Laughter is the last bastion of a civilized society. Am I being hyperbolic? As I’m writing this, history is just two days out from the final Kavanaugh confirmation vote. I recently watched Revenge of the Nerds and Animal House, and I hear the whispers of “Oh Myyy!” in my ear. Does this kind of humor still play anymore?
My current assignment is writer/director Jamie Anderson’s Punching Bag. A short film that takes on men’s well-meaning attitudes toward women’s male-induced traumatic moments in a pre-#MeToo era. Are we still allowed to find humor in uncomfortable moments or have laughs been replaced with cringes? “Oh Myyy!”
Stacy Simms (Jamie Wollrab) is the titular Punching Bag. Standing in front of a group of women in a local gym, the stereotypical nebbish is heavily protected under dense layers of foam acting as the “perpetrator” in his good-looking, muscular brother Brock’s (Jonathan Stoddard) womens trauma group. As he sheepishly roleplays his obscenity-laced psychological attacks, the half-dozen women line up to release their aggression on poor Stacy.
“As he roleplays his obscenity-laced psychological attacks, the women line up to release their aggression…”
Some women are a little hesitant, so Brock uses his patented brand of motel self-help B.S. inspiration as motivation for each student to release their aggressions on Stacy and confront their issues.
Punching Bag is a comedy short, and like a good skit, each woman displays their own unique way of facing their trauma. One student outright assaults Stacy, another takes a bold triumphant stand before cowering into apologies, and another is amorously turned on.
Brock is the narcissistic leader of the group, who traumatized into overeating as a child, reformed himself into a muscle-bound motivator. And ladies, he’s so good looking too. Using his charisma and victory over his personal trauma, Brock channels this negative energy into an oversexualized fire burning confidence under each student. “Oh Myyy!”
“…finding a good balance between telling an over-the-top and grounded story.”
But this is ultimately Stacy’s story, Brock’s sympathetic, pathetic brother. Stacy is there to help because he believes in what Brock is doing, while at the same time hoping to make a personal connection with a student or two. Unfortunately, Brock misconstrues connection as meaning getting laid. Before you know it, we are confronted with the age-old conundrum of women’s physical attraction to the bad boy over the nice guy. “Oh Myyy!”
Messaging aside, Punching Bag is a well-produced, tight little skit. Wollrab is the perfect schlub as the boy-named-Stacy. He’s the sad sack with a heart of gold devoid of the usual comedic schmaltz. Stoddard is the good-looking muscle, who cuts a powerful promo on the apron of the gym’s boxing ring and never to the point where you want to punch him in the face. Smooth camera movements, dramatic angles, and useful edits show that the Punching Bag crew is ready for a more significant project.
Stacy’s story of the hapless nice guy has a strong beginning, middle, and end. The comedy is light and rarely falls flat finding a good balance between telling an over-the-top and grounded story. You’ll mostly chortle for 16 minutes. It really needed clever moments of comedic insight to set it apart from other skits. Regarding some of the sexualized moments, it’s worth watching if you can pretend you’re watching it in 2015. Final verdict for Punching Bag—good, not great.
Punching Bag (2018) Written and directed by Jamie Anderson. Starring Jamie Wollrab, Jonathan Stoddard, Bree Turner, Kate Krieger, Jessica Moreno, Julie Gonzalo, Jessica Caesar.
7 out of 10 stars