By Michael Muzerall | November 14, 2003

The Movie Gods have been kind to us mere mortals of late. Had fortune dealt us a different hand, we would soon be seeing the inauguration of governor-elect Gary Coleman while Arnold Schwarzenegger would be eking out a measly living on the set of “Terminator 4”. Happily for the movie-going public, Gary Coleman won’t be concerned with matters of state anytime soon, freeing him up for any number of projects that may come his way (that “T4” project still needs a lead). In the computer animated short, “The Bootyguard”, Gary’s diminutive height perfectly fits the requirements needed to safeguard the most revered of Hollywood’s jewels, the a*s end of Jennifer Lopez (to avoid confusion, that would be the end that doesn’t sing). Gary must shield Jennifer’s rump at all costs from a barrage of pinches and gropes, be it from Bill Clinton to the aforementioned Schwarzenegger. Even those who would normally have permission to hitch a ride on the J. Lo caboose, like Ben Affleck, suffer the bloody justice dealt out by a vigilant Coleman. For the hell of it, throw in Charlton Heston as a gun store proprietor/Moses and P. Diddy as a persistent fan of Coleman’s work (which really doesn’t extend far beyond “Diff’rent Strokes”).
The short tries to mimic the sensibilities and visual style of “South Park,” but is hampered by the writing, which refuses to push the idea or the inherent raunchiness of it all to its fullest extent. A few “Webster” jokes are tossed out, but the thrill of a “Gary Coleman vs. Emmanuel Lewis” showdown is denied (Freddy vs. Jason has proven the profitability of freakish 80’s fads squaring off, so how much longer is the wait?). Just referencing celebrities in itself isn’t funny. If the filmmakers had gone that extra mile, they could have piled on the obscure references to some of Coleman’s television films (like “Playing With Fire”, basically an extended ‘very special episode’ meant to illustrate that, yes, it’s wrong to set fire to stuff that doesn’t belong to you) from his heyday as a sitcom star. The jokes are there, they just need to be mined properly. The animation is sharp enough; the characters resemble their intended targets, but the humor never goes for the throat like it should. If you’re going to satirize the likes of Coleman, Lopez, and Mr. Diddy, you have to dig in. It’s not funny until you make one of them cry (to be fair, a naked Bill Clinton charging J. Lo was a step in the right direction). Nobody cares that the voices on “South Park” sound nothing like the people they’re ripping on, it’s covered up by the piercing wit of the writing. Also, Gary Coleman himself did a fine job of goofing on his stint as a security guard on the “Simpsons” episode, “Grift of the Magi”. I’m not demanding that the filmmakers turn in Simpsons-caliber work, that’s a hard act to follow. With some cleverly scripted jabs, however, the concept could be elevated beyond the‘wha choo talkin’ bout then fill in the name’ gags.

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