I don’t think anyone with eyes and ears will accuse American auteur Lloyd Kaufman of indulging in and engulfing his films with massive amounts of toilet humor. In his fast food zombie picture Poultrygeist, there’s a sequence involving an obese sandwich marketer crapping all over a bathroom in explosive quantities. This one bit altered my opinion of general cinematic poopery so much that I even wrote about how it deserved an Oscar nomination. More than the simple visual of a fat man writhing on the floor with his pants down, blowing chunks of bowel demons on a wall, it was a moment of aggressive transgression that pushed it from stunt gag to transcendent beauty. Kaufman is guilty of offensive acts, sure, but each and every one of them is injected with great thought, energy, effort, and heart. So much purpose behind a person’s behind can bring a tear to one’s eye.
His latest, the remake/reboot/re-imagining/sequel(?) Return to … Return to Nuke Em High AKA Vol. 2, is Troma’s most manic magnum opus yet. If Vol. 1 was the methodical-lite entry that settled on character and punk tones, Vol. 2 is the all too meta, fourth wall breaking, asylum wall destroying amalgamation of everything Kaufman has been working towards in his career. There are near celestial levels of indulgences taken, all for the better! It’s an utter astonishment of sensory penetrations that re-aligns the parameters of Uncle Lloyd’s filmmaking comfort zones. What Inland Empire means to Eraserhead, Return to … Return to Nuke Em High AKA Vol. 2 means to The Toxic Avenger and/or The Battle of Love’s Return. Suffice to say, Kaufman may have a difficult time in topping this flick.
“…Lauren has just given birth to a mutated duckling baby.”
Vol. 1 set the stage for insanity with a tale of young love amidst radioactive foodstuffs and government/corporate conspiracy. That film features one of my favorite moments of longing and gazing into someone’s eyes, in a dance scene that Kaufman would normally keep his focus on the female form (so to speak). It was a subversion of his own style, and with Vol. 2, he cranks things up to the opposite end of the spectrum. Set over the course of roughly 24 hours, the students of Tromaville High experience duckman birthings, mutations, religious events and a cretin invasion to boot. Gratuitous nudity kicks things off and continues all the way through, executed with various emotional tones – from pure titillation to comedy to sympathy and empathy.
In this second part of a double loaded feature, Chrissy and Lauren find themselves in the midst of personal and worldwide catastrophe – Chrissy is about to have her love life exposed and Lauren has just given birth to a mutated duckling baby. Meanwhile, Tromorganic Foodstuffs have introduced radioactive and highly toxic tacos into domestic and international food supplies, creating an army of Cretins, running amok on anything and everything. Can our teenage heroines save Tromaville High and the world before we all become cogs in this evil corporate machine?
“This is a movie that’s angry at everyone, but wise enough to know when and where it ought to spew out its aggression.”
What stood out to me, beyond all of the blood and guts, breasts and butts, was the running commentary on itself. For the duration this movie plays, it is constantly engaging us with blow by blow notes and thoughts on what it’s doing. Now, at one point, the movie does pause and turn on its own spoof director’s audio track, but that’s a jokey extreme example. What I’m getting at is in the Mountain Dew-fueled pacing, A.D.D. cutting, and unadulterated political/societal thematics. It’s always moving, always behaving loudly and always with something to say. It never takes a breath to relax and unfold, probably because it’s waited years to finish and be released into our eye sockets. Don’t confuse this urgency to entertain with insecurity in self, as Vol. 2 is, after all, is said and done, confident. Whether it’s a dig at Trump or Hillary, Disney or news media at large, this is a movie that’s angry at everyone, but wise enough to know when and where it ought to spew out its aggression. It’s right and righteous.
What from Return to … Return to Nuke Em High AKA Vol. 2 would I recommend for an Oscar? Let’s wait for the movie to come to the country first. In a time of super politically correct culture, an act of skewering everyone should be seen as fair. Fair and balanced, if you will. Lloyd Kaufman is like an equal opportunity wave of bucking the establishment. Any establishment, really. With Vol. 2, no wall is safe. Crude? Perhaps. But so are lots of things currently. Somehow, an overweight man projectile pooping in a public restroom still feels wildly appropriate to America today, and not in an Idiocracy way. That’s not just enough to bring up a tear, as we all should be weeping. We need a Vol. 2 every now and then. We deserve it.
Return to … Return to Nuke Em High AKA Vol. 2 (2018): Directed by Lloyd Kaufman. Written by Travis Campbell, Derek Dressler, Gabriel Friedman & Lloyd Kaufman. Starring Asta Parades, Catherine Corcoran and Kevin the Wonder Duck.
4 out of 5