Monday, January 19, 2009

"Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death"

starring Shannon Tweed, Bill Maher, Karen Mistal, Adrienne Barbeau
written & directed by J.F. Lawton

I’ve been sitting on this film for over a week, and I know I promised a review of Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. After viewing however, I was tempted to NOT critique it because it wasn’t the film I thought it would be. It’s not the teat-laden, B-cheese I thought, but rather a political satire. I suppose the writing was on the wall, seeing that the male lead features Bill Maher. In the 80’s, when everyone and their neighbor was a stand up comedian, Maher was moderately successful as a satirist. The top biller, Shannon Tweed is also out of place, as her career was comprised mostly of “sexual thrillers.” She did very little comedy and even less satire, so needless to say, I was perplexed. I decided to view the film based on the merits of its title alone, and I learned its simple yet poignant lesson; extremism bad, equality good. Although that lesson is learned from exposition peppered throughout the film, rather than through the actual plot. But the plot is so ridiculous and simplistic, that almost any generic sub-cabal may be inserted without inhibiting its integrity and serves the purpose of padding the run time to the required feature length.

"Do my bling and chest hairs impress you?"

The nation’s avocado supply is running dangerously low and somehow, this seriously endangers national security (?). Wait, it gets better. There is an ample supply of avocados in California’s Avocado Jungle, which is a vast Amazonian-like area stretching from Bakersfield to the Mexican border (?). Wait, there’s more. Said jungle is inhabited by a cannibalistic, scantily-clad gaggle of cover girls known as the Piranha Women who aren’t privy to outsiders coming for their avocados so they eat trespassers. But Americans need their guacamole, so the government sends in the military, which is swiftly defeated and eaten (by bikini girls with bows and arrows!). The department of National Security approaches feminist college professor Dr. Margo Hunt (Tweed) to go into the jungle with two objectives;

a) a deal with the Piranhas. Their jungle and all the avocados in exchange for relocation to condominiums in Malibu. And
b) to find out what happened to the last feminist college professor who went in with the same objective, Dr. Kurtz (Adrienne Barbeau).

"Tee-hee. I'm pretty. Tee-hee."

Dr. Hunt and her trustworthy, bubble-headed sidekick Bunny (Karen Mistal) travel to that vile place of scum and villainy, San Bernardino to hire a tracker. Coincidentally, they hire Margo’s ex, Jim (Maher) to lead them into the jungle, where they eventually find out why the Piranha Women have no interest in outsiders other than as appetizers.

Ah, political satire. That gem of a genre whose average tenure of staying power is about six months, depending on the subject’s topicality timeliness. Let’s face it, once a news item is no longer getting headlines, even the lowest brow of humor will ignore it. But some subjects will tend to resonate a little longer than most, depending on the tenacity of its advocacy. Feminism is such a topic, and the target of Cannibal Women, but the movie was made back in 1989. It’s not exactly at the top of everyone’s “to do” list, so Netflix cleverly marketed it as titty-laden B-cheese. It worked in my case, probably because I’m a sucker for titty-laden B-cheese. So you can imagine my surprise when I realized this was not only tit free (save for the extended scenes of nekkidness during the titles), but it also had a pretty significant message. Significant, at least, to someone who cares about feminism. I do not.
It’s not that I’m insensitive to the plight of the modern woman. I just don’t care. I got enough problems of my own, being a heterosexual white male in this day and age, the deck is stacked against me a little more each day. So, my apologies, ladies. I can offer this comfort; Cannibal Women is a funny film and I recommend it.

"Wait a minute, why are you putting vegetables in my bath water?"

Despite being dated by production quality and feel, feminism is still topical, and all the stereotypes are represented. Maher as the male-chauvinist, trying to represent as the Indiana Jones-clone, jungle guide. He would have you believe that the success of the mission lives and dies on his back. But his incompetence as a guide force him to play second banana to the intelligence of Tweed’s Dr. Hunt, or the film’s version of “the good lesbian” (although her character is not lesbian) with the pants-suit and her “everyone should be seen as equal / live and let live” attitude. This is the contrast to “the bad lesbian” representation in the Piranha Women and their man-hating, bitchy, bull dikey presuppositions (ironically displayed here as centerfold babes in loin cloth). Finally there’s Bunny as the materialistic dipshit stereotype that all feminists hate seeing women portrayed as, but the film’s stance on her is unclear. Hunt brings this obviously unqualified bottom-feeder along to show her the ways of moderate feminism, but Bunny gravitates to the more extreme, wanting to join the Piranha Women for the sole reason that she thinks loin cloth is quite fashionable. And in the end, she winds up marrying Jim, who never changes his chauvinistic ways despite being duped by the Piranhas and outdone by Dr. Hunt. You may analyze that sequence as you see fit and draw any conclusion, but I don’t think the film expects that much effort from its viewers.
Cannibal Women has its share of memorable moments (the scene where Jim introduces beer to the pussified, indigenous male inhabitants of the jungle is worth the rental alone), and the performances are credible. Fans of Adrienne Barbeau may be disappointed as she has little more than a cameo, but fans of Shannon Tweed will be pleased as she is surprisingly good as the sole serious, straight faced character amongst the chaotic slapstick.
Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death is a wonderful compliment to a six pack of suds and your munchies of choice. (Bong rips wouldn’t hurt, either.) If you need to kill an evening, there are worse ways to do it.

Confused pugilist Jiffy Jeff says, "Duh, I thought that guy from Real Time only talked about the president and stuff."

Barney Miller explains bigotry-

Zorg explains chaos-

Robin Williams explains golf-

and Flotsam and Jetsam perform "Swatting at Flies"-

and from the "Girls I really, really want to have sex with but who wouldn't?" files, Swan, aka Justine Joli.
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