CAPSULE: CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER 4 (2000)

DIRECTED BY: Lloyd Kaufman

FEATURING: David Mattey, voice of Clyde Lewis, Heidi Sjursen, Paul Kyrmse

PLOT: An explosion inexplicably causes the Toxic Avenger to switch dimensions with his

Still from Citizen Toxie: Toxic Avenger 4 (2000)

evil Bizarro-world opposite, the Noxious Offender.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: None of the other Toxic Avenger movies made the List, so the fourth installment would have to do something different to break the pattern.  Unfortunately, it follows the same path as the previous entries, showing no ambition other than to out-gross its predecessors.  Fans of the series will want to watch to see more of the same; the rest of us will continue to marvel at how Troma continues to make unfettered anarchy seem so dreadfully formulaic.

COMMENTS:  There’s little point to debating the merits of a Toxic Avenger film: you either admire Lloyd Kaufman’s dedication to offensive insanity, or you find it  juvenile and annoying.  You either “get it,” or you like it.  What can you say about a movie that begins with a gang of automatic-weapon toting teenagers clad in diapers (the “diaper mafia,” a reference to the disaffected teens of the “Trenchcoat Mafia” who committed the Columbine Massacre slayings) taking a class of “retards” hostage—on “Take a Mexican to Lunch” day, no less?  It ain’t Jonathan Swift; there’s only the feeblest and most obvious satirical point to the reference.  More to the point, it ain’t Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker, although the gag-a-minute pacing is an attempt to mimic the style of the Airplane! auteurs.  It’s the kind of thing the Zuker-Abrahams-Zucker would come up with if they spent six months sniffing paint while working on the script.  The problem is that Kaufman and his co-writers spend a lot more time and energy trying to think up ways to be offensive than they do trying to be funny.  A lot of the gags—like superheros named “Master-Bater” and “The Vibrator”— are the kind of things that are screamingly funny if  you’ve never actually heard a dirty joke before, but when they appear halfway through Citizen Toxie, you can’t possibly avail yourself of that defense.  We’re supposed to be amused on a meta-level, thinking about how “funny” it is that Kaufman would trot out lame joke after lame joke seemingly aimed at twelve year-old boys but wrapped up in a movie filled with “adult” content.  But of course, bad taste fans don’t want to hear the grumblings of a highbrow spoilsport; they want the list of anarchic atrocities documented in Citizen Toxie.  A brief survey: farting; retards shooting up heroin; a cow superhero with squirting udders; a blind woman seduced/raped by lesbian art student; a morbidly obese particle physicist turned gay prostitute; a topless interpreter for the deaf; a human slaughterhouse; the Retarded Revenger and his sidekick, a severed head; a Citizen Kane parody; God as a foul-mouthed drunken dwarf; testicles ripped off and presented to the victim; a pump-up monster- faced penis; and about 100 jokes leftover from 1961, when Jerry Lewis rejected them as too corny.  On the other hand, I did admire the originality of the scene with the twin fetuses battling to the death in the womb.  And, in a movie with this many jokes, some funny lines have to land, to wit: “heroes don’t double amputate police chiefs and hurl 12-year olds into brick walls!” and “this film is respectfully dedicated to all those who have lost their lives facing down their own evil doppelgängers.” Still, the overwhelming take home message from this film is that Ron Jeremy needs to fire his agent for landing him roles that are beneath his dignity.

Besides Jeremy, who appears as the mayor of Tromaville, other offbeat celebrities who lent their talent to the film included Hugh Hefner, Al Goldstein, and Lemmy from Motorhead—who used their real names—along with Marvel comics magnate Stan Lee (who provides narration under the pseudonym “Peter Parker”), washed-up former child actor Corey Feldman (under the pseudonym Kinky Finkelstein),  identical twin stand-up comics Jason and Randy Sklar (under the pseudonyms Foofy and Skippy Applebaum), and the Howard Stern Show’s “Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf” (who is a living pseudonym).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…imagine the zaniness of Mad magazine folded into the satire of ‘South Park’ with the grotesquery exponentially multiplied into free-for-all farce.”–Stephen Holden, The New York Times (contemporaneous)

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