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Movie review: 'Let's Go to Prison'

David Hiltbrand
The Philadelphia Inquirer

There probably is a funny comedy to be made from the premise of an effete rich guy being sent to a penitentiary. But the juvenile "Let's Go to Prison" never comes close to locating it.

John (Dax Shepard) is a guy who's spent most of his life as a ward of our criminal justice system. After being sent away three times by the same superior judge, he becomes consumed with exacting revenge. But fate forces him to focus his frustration on the judge's son, the spoiled, self-absorbed Nelson Biederman IV (Will Arnett).

John frames Nelson for a felony assault rap, then gets himself busted so he can enjoy his foil's torment first-hand. He even talks Nelson into taking him as a cellmate by promising that he doesn't snore and is quiet pleasuring himself.

Then, in the guise of showing his naive and terrified bunkmate the ropes in jail, John instead drives him into all the turnbuckles. Before his first day is over, Nelson has grievously insulted a vicious white supremacist.

Arnett, of TV's "Arrested Development," is perfectly suited to the role of a lamb living in a tiger cage. He cheerily says to the nasty con slopping out gruel, "What's on the menu today, good sir?" But this movie, a sort of frat boy version of "Cool Hand Luke," doesn't give him much material to work with.

"Let's Go to Prison's" principal joke is that a burly black prisoner (Chi McBride of TV's "The Nine") wants to be the new guy's bunk buddy. But instead of forcibly raping Nelson, he burbles sweet nothings to him a la Barry White. Abducting poor Nelson to his cell, he slips on a Chuck Mangione song and asks, "Would you like some Merlot? I made it in the toilet."

But that's as funny as it gets. You'd do better to watch the scene in "Starsky & Hutch" where the guys interview Will Farrell in jail. You'd get all the homoerotic humor of "Let's Go to Prison" in a fraction of the time.

This really isn't a comedy. It's more of a wooly spoof, stretched out to criminal lengths.

LET'S GO TO PRISON

1 ½ stars

Written by Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon and Michael Patrick Jann, directed by Bob Odenkirk. With Dax Shepard, Will Arnett and Chi McBride.

Running time: 1 hour, 24 mins.

Parent's Guide: R (profanity, sexual content, some violence, drug use)

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