Why Does It Exist?

Internet Dating (2008)

In Reviews on April 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm

I guess this scene is a given in a movie about Internet dating.

As a video store employee, you are expected to be knowledgeable about all your products despite the fact that you spend 40 hours a week thinking of reasons why it isn’t necessary to watch the McConaughey-Hudson beach thriller Fool’s Gold in order to pass judgment on it. After an irate little man complained to my boss because I had no opinion on 17 Again, I vowed that I would try to sit through as many shitty movies I didn’t want to see during store hours as possible so I could tell customers in all confidence the movie they selected was a piece of shit.

This rarely made a difference.

During my tenure at the (now defunct) video store, my boss categorically refused to stock smaller releases that she deemed ‘ethnic’, despite the overwhelming demand by our multi-ethnic clientele; the reasons for these are pretty much exactly what you think them to be. Consequently, I never did get to check out any Tyler Perry vehicles despite a little voice in my head constantly telling me that maybe I should… just once… just to see what it’s like. Since part of this blog’s MO is to stretch my viewing horizons into places I never really paid attention to, I thought maybe I’d check out a Tyler Perry movie.

And here’s the thing: I know why they exist. They preach good Christian values, they’re heavily promoted within church groups, they give a lot of actors the chance to do something other than a bad guy or comic sidekick, they have a cross-dressing dude in a fat suit and they make a ton of money. It also seems from poking around that none of them are really that terrible. In other words, they’re poor contenders for Why Does It Exist? in almost every way.

This drew me in, as Im sure it would draw you in as well.

Enter Katt Williams. For the same reasons as Tyler Perry, I am rather unfamiliar with Katt Williams. Katt Williams’ existence was shown to me through a popular Internet streaming service that stocks a rather impressive array of Katt Williams products and usually pairs them in its ingenious recommendation system with films by the aforementioned Perry. Judging from the amount of specials he’s released, he’s a tremendously popular stand-up comedian and has had supporting roles in a few movies you may have heard of or stumbled across on TBS such as the third Friday sequel and its church-centric brethren, First Sunday. I’ve deliberately avoided watching any Katt Williams stand-up before watching the subject of this week’s piece, the imaginatively-titled Internet Dating. In other words, I wanted this to be my Katt Williams baptism because, if the facts were correct, there was nowhere to go but up.

The poster for Internet Dating shows a clearly-shopped Williams shushing a woman who appears to be kissing his ear but is more likely to be kissing the air in a ‘studio’ set up in a U-Lock somewhere in Burbank. It uses the ever popular red-and-black typeface that has made films like Norbit (which also stars Williams!) such runaway successes and features the talents of music superstar Master P and his son Romeo (the artist formerly known as Lil’ Romeo, natch) as director and writer, respectively. Ten years ago, Master P was an unquestionable force in the entertainment industry, frequently landing in the list of the 40 highest-paid entertainers. Now, well, he’s making Internet Dating.

One of the disadvantages of the digital age is that since our lives are increasingly spent online, fiction has to adapt and find new and dynamic ways to depict the most static and visually uninteresting activity next to sleeping. New and dynamic doesn’t come near Master P’s approach to Internet Dating, which opens with a laborious scene in which our protagonist Mickey (Williams) signs up to a dating website called HitUsUp.com. Apparently the best way this is to let Williams riff on the various fields in which he must enter information, something that Williams seems all too comfortable doing.

In fact, riffing seems to be the film’s bread and butter as these online scenes pepper the film and drag an already torturous movie to a grinding halt. Mickey also has random encounters with his friends and neighbors: his next-door neighbour makes Mickey impossibly jealous with his all-night sex marathons while the dude downstairs (veteran character actor Clifton Powell) is a fast-talking pimp all too eager to point out Mickey’s flaws that prevent him from ‘getting bitches’ (namely, he’s short, has a mustache, works in a sandwich store, wears a dumb hat in the summer and masturbates). Mickey’s cousin Trey (Master P) owns HitUsUp.com and is concerned by the fact that his cousin is lying to women on the website and describing himself in more favourable terms when Trey knows that if you just stay yourself, you can get whatever you want (hint: this is the moral of the story).

I didnt alter this picture, by the way.

I’m going to take this opportunity to discuss something that I suppose is an innovation that is all Master P’s because I’ve never seen it in a feature film before: thought bubbles. Non-stop thought bubbles. You know those chintzy shows like Elimidate (the production values of which this seems to mirror, but more on that later) where thought bubbles periodically pop up to helpfully point out what characters are thinking? Most of the characters in this movie have that (at least in the first twenty to thirty minutes, after which Master P apparently decided it was a terrible idea), and they’re extremely garish clip-art style bubbles that the text often bleeds out of. Suffice to say that the insights in the thought bubbles are actually not all that insightful and sometimes downright idiotic. Most of the time, they simply reiterate what the characters have just said seconds before.

Anyway, Mickey and his cohorts get into a bunch of crazy shenanigans befitting a man who lies about his persona on the Internet, including:

–          Mistakenly going to a fat lady’s place (zoinks!)

–          Having his cousin Trey send his hot, busty lady friend to his place of work while Mickey is out getting molested by a fat lady who can’t stop eating, thus flabbergasting his fellow employees

–          After his cousin Trey finds out that Mickey acted offensively in front of the fat lady who happens to be his employee, he sends ANOTHER woman to act like a crackwhore at his place of work

–          He also sends an extremely irate, sassy employee of his named Too Sweet to go fuck with the employees (it must be noted that despite being the lead, Williams is practically never around to get fucked with) and eventually punch one of the dopey employees out with boxing gloves

–          Pretending to be six-foot-seven and white for a woman who pretends to be blonde and big-bootied when in fact she’s brunette and regular-bootied!

–          Getting pickup lessons from Clifton Powell, who gives it his all but can’t really make a hacky old line like ‘You got any black in you? Want some?’ not sound like the hacky old line it is

–          Arguing with a customer about pickles in the vaguest and least consistent series of phallic references in recent memory

–          Trey sends a stereotypical Asian prostitute to hang out with Mickey; she goes ‘Make-a me horny!!’ and forces him to rob a guy, then smoke up and go ‘weed make-a me very horny! Horny horny horny horny!’. These shenanigans eventually land him in jail (gadzooks!).

Trey weaving his magic.

I haven’t the slightest idea where Trey finds all these people to call up but he has a pretty solid roster of different crazy people he uses to teach Mickey a lesson – except Mickey isn’t actually in the store when most of them come over. His fellow restaurant employees (two interchangeably dumb dudes and a flippant girl) take the brunt of the abuse while Katt Williams is most likely off somewhere doing something more productive than starring in Internet Dating.

A quick shout-out to the production values of the film, which waver between TLC reality show and high school A/V class. It’s one thing that everything is lit in the same flat, harsh tones as the Cake Boss fucking around in his kitchen; it’s a whole other thing that the film’s overall font scheme is Comic Sans in bright neon colors. When characters are introduced, the frame freezes into a handy character guide in hideous pink, yellow and green clip art. Scenes shot outside are fuzzy with background noise. Any and all logos are explicitly blurred out (Williams even sports a Lakers jersey that has to be blurred out, showcasing the care and thoughtful planning that has gone into this film) and every sign is digitally added. The contrast between Master P’s image as a high-rolling mogul and the rock-bottom, public access look of the film couldn’t be higher.

The moment that will go down in history as The Pickle Scene.

Roughly around the point where the pickle incident happens, the film’s already precarious structure begins to unravel as several supporting characters are introduced. Trey has this friend named Rabbit, a spazzy space cadet who we get to watch getting spanked by the aforementioned fat lady. A new sandwich restaurant worker is introduced, another space cadet type that can only really be described as ‘female Urkel’. Eventually everyone ends up together in a nicely tied up romantic comedy ending wherein Trey’s receptionist takes off her glasses, shows some cleavage and wins his heart while Mickey finally ends up on yet another blind date with his bitchy co-worker who turns out to be hot and totally crushing on him.

The riffing never lets up throughout; most of the situations seem to have been culled together from several of Williams’ riffs, in fact. To give praise where praise is due, Williams is actually relatively funny. Most of the time his asides and furious improvising have nothing to do with anything but that proves to be a salvation from the incredibly laborious and unfunny rest of the movie. It doesn’t help that the rest of the cast goes from disinterested to embarrassed to wildly over-the-top, but the worst performance of the film comes from Master P himself. To continue my TLC comparison from earlier, let me say this: you know those painfully staged moments in reality TV when someone pretends to be working or discussing something with someone who isn’t a regular part of the show? They try so hard to look off-the-cuff and genuine yet are extremely stiff and rehearsed? That’s how Master P acts through this entire movie.

In fact, the whole thing looks so shitty and ill-conceived that the overall tone is a lot closer to a home movie than anything ever intended for public consumption. It’s kind of adorable that a rich and famous dude like Master P spends his time off making rinky-dink little movies with his friends and family but really, who would think ‘I love Master P!’ and be satisfied with this? I’m clearly not in this movie’s intended demographic, all things considered, but this is some painfully weak shit to expect your fans to lap up. On behalf of all your fans, Master P, I am disappointed in you.

So why does it exist?

For the people who might one day say ‘I love Katt Williams, man. I’d watch him in anything.’ This is it. This is anything.

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