Sacrificial Pan

Our reviewer endures films like 'Say It Isn't So' so you won't have to.

For millennia, philosophers, psychologists and physicians have debated the merits of pain. Can pain be good? Do we need our pain? Is a life utterly free from pain still a full life, a truly human life?

One thinks of the renaissance poet Petrarch, whose great works all spring from the pain of his unrequited love for the mysterious Laura, or Milton, the poet who found in his loss of sight a new resource of inner light, or Friedrich Nietzsche, who philosophized upon the illness of humanity because of his own feeble health and debilitating headaches.

Fortified with these historical examples, I attempted to sit through the entire length of Say It Isn't So. I'm pretty sure it was 16 hours long, but then again my watch stopped when I tried to use it to gouge my eyes out.

On paper, Say It Isn't So sounds brilliant. First, it was written by Peter Gaulke, the guy who played Motel Cop #1 in Me, Myself and Irene. That's right: Motel Cop #1! I'm sure Motel Cop #2 tried to get the job, but his credentials just weren't up to snuff.

If that isn't good enough, an additional writer, Gerry Swallow, was brought on to help out. His previous credits include (well, actually, "are limited to") playing Motel Cop #2 in Me Myself and Irene. Oh, wait a minute ...

OK, with two guys who've played numbered characters, a film like this is gonna need a stellar director, and producers Bobby and Peter Farrelly (perhaps best known for their work casting Peter Gualke and Gerry Swallow as Motel Cops #'s 1 and 2 in Me, Myself and Irene) handpicked wünderkind James B. Rogers to helm this film. That's right, the same James B. Rogers who wrote Sorority House Massacre II in 1990. We've waited over ten years for him to do something else, and now, finally, we have his magnum grossus.

Say It Isn't So starts with the basic Boy-Meets-Girl-Boy-Loses-Girl premise, but it is hardly boilerplate stuff. In most of these films, the boy encounters some extreme physical difficulty that he must overcome in order to return to his true love. In this one, the boy finds out that the girl is actually his sister. He finds this out, of course, while having sexual intercourse with her and her cat. Tolstoy, eat your heart out!

After the unpleasantness of the bestiality and incest, the boy and girl must part. This allows for a nice period of jokes at the expense of a stroke victim. Laugh as the stroke victim drools on himself. Titter as he is helpless while being attacked by a swarm of bees. Giggle as he must seek aid in wiping himself.

Did I mention that this film was produced by the Farrelly brothers? Yes, the Farrelly brothers, inventors of gross-out comedy, who usually write and direct film about feces, excrement and poop-related topics, actually found this film too disgusting to deal with in a hands-on manner and passed it off to a new generation of sadists.

Still, their touches are there. There's the scene of the man being dragged down the street because his arm is stuck in a cow's anus. There's the aforementioned bestiality and drooling-stroke-victim jokes. And, of course, what film would be complete without repeated comedy at the expense of a drug-addled double-amputee? The thing with this kind of humor: For it to work it actually has to be, I don't know, "funny." Simply being crude and misanthropic is only a viable art form prior to the third grade.

So, yes, this film (and I use the word "film" only in the sense of "set of images recorded on celluloid and projected on a screen") is almost the definition of painful. People gripe about film critics all the time: we didn't like a film that you did, we made fun of your favorite actress, we claimed that we enjoyed some wretched piece of art-house drek just so we could seem "cultured." It's true, we do all of that. But, hey, man, we also take a few bullets for you! It's entirely possible that someone who hadn't read this review might think "I believe I'll go see a comedic film this fine afternoon ... ahh, here's one that's sure to be a charmer! It's called Say It Isn't So! That should be a most swimming way to spend the last seven-and-a-half dollars I have burning a hole in my pocket!"

Well, brother, let me tell you, it will not be a most swimming experience. Instead, it's a character building experience. After sitting through this, I'm sure I now have the inner resources to out-paint Frida Kahlo and out-write Franz Kafka. I may see it a few more times, to really intensify my life. And remember, each horrid moment I suffer, I suffer for you, the average film-goer. And I do this for one reason, and one reason alone: because I love each and every one of you.

Say It Isn't So is playing at Foothills (742-6174), Century Park (620-0750) and Century El Con (202-3343).

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