AUGUST 27, 2013
Between the fact that it's about a monster that comes and goes out of a dude's butt and that it had Gillian Jacobs, Peter Stormare, and Ken Marino (I doubt I've laughed as hard all year as I did at his "Maybe he picked the locks" line in We're The Millers) in its cast, I'm a pretty easy sell for Bad Milo. Add in scene stealers like Patrick Warburton and Kumail Nanjiani and the fact that said monster is PRACTICAL and not a goddamn CGI effect? It starts to seem like a movie made to entertain me specifically - basically it's just missing a Meat Loaf song and maybe a shoutout to Fletch (actually, Marino DOES get a hand up his butt. Mooooooooooon riverrrrrrrrrr).
That said, I do wish the movie was a bit funnier. It's a horror comedy that leans heavily toward the latter genre; it's only at the very end that Milo's antics are played for suspense and scares (the fact that he purrs and whimpers like Gizmo when he's not killing folks makes him kind of lovable), and even the kill scenes are sort of played for laughs, like when Marino purposely lets Milo loose in order to kill someone who has been an annoyance in his life. There's a slight Little Shop of Horrors feel to the material, as Milo needs to be fed (and refuses traditional food), but the hook is that Marino can't simply walk away or even kill the damn thing, as it's a part of him. Any pain Milo feels, he does as well, and since it's the living embodiment of his emotions, if he killed Milo he'd turn into a vegetable.
So the concept is hilarious, but once you get used to it, the movie doesn't take the opportunity for as many big laughs as you'd expect given the plot and cast. I was chuckling a lot, but rarely did I laugh out loud - something that might be an issue if you can't even get past the admirably batshit idea behind it. The production value is painfully low at times (rarely have I seen a faker news station graphic than the ones shown here after every kill), but that wouldn't be an issue if they just kept us laughing more often. Jacobs in particular gets very little to do beyond being the wife, which is a shame as she was even able to shine during the 4th season of Community. The best bits are between Marino and Stormare (as his shrink), because Stormare can make anything funny and Marino's deadpan responses never stopped amusing, though I also quite loved the fertility doctor (he gets the best line in the movie, after performing what appears to be very good oral sex on a girl who asks if he learned how to do that at school, his reply is "Yeah, in a way.").
Otherwise, it's a delight. Stormare is tasked with giving much of the exposition, and sells it beautifully, without ever even suggesting that it's ridiculous. If anything I wouldn't have minded SOME disbelief from the characters - at the end Milo runs around a party and even then folks just sort of react as if it were nothing more than a rabid squirrel, and Jacobs barely even blinks when Marino asks her to help him put Milo back up his ass (the movie gets some mileage out of the fact that this seems to be impossible, as Milo is about as big as a pillow - we never actually SEE the process, just hear it). But it's admirable that they have the entire cast play it straight(ish) and not waste time on people saying things like "That's ridiculous!" - why bother, when we know it's already true? Plus, I liked that there was a minor psychological aspect to it, as Milo is "summoned" from stress, and thus of course Marino is having the worst week of his life: his job is in jeopardy, his wife wants a baby, his mother is dating a guy younger than he is, etc.
Another thing that impressed me was the puppetry for Milo. Again, he's a practical creature, so the interactions are superior than they would be with some lame CGI effect (the spooning scene as seen on the poster is a particular highlight), and the animation is quite good as well - considering how small he is relative a human, there's a surprising amount of detail in his facial expressions and mannerisms. It's a shame that the focus on that didn't apply to the blood - his first kill contains some of the lamest looking CGI splatter I've seen in quite some time - but if that meant more time/money spent on making sure the title character looked perfect, so be it. I want a toy!
The pacing is also spot on, with Marino's doctor discovering Milo (he thinks it's a polyp) in the first few minutes and the little guy claiming his first kill by the end of the first reel (I'm saying that with irony - there are no "reels" anymore). There's some padding to get it up to (almost) 90 minutes, including the dreaded "Let's start at the end to give you a taste of the horror to come" gimmick, which I truly hate (and even more so here as they inexplicably try to make a "twist" out of it by editing a character out of the scene the first time we see it? I didn't get it at all), but it's forgivable, and never wears out its welcome. And, thankfully, there's not a lot of poop humor - I was worried there would be a surplus of jokes at the expense of his constant trips to the bathroom (or dumb sight gags, like taking "War & Peace" with him to read while he went), but there's actually almost none of that. Most of the humor stems from dealing with the reality of a completely gonzo situation, so while it doesn't always land, it's the most respectable approach to take, and thus it's fine by me.
But seriously, don't waste Gillian Jacobs on "the wife". She should be in starring roles by this point as it is. At least give her her own little subplot (or, even, identify what she does for a living or what those pills she takes before bed are for).
What say you?