY! adventures in upper-middle class suburbia. "Brilliant
visual stylings" or not, that's just stupid. I figured
out that he made Popeye into an essay on Cornelius Vanderbilt,
but I can't explain the whole Gabon thing.
Plus, Altman films it poorly. Actors stumble over their lines,
but Altmanagain, presumably blasted from the KILLER
WEEDdoesn't bother with another take. There's all sorts
of Beyond Therapy style WHACKY! sound effects. Finger
pricks on cacti yield WHACKY! "Boing!" sound effects,
but my favorite Altman Styling ® is the public domain
version of the "Sanford and Son" theme that plays
every time the Gila Monster appears. There's also some 80's
techno music too, but the real musical star is some outfit
called King Sunny Adé and his African Beats. Altman
loves to put Africa comments in his movies, so my guess is
that Altman heard these guys one night while blasted on the
KILLER WEED and said, "Hi, my name's Bob Altman. I'm
an Academy Award nominated director, and you guys so have
to be in my next movie!" Here, King Sunny replaces the
bourgeois play at the theater, which disgusts all the white
people. And if you didn't think it possible for two Scottsdale
Marxist Rebels to have a transcontinental social conscious,
the final shot of the film is O.C. And Stiggs bouncing along
in the Gila Monster to the tune of public domain Sanford and
Son while Altman focuses on the Ganbonese flag on the back.
Ok, Altmanites: explain what the hell that's about. And no,
Hopper and Altman's private stash won't help you out.