Recycling corn is as essential to the narrative retardation of cinema as the regurgitation of cud is to a cow’s gastrointestinal tract. Hollywood’s overall abiding commitment to a lack of originality, and the consumers who lap it up like dog water, is a subject that demands far more time than this hour-long Netflix Comedy Special can spare, but it’s a start. With 10 writers and/or directors to its credit, the show commences on a fluky small screen trope of its own. Remember when SNL’s Weekend Update opened with, “I'm Chevy Chase and you're not”? The host of this special introduces himself with, “Unlike you, I'm Rob Lowe.” A litany of literal redundancy flashes before us: meet cutes, maverick cops, fistfights atop moving train cars, angry desk sweeps, giving chase in high heels, baguette heels poking out of shopping bags, and jump scares are all given their due. (The latter was the brainchild of R.K.O. horror/noir past master Val Lewton whose 1942 version of Cat People sent audiences leaping with what came to be known as “the Lewton bus.”) Noticeably absent are the hitman who comes out of retirement for one last kill, the lying flashback, and the certain death of anyone who beds or befriends Charles Bronson in a Death Wish picture. Critic Kim Newman observes that during the silent era, audiences either yawned when confronted with lengthy intertitles or laughed at the flowery prose contained within. Without dialog to voice their emotions, characters turned to physical expression as a means of communication, hence the birth of fist-fights as a basic component of the filmgoing experience. This gives way to talk of what I like to call the deli-counter slugfest. Rather than dogpile the good guy en masse, each attacker takes their turn, as though waiting for the clerk to call their number. The one cliche they fail to marvel at is special effects used as an opiate to cast a soporific haze over sophomoric minds quick to confuse CG codswallop with storytelling. (2021) — Scott Marks
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