National Lampoon’s Men in White (1998)
Film review #537
Director: Scott P. Levy
SYNOPSIS: Two low-ranking garbage men are abducted by aliens that intend to launch a full-scale invasion of earth. They manage to escape, but are immediately recruited by the government to put a stop to the invasion. However, there are mysterious forces at work that do not want them to succeed…after all, who would put two garbage men in charge of saving the world?
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: National Lampoon’s Men in White is a 1998 sci-fi comedy film that is unsurprisingly a parody of the 1997 film Men in Black. The film centres around two garbage men, Roy DuBro and Ed Klingbottom, who are abducted by aliens led by Glaxxon, who intends to invade the Earth with his army. They manage to escape the alien’s clutches, but are almost immediately recruited by the government to stop the invasion by Dr. Strangemeister, who has secretly selected the lowest, most inept government officials to deal with the invasion and fail, since he is secretly working with them. The film is, as the title suggests, a parody of the man in Black film that was released a year earlier, but it is a very loose parody, poking fun at other science-fiction films including Independence Day. The plot is very simple, but it’s just a vehicle for all the gags and comedy, so it’s easy enough to follow. The one thing I’m not sure about is who this film is really aimed at: it has a P.G. rating, and there’s no real adult humour or language, but there’s a fair amount of references that younger viewers probably wouldn’t get. If you’re watching it as a Men in Black parody, there’s enough references throughout the film, and plenty of visual gags that, while nothing special, are still decent. There’s a fair amount of more subtle gags, such as the scenery changing through the President’s windows every scene, which is quite funny, and it reminds me of the Naked Gun films in that no one ever references them. The mix of visual gags, fourth-wall breaking, and slapstick humour is a lot of different techniques that makes threading the film as a whole together problematic; but again, as it’s a comedy-parody film, you can probably just enjoy it for the different gags. Having the National Lampoon’s title attached to it also suggests it would be targeted for an older audience as many of the films are, but I don’t think this is meant to be the case.
The film was produced by Saban International, who most notably do the Power Rangers series, and the aliens and effects definitely have that look and feel about them. Karim Prince, who plays Roy DuBro, also starred in one of the Power Rangers series. There’s a decent mix of CG that doesn’t look too bad for the time, and practical effects that work fairly well. Overall, the film is a mish-mash of different gags that doesn’t really tie together too well, but has a few good jokes (like the scene which makes fun of the Men in Black “neuralyser” that wipes memories). I think the cast is decent enough (apart from the lazy German stereotype of Dr. Strangemeister), but they’re not given too much to do other than delivering bad jokes. It’s not a gripping film, and there’s very little of substance, But I guess for a family film there’s different references and humours for different viewers so I suppose that’s good? I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t watched Men in Black or Independence Day or the like will really appreciate or enjoy it, and it’s references make it a dated film that diminish the humour of the film to modern viewers.