Written by Beatrice Copland
Gross-out humour isn’t for everyone. Shows like South Park and Family Guy have built longevity out of it, whilst early 2000s teen comedies like American Pie thrive on it. However, it feels like a lower form of comedy, as if it’s the easiest way to get a laugh. Shock Humour works in much the same way, which is why films that do it well tend to stand out. This is the case with Mother Schuckers.
This Belgian comedy follows a pair of immature, 20-something year old brothers as they attempt to locate their mother’s dog, January Jack. The loss of their beloved pooch is entirely their fault so it’s difficult to feel sympathetic to their plight, but the film never asks us to. Instead, it seems to revel in putting the pair through as much physical labour and emotional turmoil as possible, with each new scenario being more ridiculous than the last. The characters are always in peril, be it minor or mortal, but the outcome of each scenario is always uncertain. This fills the plot with tension, on top of the already-present hilarity.
These are both exacerbated by the use of a handheld, which blurs the line between reality and fiction. At times the film could be mistaken for a documentary, was the situation not so absurd. The acting certainly plays its part too, with the performances feeling genuine even when eccentricity is required… which is often. Toni d’Antonio’s Daniel and Rafaël Cherkasis’s Guru steal every brief scene that they are in, despite being quite morally disgusting characters. This eccentricity carries over into the editing which will occasionally overlay footage of an actor’s face onto their own face in the scene. This is done to show the emotions that they are feeling internally, but it can catch you off guard if you aren’t prepared for it. This quirky little oddity first occurs at around 10 minutes into the runtime, and infrequently thereafter, setting up the idea that the unexpected is to be expected.
It’s a short runtime, clocking in at 70 minutes. This is barely feature-length but fits the overall tone of the film. It ends as abruptly as it begins, making this feel like a snapshot into the much larger lives of the characters. It feels oddly reminiscent of Monty Python, whose film Monty Python and the Holy Grailalso features a sudden ending. Indeed, Mother Schmuckers is probably most comparable to the work of the Pythons with an oddity and grossness that bubbles below the surface before peaking out intermittently.
The film premiered at the Midnight section of 2019’s Cannes Film Festival, a place for the obscure and odd, and it feels very much like it did- in the kindest possible way. It won’t be for everyone (after all, even the Pythons Mr. Creosote sketch is too much for some) but those who have had their interest piqued by this review won’t regret hunting it down. Those who do will also want to stay until the credits roll too.