The Independent

The palatability of The Independent depends solely on how one feels about the humor of Jerry Stiller. In recent years, Stiller (On the Line, Zoolander) refined his on-screen persona as that of the bitter old man, ready to explode at any moment. There is lots of yelling and gesticulating, and lots of inherent frustration. For anybody who cannot stomach this, stay away from this movie. Stiller is in fine form here as Morty Fineman, owner of Fineman films and the most prolific film director in history. In his distinguished career, he made 427 films, all of the exploitation variety. The Independent is a mockumentary, satirizing the (many) bad exploitation films produced by Hollywood and everybody else. In this case, Fineman seems to make many of them.

Fineman's problem is that nobody watches his films. His company is near bankruptcy, and the only interested party wants only to buy his film library by the pound. His latest production, Ms. Kevorkian is in trouble, and the only person he can turn to is his daughter Paloma (Janeane Garofalo, Titan A.E., Steal This Movie!). Paloma actually has business sense, which clashes with the 'artistic' sense of her father. She is trying to organize a tribute for Morty at a small town film festival, hoping to reawaken interest in his work. As usual, Garofalo plays the straight woman, the only sane person in a world of idiots.

The bulk of The Independent (at least what feels like the bulk) is a collection of clips from Morty's many horrible movies. The titles alone, all of which are in the final credits, are a hoot. The film clips are funnier. They are a sorry group of bad B-movies, parading across the screen with narration by Morty. Brothers Divided tells the story of Siamese twins with opposing views on the Vietnam War. World War III II introduced Roman numerals for sequels. Other equally bad films include ones such as Twelve Angry Men and a Baby, Heil Titler, Bald Justice, and the flop that nearly bankrupt Fineman's company, his whole history of America. Real directors like Roger Corman, Ted Demme, Ron Howard, Nick Cassavetes, and others get in on the fun with small interview clips about Fineman.

With smart direction by Stephen Kessler (National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation, Birch Street Gym) and a tongue-in-cheek script by Kessler and Mike Wilkins (Birch Street Gym), The Independent typifies the saying that 'it was so bad it was good.' These horrible films are hilarious to watch, even more so considering there are real films like this made even today (just look at the direct-to-video section of any video store). There is a more somber streak running through the movie. Morty is doing this because he can do nothing else, and the lack of recognition is killing him. Thankfully, Kessler and Wilkins even treat this with a light touch.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated R for language, some violence, and sexuality.

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