Short Ends and Leader

The Sincerest Form of Flattery?: 'MILF'

MILF may not be the most endemic example of The Asylum's product, but it's still a glorious, goofy guilty pleasure.


MILF

Rated: Not Rated
Director: Scott Wheeler
Cast: Jack Cullison, Philip Marlatt, Amy Lindsay, Joseph Booton, Ramon Camacho
Studio: The Asylum
Year: 2010
Distributor: The Asylum Home Entertainment
Release Date: 2010-10-26

They have been around forever, their cut-rate commerciality indicative of a serious slash and burn business modeling. In the '30s and '40s, they were the cinematic companions to the main feature, a "B" offering meant to seen before (or after) the A list entry. In the '50s and through '70s, they were drive-in fare, schlock solid rip-offs meant to emulate the mainstream without requiring a 100% focused backseat attention span. By the '80s, and the advent of the VCR, they were known as 'direct to video' fodder, films and franchises that, again, copied established titles without taking the time to mimic their talent, aesthetic, etc. Today, in the world of digital formatting and legitimate/illegal downloading, they've got kicky, clever names like "Mockbusters" and "Unpopcorn" flicks.

This is the world of The Asylum, an independent production and distribution house that has sent Messageboard Nation into a tizzy with their genial knock-offs of recognizable Tinseltown types. With amazing epics like 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Bram Stoker's Dracula's Curse, Transmorphers, and perhaps most memorably, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, the company's quirky no to low budget aims seem crystal clear - tap into a current motion picture zeitgeist, cobble together a recognizable response, and do so with campy, kitschy creativity. Roger Corman used to do something similar back in the day (like prepping and releasing Carnosaur within weeks of Spielberg's Jurassic Park), but Asylum takes their amiable aggressiveness to innovative, industrious levels.

MILF is a perfect example of this strategy. Arguing that it is a sex comedy in the spirit of The Hangover and Superbad, it actually has much more in common with the 1983 Rob Lowe/Andrew McCarthy comedy Class. In said film, a young prep school student begins an affair with this roommate's sexy mother (Jacqueline Bissett). Back then, there was no talk of cougars, yummy mummies, or mothers you'd like to...fornicate with. The Asylum transports the action to a nameless college and follows four friends - life long buddies Brandon (Jack Cullison) and Anthony (Philip Marlott), and their gamer geek associates Nate (Joseph Booton) and Ross (Ramon Camacho). Desperate and dateless, they hit upon the idea of moving beyond their generation to the hard-up, horny gals of the next. There, they run into all manner of libidinous ladies, each wanting nothing more than a wild night (or nights) with a young stud.

Sounds a little sleazy, huh? Well, aside from the softcore element that occasionally stops the film like a series of revealing pictures of your maiden aunt, MILF is actually quite good hearted and well meaning. It wants to explore the older woman/younger man dynamic while tossing in enough soccer mom T&A to keep the intended demographic good and...occupied. With its combination of comedy and carnality, it does instantly resemble the Greed era greats like The Last American Virgin and Porky's. But thanks to some decent performances, and a few inventive directorial nods by Scott Wheeler, what should have been stupid and silly occasionally stumbles into something quite fun.

The main plot centers on Brandon and his eventually hook-up with Anthony's mother. This material is initially played for laughs (including a pointless webcam sequence), but is eventually given over to an attempt at respectability. The pair discuss real feelings and actual consequences, overriding most of the easy target exploitative elements. Sure, we still see a lot of skin, but its handled in a way that indicates a desire to be humorous, not hardcore or pornographic. Moments involving Nate and Ross (who have a bet to see who can claim the most conquests) are where the true tactlessness occurs, archetypes reduced down to their one note worst. This results in ridiculous sequences involving food, yoga, and the questioning of one's sexual preference (lucky, no crass gay jokes are involved).

As an idea of what Asylum has to offer, MILF is very interesting indeed. It doesn't pretend to play by the established genre rules. It's knows the formula, but fidgets with it in ways that tend to work out for the best. Sure, we have a peephole gag (emphasis on the last word in that sentence) and lots of natural/plastic surgery disaster flashes, but this is a movie that marches to the beat of its own uncoordinated drummer. From Marlott's performance which feels phoned in from a planet where coherence and clarity are absent to the genuine emotions expressed by Cullison and his age appropriate co-star Jamie Bernadette (as the girl Brandon is "destined" to be with), much of MILF is unexpected. It may not be laugh out loud funny, but is constantly keeps you smiling.

In all honesty, the DVD cover art does the film a massive disservice. While the comparisons are needed in order to guarantee some basic consumer recognizability, MILF is no Hangover. It lacks said film's manic, men gone mental energy. Similarly, to shuttle Superbad into the conversation suggests a level of slacker screenwriting sophistication (and viable vulgarity) that this movie can't match. Instead, as Severin has done with its rerelease of the seminal '80s Canuxploitation classics Screwballs and Loose Screws, Asylum should downplay the modern and accentuate the positives of the past. MILF may have a creepy contemporary tag, but the worn out womanizing and wonky wit is straight out of a New World Pictures production.

As they've moved beyond the cult into a higher, more harried profile, The Asylum has suffered. Many in the so-called legitimate press have dismissed them as nothing but hacks, eager to jump on the latest box office bandwagon without spending more time on elements such as script, acting, direction, and special effects - and true, MILF does suffer from an underdeveloped narrative. But the cast seems eager to play the part and Wheeler does apply a few camera tricks that are quite memorable indeed (an underwater melee between Brandon and Anthony as part of the finale, for example). They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the case of The Asylum, it's also the easiest way to make a fast filmic buck. MILF may not be the most endemic example of this company's product, but it's still a glorious, goofy guilty pleasure.

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