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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Hell Baby review: what the hell?

Hell Baby red light Rob Corddry Keegan Michael Key Leslie Bibb

I’m actually angry at how little the movie even tries. There isn’t enough of anything here to pad out a brief sketch, never mind a feature-length film.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): the trailer is hideous and unfunny

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

And here I was all excited about the revolution in VOD. In case you were under any delusion that all these movies debuting on-demand indicated a shift away from nontheatrical releases as anything other than a dumping ground, here comes the monstrous Hell Baby to set you straight. Oh, it’s not monstrous in any good way… and there should be a good monstrosity to a film that purports to be a horror comedy; there should also be something — anything! — funny about it. I’m actually angry at how little writers and directors Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) even try to be horrific and/or humorous: the best — the very best — they can manage to cough up are a couple of “scary” foreign-language nicknames for the ramshackle New Orleans house that Rob Corddry (The Way, Way Back) and Leslie Bibb’s (Movie 43) married-and-expecting couple move in to… and an accompanying “joke” that these supposedly smart people (he’s a PhD student, ferchristsake) don’t recognize the words for blood and death in French and Spanish, which we dumb viewers get instantly. Oh, and there’s also a big black dog peeking menacingly in through the windows occasionally. Very little happens for an hour and a half — there isn’t even the promised hell baby until the final ten minutes — except for uninteresting, unfunny, unscary detours into the unnecessary backstories of secondary characters, including Garant and Lennon as visiting Vatican priests (it takes two of them to manage a half-assed impersonation of Father Guido Sarducci). Some viewers will find it a bonus that they also detour into outrageously gratuitous female nudity — which they do not even bother to connect to what passes for a plot — for significant portions of the runtime. I do not. Scenes drag on forever, even when they have absolutely no content to extend, and every nonjoke is telegraphed on the way in and overenunciated on the way out. There isn’t enough of anything here to pad out a brief sketch, never mind a feature-length film. Corddry has the grace to occasionally look he’s trying to figure out how he ended up here. Garant and Lennon come across as nothing but smugly satisfied with their nonachievement with this cinematic turd, which makes them even less appealing, as impossible as that might seem.


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Hell Baby (2013)
US/Can release: Sep 6 2013 (VOD Jul 25 2013)

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated U for graphic extended unfunniness and unscariness
MPAA: rated R for bloody violence, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Has there been a film described as a “grossout comedy” that you’ve enjoyed? I ask not to denigrate your reviewing skills but because the answer for me is “no”, and I rather suspect the genre is simply not for me.

  • I loved *Ted* and *This Is the End,* both of which have grossout elements. *Shaun of the Dead* has fart jokes that actually work as jokes and thematically.

    Mostly, though, I see no point in and am not amused by grossout stuff for nothing more than its own sake.

  • RogerBW

    Good points, and thanks for the reminders.

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