ZERO STARS/**** Image D Sound B-
starring Brian Hooks, Darryl Bronson, Christopher Richards, Troy Winbush
screenplay by Barry Bowles & Carl Washington
directed by Barry Bowles
by Walter Chaw A feature-length episode of "What's Happening!!" minus the nuance and sophistication of that late lamented blaxploitation garbage, Chat Room shares with the Seventies sitcom an unholy diner-hangin' trinity of fat one, dumb one, and the one with whom we're supposed to identify. Following this trio of miscreants during an online booty call, Chat Room begins with a You've Got Mail sequence of the guys "chatting" in the titular chat-rooms edited together so hopelessly as to suggest, oh so hilariously, that these horny dudes are actually talking to each other.
We should be so lucky: Rather than the unkind homosexual jokes arising from that exhausted premise, the film relies on the more traditional (and more exhausted) misogyny angle, parading a series of psychopathic, moustache-wearing, and obese dates before our professionally unfunny protagonists until, of course, "the one" comes along whom "the one with whom we're supposed to identify" must win to bring our own misery to an end.
The jokes in Chat Room are about the speed of pretending to choke one another and saying stuff like "Is that your titties or your stomach sittin' up on that table?" while mistaking clumsily-wielded profanity for urbane dryness. It's actually sort of interesting to watch Chat Room as an inspirational tool: If these assclowns can make a motion picture and receive a release that includes screener DVDs for the reviewing press, there is apparently literally nothing impossible for people with a smidgen of talent.
Not one joke works in the picture, not one moment betrays the slightest bit of aptitude--Chat Room transcends genre because no genre would claim it. It's even too atrocious to be enjoyable in a camp/kitsch sort of way, one of the most painful and embarrassing things I've ever experienced packaged to imply plentiful poonanny, of which there is actually none. Chat Room is a celluloid chlamydeous test and a complete waste of precious life.
My guess is that Artisan knew of Chat Room's awfulness, thus explaining their horrific DVD transfer. Full-frame and redolent with mars, mute colours, and blips, I was shocked to discover that the film was actually shot on celluloid from seeing this disc. How much the video quality is the fault of the studio and how much the fault of filmmakers--who clearly haven't the first clue about what they're doing--is almost beside the point; I honestly would have preferred watching a test pattern for the duration of this stillbirth. The flat Dolby 2.0 stereo audio mix surprises in that it isn't obviously atrocious. Around ten minutes of outtakes include the fat one eating an apple pie with his fingers and one of the dates regurgitating what looks like country gravy onto her breakfast and pretending to slurp up the goop, Brundlefly-style. What a treasure. Originally published: July 24, 2002.
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