Each week, Netflix Watch Instantly adds hundreds of new titles. Four or five are movies you want to watch, some are bad TV shows or camp classics, and most make no sense at all. Those in the latter category are puzzling: not bad Enough to be good and certainly not good enough to be interesting. In this column, comedian Max Silvestri will review a new film on Netflix Watch Instantly and ask, what is this?
What It’s About: After his more fertile child dies during a sex accident, a terminally ill stand-up comedian demands that his remaining son grant him a dying wish: leave the priesthood and get married.
Who It’s For: People fed up with films that paint humor, familial love and human sexuality in a positive light.
What was this movie? I was enchanted by the summary on Netflix: “After learning that he’s dying, a man has one last request for either of his two sons: Get married! But when one of them dies trying, it’s up to his brother — an aspiring priest — to fulfill his father’s wish before it’s too late.” One of them dies trying? An aspiring priest? A nonsensical concept plus an all-star cast full of such notables as Danny Aiello, Joe Piscopo, Mario Cantone, and Gilbert Gottfried meant The Last Request seemed perfect to write about. The credit sequence, a dream in which our main character Jeff is being chased by boob-sharks, solemnly declares, “…And introducing T.R. Knight as Jeff.” What an introduction! T.R. Knight used to be on Grey’s Anatomy, a show I have never seen. Apparently the show is famous because in each episode one of the main characters dies or has an abortion or both, so it’s high stakes.
I would never suggest that you actually watch this movie, but you should watch this movie. It is not just a mediocre romantic comedy. It’s an absurdist mile-a-minute slapdash collage of one-liners, many of them seemingly ripped off from Bazooka gum wrappers. And look, I love jokey jokes and madcap comedy, but I have never seen anything like this. In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey talks about how part of her job at SNL was keeping people from doing their jobs. If you asked the prop department for a cupcake, they might decide to impress you by making a five-layer wedding cake with an animatronic cake topper, and the wardrobe department, asked for a regular suit, might buy a red-sequined tuxedo, because isn’t that funny? And Ms. Fey would eventually have to say, “That’s great, but can I just have a cupcake?” The Last Request is a movie in which everybody and I mean everybody really does their job. Every scene feels like the equivalent of walking into a room filled with the pre-cogs from Minority Report, and it is totally silent, and they all turn their head at you and yell at the top of their lungs, “Runnnnnn!” It is overwhelming and mostly scary.
T.R Knight’s Jeff is in seminary, but he has dreams about boob-sharks and also gets sweaty when ladies with cleavage take communion. (This quickly and firmly establishes that he’s not a gay priest, something the movie is blatantly nervous you might think.) Jeff’s brother Tom is a playboy, because when we first see him he is waking up in a bed with four women. Do people really sleep over after five-ways? Jeff and Tom find out their father (Danny Aiello) is dying from a blood disease that’s turned his blood to wine. (Like everything else in the film, the joke about fermented blood is so overwhelmingly hilarious as to overrule the fact that it makes zero
sense and is never mentioned again.) (Jeff and Tom find out from a doctor who makes them guess it via charades, for no reason.) (I am going to stop dictating jokes in this movie that make no sense, but I wanted you to get a bit of an idea.) The father wants to know he has a grandson on the way before he dies, so he makes the brothers promise to get married. As Jeff has a vow of celibacy, it’s up to Tom.
Only seconds earlier we saw Tom waking up after a five-way, so his settling down seems unlikely. Just kidding! He tells Jeff he’s met someone, a famous opera singer, and they are going to get married. Problem solved. On their wedding night, Tom brings his new bride back to their bedroom, which is covered in sex-pervert mirrors. They have crazy, annoying joke sex (“Put your finger right there for three seconds, then rotate it 45 degrees clockwise”) and when the opera singer climaxes, she sings a high C, shattering all the mirrors and killing them both. They are both dead! Strong start.
With Tom gone, the father’s only hope is Jeff. “I want you to quit the seminary and get laid.” Very cool, Dad! Make your son give up his calling, literally. When Jeff asks what happens if he has a girl, the father says, “The last girl born to this family was six generations ago, and that one was a dyke.” The father then laughs maniacally, as he does after every one of his horrible one-liners. The father is a lot like the Joker: he only speaks in old-fashioned puns and jokes, follows them with insane cackles, and everyone around him is constantly nervous that their sociopath boss could snap and murder them at any second.
Jeff, being very meek, quits the seminary. It’s worth noting here that the two main priests at the seminary are played by alumni from The Sopranos (the actors who played Big Pussy and Phil Leotardo), and the movie I watched last week had Bobby Bacala in it. Those guys from The Sopranos get around. If only they knew they were allowed to turn down parts? Maybe they think Hollywood is like the mob in that you are not allowed to say “no” to it.
Without that sweet priest money, Jeff needs to get a job to fund his poon hunt, so somehow he lands at a rest home for retired actors run by Mario Cantone. During his interview, Jeff refers to the “old people” and Mario Cantone corrects him: “Here we call them age-enhanced.” That is just a very good and smart joke about political correctness. Mr. Cantone plays a failed actor doomed to both run this rest home and be in this movie. One of the old people tells Jeff he’s working on a new musical: Singing in the Acid Rain. Also a million more terrible theatre jokes I won’t repeat.
Jeff meets Cathy, another worker at the rest home, and she is nice and pretty and patient and funny and it’s clear they will end up together. Cathy is played by Sabrina Lloyd, who you may remember from the TV show Sliders. Do you not remember that show? It was on Fox then it was on SciFi Channel for years, and I called my cable company every week during 6th grade asking them to please start carrying the SciFi Channel so that I could watch Sliders. That is a pretty impressive story, I know.
On his way home from work, Jeff gets dragged into a strip club and has an embarrassing experience, which seems pretty normal to me. He is a virgin ex-priest; I imagine strip clubs would not be immediately enjoyable to him. Yet because of that one interaction, he decides to seek the help of a therapist. The first one he goes to is a guy in a tuxedo who sits at a piano and sings, “You’ve Got To Laugh at Yourself’ and then the scene ends. The second therapist is Joe Piscopo. Great therapists. Don’t make me choose! Also, when somebody has mild trouble finding a girlfriend, do they always just go to a therapist? Maybe if the therapist is Joe Piscopo. Mr. Piscopo’s closing advice: “Jeff: broads.” It’s so true!
I think one of the reasons Jeff sees a therapist is because of his crazy dreams. In one, he is up at bat in softball for his team, the Virgins, and his mother is pitching. She hits him in the nuts with the ball. This is very complicated allegory.
Most of the film is a montage of terrible dates. There is a Godfather parody where he visits the Godmother and asks her to let him screw her, and she makes him french her ring. One girl ties him up and smacks him around but he escapes. An attractive married neighbor starts to make out with him then makes them watch a tape of her husband while they almost do it. Some lady is going to have sex with him but then she has a hand puppet. He gets an eight-paragraph typed
response to his personal ad, with two attractive head shots included, but the date turns out to be Siamese twin sisters connected at the butthole. “You get to slow dance with one of us while you cop a feel with the other!” What is going on?
Also, is that how people answer personal ads? With a cover letter and head shots? Also, what is a personal ad? This movie came out in 2006, but it seems like it could just as easily have come out in 1985. I read online that the writer/director had been trying to make this movie for 30 years, and at times it seemed like the script, wardrobe and props were all locked in way back in the ’80s and he refused to change any of it despite not actually rolling on anything until the 21st century. Jeff’s cell phone looks like a walkie talkie from M*A*S*H.
Meanwhile, Jeff and Carol fall for one another. She loves being a social worker, and she learns he wanted to be a bluesman but his voice was too terrible. Imagining Jeff as a bluesman (they say “bluesman” not blues musician) is one of the better parts of this movie. To illustrate how special Jeff is, Carol turns around and asks
Jeff to tell her what her best side is for photographs, and with a straight face he says, “Your best side is your inside.” Um, that is terrible. You mean her vagina? Or that she’s ugly compared to her SOUL? Whichever it is, you deserve to die alone and disappoint your dying father, Jeff. “Your best side is your inside.” If you said that
to an altar boy you’d be in jail.
At this point, the movie takes a very strange gay-panic twist. Drunk at a bar, Jeff goes home with a “lady.” Why won’t the movie show the lady’s pretty face! Oh, because the lady is Jeff’s buddy Moose from high school in a wig and dress. Jeff freaks out! He almost kissed a man! His excuse for leaving? “I have to go, I have an appointment with my proctologist.” This sends him into a problematic shame spiral. “What did I almost do? Now I’m semi-gay! I knew I never should have listened to the Streisand record.” Oh boy.
Mario Cantone fires Jeff for no reason. Jeff, you poor thing. “I can’t keep a job, I can’t get laid, I can’t be a priest, I can’t do a goddamn thing.” He decides to suicide himself out a window, but just before he’s about to end it and spare us all any more of his bumbling, some other guy from the building goes hurtling past his window and lands with a thud on the ground below. What are the odds! Now Jeff can’t kill himself, because “they’ll think we’re gay lovers.” What? Why will they think that? “Two men killed themselves today, in what this reporter, and the police, can only assume was a gay suicide pact.” Has Jeff seen Romeo and Juliet? I don’t think Jeff remembers the ending correctly. “Romeo, I love you so much, so let’s both kill ourselves at the same time. END SCENE.”
Finally, mercifully, the father dies. Seeing as the whole movie has been building to this, it is the weirdest, least dignified death scene I can remember. He starts yelling at God to take him, then he hiccups for 30 seconds, Jeff puts a paper bag over his father’s mouth, then the father freezes, makes the sign language symbol for “asshole,” says “Rosebud,” and dies. All those things are true.
Minutes later, Jeff’s at his father’s funeral when he politely takes a cell phone call. It’s his father. What? His father’s ghost appears. “I would have liked to come back as a lesbian.” Phew, for a second or two I thought we might not hear one of his trademark terrible jokes again. Jeff is sad he didn’t fulfill his dad’s last request but his father tells him he actually did. His REAL last request (the one he didn’t say aloud) was for his son to come out of his shell. Huh? The other brother died for your last request, and Jeff quit the priesthood, and it was not even real? You are a treat. I wish you’d die again. Jeff says goodbye to his dad ghost. “Don’t worry, I’ll be around. Mostly during your sexual experiences!” Too funny. What is chiller than a dad constantly peeping on his son having sex? Just regular dad stuff.
Mario Cantone was invited to the funeral for some reason, even though he just fired Jeff, and he gives Jeff his job back. Jeff saves Carol from a mugging and asks her out. She kisses his mugging bruises and then they have sex. He is bad at it and lasts one second. But then they do it again. The camera pulls away to a picture of his dad, so we can imagine his dad is watching down smiling and jerking off or whatever. Terrible. A year later they have a baby. The movie ends with a series of freeze frames, which is bold. Like, I laugh anytime a movie ends in a freeze frame, but The Last Request ends with three in a row. It’s very special. My last request is that everyone quit the priesthood and watch this movie.
When You Should Watch This Movie: If you’re a young child and you’ve been transported, via either magic or electricity, into the body of George Burns, or vice versa. (The movie’s odd fusion of endless sex talk with a PG message and a third-grader’s take on Borscht Belt comedy makes its exclusive audience people inside body-switch movies.)
Previously: We Found It on Watch Instantly: My Fake Fiancé