What the hell did I just watch?
Charles Band’s Ooga Booga opens with a scene revolving around the drunken antics of a rinky dink children’s television show host named Hambo, an old white guy dressed like a farmhand except for his rainbow wig and pig nose, with a voice so raspy he sounds like Nick Nolte after gargling razor blades. I spent this entire sequence wondering what any of this had to do with the Ooga Booga doll.
It took at least 15-minutes to reveal that African-American med school graduate Devin is a lifelong Hambo fan turned friend ala Bart Simpson and Krusty the Klown. The freshly fired Hambo unveils to Devin his line of very politically incorrect action figures called “Badass Dolls” that he’s convinced will become the next big thing. He rewards Devin’s friendship with one of the first dolls off the assembly line: “Ooga Booga”, a stereotypical African bushman with a tiny spear in his hand and an even tinier blunt in his mouth.
I was marveled at the long road around it took just setting up how Devin comes to acquire the Ooga Booga doll. Not as marveled as I would be by the mere seconds it would take for a malfunctioning frozen Slushy machine to shoot lightning and Weird Science Devin’s soul into the doll moments after he gets gunned down by a racist cop in a convenience store.
The rest of the movie is the Ooga Booga doll possessed by Devin’s spirit and his girlfriend Donna going Death Wish on the three racist convenience store robbers whose murder of a clerk led to Devin being murdered by the racist cop who gets acquitted by a racist judge who it turns out employs all four of them as part of white supremacist drugs and prostitution ring.
What the hell did I just watch?
I’ll tell you what I just watched. I watched a movie where Donna gets gang raped in an alley by the three stooges. This rather unpleasant scene is immediately followed up by a humorous scene where her Ooga Booga doll boyfriend puts down his blunt long enough to watch her shower as he loudly masturbates.
I just watched a movie where there are only two white characters not portrayed as unabashed racists and one’s a cowardly cop and the other’s a lecherous drunk who probably does harbor some latently racist tendencies considering he dreamed up a line of action figures that includes a bucktoothed Asian called “The Gook”.
The three bumbling henchmen sit around an apartment adorned with Confederate flags even though I’m fairly certain the film is not set in the South. Stacy Keach plays a crimeboss judge who threatens to fire his housekeeper because, and I quote, “Leaving a window open like that is an open invitation to jungle-bunnies!” The racist cop who doesn’t even try hiding his racism in public is actually named Officer White. The white characters are themselves such racist caricatures the movie nearly becomes guilty of reverse racism.
With its combination of audaciousness and chintziness, had there just been more over-the-top gore and T&A I would have sworn I was watching a Troma movie and not a Full Moon production.
I feel the need to point out that Donna is possibly the worst vigilante in the history of cinema. She has terrible investigative skills, gets raped, beaten up, forcibly removed from an apartment by an old lady, leaves her wallet behind at the scene of a multiple homicide… Thank goodness Ooga Booga dispenses much of the eye-gouging justice because Donna’s actions would have Ms. 45 is spinning in her grave. Did I actually see her smile after getting sexually assaulted because she successfully used this as a distraction to swipe a set of their keys?
And yet compared to a film like Black Devil Doll Ooga Booga still comes across as a model of restraint.
Karen Black turns up as a crazy old shut-in so obsessed with television she thinks people she’s seen on the news are just reality show stars. Her two scenes were, I think, intended to be comical, except Black plays the role so believably out of touch with reality they end up being far more bizarre than humorous. Oddly enough, the best performance in the film in a role that’s so pointless cutting her two fairly lengthy scenes would have made little to no difference.
I dare say the puppeteers succeeded in getting a more believable performance out of the Ooga Booga doll than Band did most of the human cast. It helps that Ooga Booga can’t talk and only makes a loony “ooga booga” noise when ambushing enemies and, sigh, jerking off. The human actors aren’t as lucky saddled with dialogue that rarely ever sounds human.
There’s a voice in my head that keeps telling me I should be tearing Ooga Booga to shreds. There’s also that voice in my head that once told me to write a four-star review of The Gingerdead Man. They could be the same voice. For all its faults this one succeeds in its own loopy, sometimes sleazy, rough around the edges, b-movie sort of way. Had Ooga Booga come up out during the 1970’s heyday of blacksploitation it would probably have a minor cult following today.
What the hell did I just watch and why am I giving it three out of five?