Cult Classic In The Making
'Martin & Orloff,' now on DVD, deserves a second look.
the vast sea of DVDs, even just DVD comedies, a title like “Martin & Orloff” can easily get lost. Masterminded by the four original members
of the Upright Citizens Brigade, the film only played briefly in
theaters in a few major cities, but it looms large in the group’s body
of work and deserves a following as a cult classic on video.
The comedy of
“Martin & Orloff” isn’t in the vein of semi-cult comedy favorites like
“A Christmas Story” (in case you can’t place the title, that’s the one
with the 10-year-old boy who’s told he can’t have the BB gun because it
will put his eye out). It’s more like those two early John Cusack films,
“Better Off Dead” and “One Crazy Summer,” in which the one sane and
normal guy is beset on all sides by lunatics.
UCB’s Ian Roberts
plays Martin, a despondent ad man sent to Dr. Orloff (UCB’s Matt Walsh)
after a failed suicide attempt. Certainly a dark premise, right? But
everything else that happens is completely comic, however dark that
comedy might be.
Where Orloff and
the other characters take Martin is a flight into a crazed adventure
somehow still plausible enough on some level as reality to work for an
audience. The story, by Walsh and Ian and Katie Roberts, seems like
something that could have sprung right out of the hyper kinetic mind of
Del Close, the groundbreaking improvisational comedian who mentored the
UCB. These are three smart and experienced improvisational minds who
have learned well how to find the comedy in situations right on the spot
in a way that evolves naturally to sketches and full-length screenplays
like “Martin & Orloff.”
The movie’s story
starts with Orloff hijacking Martin out of the therapy office, first to
a softball game and then onto a succession of fun things that are
whatever Orloff seems to feel like doing on the spur of the moment --
all the while putting off Martin’s therapy. The refrain of Orloff
repeatedly asking Martin “Why did you try to kill yourself?” then
cutting him off before he can answer gets funnier every time it happens
as the events occurring keep escalating.
Those ‘events’ are
provided by an equally skilled supporting cast of well-known and
not-so-well-known players like UCB colleagues Amy Poehler and Matt
Besser, David Cross, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Andy Richter, Janeane
Garofalo, Kim Raver and Jon Benjamin. Benjamin is memorable as Orloff’s
buddy Keith, who is the catalyst for a lot of trouble Martin and Orloff
Judged by the
criteria of whether a movie bears repeated viewing on DVD, “Martin &
Orloff” deserves recommending. There is enough intelligent oddity,
reversals of fortune and status in the relationships between the
characters in this movie to bring the comedy to a level where it’s funny
more than just the first time you see it.