The All-New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy: For Love or Mummy (1998)
Directed by John Cherry III & Larry Harmon
Written by Jeffrey Pillars & Joseph Dattore

I must have caused a lot of head scratching among local video store clerks. When most Angelenos call the legendary Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee, it's to hunt down the Norwegian release of A Better Tomorrow (with a five-second ass-shot of Chow Yun-Fat) or the morally ambiguous director's cut of April Fool's Day.

But when I call, it's on a mission to find For Love or Mummy. Thank you, Loud Bassoon, for putting me up to this. My dignity had almost begun to rear it's powder-wigged head.

It didn't help that I had no clue how to describe the movie (is it a remake? a sequel? a "requel"?), nor that I kept calling it "The New Adventures of Abbot & Costello." Most couldn't tell if I was looking for a classic, a comedy, a family film, a horror film, a musical, or if I was just pulling a "Crank Yankers." Those that did know couldn't conceal their contempt: "Yeah, I've heard of it, I've just never heard of anyone wanting to rent it."

Eight Blockbusters and five specialty stores later, I finally found it in the DVD new releases (under L, presumably for "Laurel"). I had passed it several times. It's that pointless.

Having never seen more than a few seconds of the original Laurel & Hardy, I thankfully came to this with no preconceptions. Who needs crappy old black and white movies, when there's shitty new imitations in full color?

I have no idea whether Bronson Pinchot's Stan Laurel was any good, or Gailard Sartain's Oliver Hardy passed muster. I do know that I laughed several times during TANAOLH: FLOM. Unfortunately, it was more about the cheap production values and pathetic writing than the lead actors' pained mugging and wildly desperate physical gyrations.

Trust me, this is not a case of "so bad it's good." FLOM is a straight-to-video heritage rape that deserves no serious consideration, except as an unfortunate, totally misguided attempt to resurrect a beloved comedy duo in the most half-assed way possible.

The TV screen pulsed visible rays of amateur laziness, from the plywood sets to the Casio "orchestra" score to the preposterous special effects. Case in point: the mummy costume consists of a guy wrapped in old ace bandages and a ridiculous paper-mache pharaoh mask with an awkward scowl and giant eyes that flash red when the mummy gets angry.

The mummy in question is 3,000 years old, brought to life by an alignment of the stars, probably the same alignment from The Seventh Seal, The Fifth Element, and Tomb Raider. He's been waiting to find a suitable bride, assisted by an evil Egyptian tycoon and his bug-eyed elderly henchman (who looks and acts strangely like Kumar from Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums). The bride-to-be is an Egyptologist who's curating the mummy exhibit. Somehow, through their connection to a Shriner-like men's club, Laurel and Hardy (more specifically, Laurel and Hardy's modern-day nephews) enter the mix.

The story is just an excuse for a series of pathetic misadventures, as L&H fuck everything up and then try to fix it. SPOILER ALERT: it all turns out okay in the end.

The woman playing the Egyptologist must have been the producer's girlfriend; there's no other explanation for her being in the movie, and I don't mean that as a snide joke. She's so clearly someone's girlfriend, I would stake my reputation as a world-class reviewer on it. You simply don't cast your female lead – the one who's supposed to be worth the 3,000-year wait – with an actress as old and unappealing as she is without there being a very good reason why you didn't pick any one of the 8 million moderately attractive would-be starlets available on any Los Angeles street corner.

Equally so, you don't cast F. Murray Abraham. Period. One wonders what karmic debt Mr. Abraham is paying off. It must be considerable.

As for the writing, the following is actual dialogue:

Woman: "I'm terribly sorry about all this mess."
Man: "Not too sorry to join me for dinner, I hope."

In any self-respecting film, the next scene would involve the removal of clothes and the intermingling of genitalia. In FLOM, it preludes an excruciating and totally baffling restaurant scene, during which Hardy tries to stop the dinner date by posing as an obnoxious waiter, while Laurel creates a distraction by going onstage to lip-sync the entire Billy Preston song, "Nothing From Nothing." Now, I don't presume to be a fancy film historian, but I'd hazard a guess that the real Laurel & Hardy, if placed in the unlikely position of having to do karaoke, would have chosen any song besides "Nothing From Nothing."

Another scene is an obvious rip-off of The Terminator, in which the mummy storms a police station, and the police spray him with gunfire to no avail. FLOM adds the delightful moment of the mummy putting his hand against his chest, then opening his fist to reveal a dozen spent bullets. Delightful, in that they don't even try to make it look like the dude in the mummy costume is actually digging out the bullets. I was consistently impressed with the scope of laziness in pasting together this flaccid comedy.

Same goes for the weak-kneed climax, in which a giant holographic snake attacks the heroes. The CG is so inept, I literally thought I was watching a wire-frame test for Anaconda.

FLOM is so lacking in effort that it took not one, but two directors, to get it made. I can only imagine a classic case of poor delegation: each director assumed the other was on set, and so they both slept in for each of the five shooting days allotted by the $6,000 budget.

One of these directors, John Cherry, made his name as the filmmaker who brought us all 14 Ernest movies. You have to be the King of "I Don't Give a Shit" to make 14 Ernest movies. The other, Larry Harmon, was Bozo the Clown (and from what I've read was the guy who got Stan Laurel on his deathbed to sign away the rights to Laurel & Hardy). Actual dialogue during Harmon's gut-wrenchingly lame cameo:

Cop: "Who's that bozo?" (referring to Harmon, who is fake-laughing uncontrollably)
Other Cop: "Just some clown."

Well, ha ha ha.

I will give credit, however, to Pinchot and Gailard. They look the parts, give their all, and manage to have a few moments of clever interaction. But they're hung out to dry, left to their own defenses, allowed to ad-lib waaay too much, and given two fart jokes and two kick-in-the-crotch jokes. In an even slightly better project, they might have come out halfway decent. Pity. Or is it? Does the world really need a new Laurel and Hardy? The New Blues Brothers are more than enough hysterical comedy for this fan!

All told, I can't say I truly hated FLOM. It did have a certain corny sensibility I often claim to enjoy. For some reason I always enjoy a good "surprise take." And technically, it does conform to Rules 2 and 3 of The Advanced Theory of Comedy, however, it does break the law of comic awareness.

Plus, I seem to be increasingly forgiving of bad family entertainment and increasingly unforgiving of my two under-5 children crying over some shit like, "Oh, I broke my nose," or whatever.

FLOM represents the worst in family entertainment, and yet, it can't possibly be that much worse than Beauty and the Beast 2: The Enchanted Christmas or Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights.

Unfortunately, FLOM doesn't have quite the cutting edge that either of these two children's classics do. It's way too stupid for words, and completely outdated in every respect. Though made in 1998, it feels like it was made in 1988 with the leftover crew and sets of The Experts.

The only possible reason for FLOM to exist is so that it can be quickly and mercifully forgotten.

Review by Crimedog