Midgets vs. Mascots (2009)
by Jon Bastian
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I’m a fan of guilty pleasure films, and did enjoy every cringe-worthy moment of all the Jackass movies, so when I saw the title Midgets vs. Mascots, I was looking forward to a politically incorrect gag-fest in which grown adults act like a bunch of bored fourteen year-old boys and get into all kinds of ridiculous trouble and cause endless mayhem at their own expense, flying without a safety net or a script.
Unfortunately, as becomes apparent almost from the beginning, Midgets vs. Mascots is a mockumentary, scripted, planned, and faux. Not that this is a bad thing – it just altered my expectations and actually made them somewhat higher. It’s a simple formula: unscripted guerrilla gross-out video (paging Steve-O), low standards for enjoyment. Scripted ersatz gross-out film, higher standards. Midgets vs. Mascots lands somewhere between the two points. Obviously, since we’re watching actors and not assholes, the cringe factor is nowhere near as high. On the other hand, since we’re watching actors, and not assholes, the need for narrative is much higher.
Midgets vs. Mascots does deliver on the story, setting it up with a simple but compelling premise. Famous Dallas little person and team mascot “Big Red” Bush is dead, and he is eulogized in a wonderful cameo by the Hedgehog himself, Ron Jeremy. Bush was a pioneer in producing midget porn, and fabulously wealthy. Hence, after death, he cannot help but give his useless douchebag son and his third wife a little bit of a challenge – each of them will create a team with five members, his son heading the midgets and his wife the mascots, and the two teams have thirty days to complete thirty challenges. Whichever team wins splits five million dollars, with another five million going to the winning coach. The whole thing will be overseen by Bush’s erstwhile Chinese servant, Deng Mann (Akie Kotabe, Lost Angels). Premise set, it’s off to the auditions, then let the games begin.
The story proceeds apace, following the formula of competitions interspersed with fake “behind the scenes” moments. And, despite moments that would have made a Pink Flamingos era John Waters green with envy over what the filmmakers pull off, in the post Borat age, it all seems rather tame. Even with simulated midget porn, a bit of furry yiffing, various farts and sharts, a gallon challenge that ends with probably not simulated puking, midget-on-midget forced sodomy, and almost but not-quite incestuous pegging, the film manages to be surprisingly good natured. We are not meant to revel in the characters’ pain and suffering, but rather to feel sorry for them because of it, which is no mean feat in a film of this nature.
Yes, there is a story and actually a positive message when all is said and done, an immoral story with an ultimate moral. And you have to admit that, visually, the whole proceeding is ridiculous – in a good way – from almost the beginning. Come on – we have a quartet of little people (joined by Gary Coleman, who insists he’s one of them, although they deride him as “The Shaq of little people”) up against full-grown adult men who are never without their mascot costumes. And these are some weird-ass mascots. Gator and the Spartan make sense in a football team way, but I can’t imagine what teams would have a Taco or a Bunny as mascots. The fifth member of the team, Sheriff, is pretty normally dressed as a cowboy from the neck down, but is burdened with a giant head, and makes for some of the best sight gags in the movie. The head, of course, never changes, but it is amazing to watch how physical comedy and emotional situation give the impression that the head is as expressive as Meryl Streep chasing an Oscar. On top of that, when the head finally does come off, it’s the best reveal of the film, and makes total sense in a very weird way.
The cast is very game, with Coleman a stand-out playing the National Enquirer stereotype version of himself – surly, bitter, and combative. Chicago Bulls stalwart Scottie Pippen makes a cameo as himself, and you’ve never seen anything quite like a nearly 6’8” NBA two-time World Champion in mortal combat with a handful of little people. Imagine Ewoks trying to do a take-down on Chewbacca.
So, verdict time – worth seeing? If you’re looking for a way over-the-top gross-out fest, sadly, no. Re-watch Jackass or search YouTube for anything with Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius or Bam Magera in it. Looking for well-crafted, well-written, moving, Hollywood fare? Definitely skip this. Looking for party entertainment that you can pop into the DVD player when every one is stoned and in a silly mood? Then this is exactly the ticket – there are enough OMGWTF moments (sometimes literally) to keep a party crowd laughing until they shart, and sometimes that’s all you need.
So, caveat emptor. Midgets vs. Mascots might have been the title of something far more outré, but by the end of it, the filmmakers have us truly caring about both of the titular M’s, which probably works against them. They may have aimed for the crotch, but they hit the heart instead. Oops.
Midgets vs. Mascots is now available on DVD.
Jon Bastian is a native and resident of Los Angeles. Watch for his upcoming play “Strange Fruit”, which he hopes will help him keep his two dogs rolling in kibble…
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