3/17/09

RVOD054 Understanding Your Ideals

(1950, Educational-Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Man, I even find me boring.

Rating: **

In a Nutshell:


A selfish jerk monologues himself into reformation.

Summary:

Starring Rasputin as the Grim Reaper.Jeff desperately wants to be popular, a desire he expresses in a lengthy speech to the family dog. There are lots of variables involved in popularity, but he believes the major requirements are as follows:

1) A bowtie.
2) A date to tonight’s event.
3) A car.

Unfortunately for his aspirations, Grandma falls and severely injures herself somewhere offscreen, forcing Dad to take back the car and drive to the hospital with Mom. Upon hearing the bad news, Jeff can only whine about the temporary loss of his dating chariot, his voice increasing in pitch and petulance while his parents make for the door. Jeff angrily tears up his event tickets and cancels his date, pretending infirmity. Then he walks to the nearest malt shop to commiserate with his friends.

And who should he happen to meet at the malt shop but the girl he lied to about being sick. After a few more transparent attempts to prevaricate his way out of an already awkward situation, he finally confesses. She chews him out and leaves. A dejected Jeff goes home.

At this point, Dad arrives from the hospital to deliver a long-ish sermon about ideals. Do we have good, clear ideals, or lame, vague ones? Monks and pioneers figure prominently, somehow, as does a tortured analogy about vehicle headlight maintenance. Dad leaves Jeff to ponder what he’s said. (Ponder aloud, that is, in another lengthy soliloquy to the family dog). Jeff sits down and begins a letter of apology to his spurned date.

Thoughts:

That facial expression is the windup to self-entitled lie.Before I get to the criticism, let me first state that I agree with most of what the short has to say—amazing, considering how much social norms have changed since it was made. An astonishing number of the people I meet these days are willing to Fight to the... um, Extreme Discomfort for their most passionately held beliefs, but if pressed, cannot for the life of them tell me exactly what those are. There is an exception to my approval, however; Understanding Your Ideals revisits a fallacy often repeated by the social engineering shorts of this era, to wit: The most popular kids at school are also the best-behaved. We discussed this in my reviews for the last two Rifftrax’d shorts to assert this ridiculous untruth, so we probably don’t need to go over it again.

With those two items off my chest, I can finally say it: this is one of the dullest shorts Rifftrax has ever done. The dialog could fit into a teaspoon, and you’d need a pair of tweezers to pick up the action. But if you’re a fan of long, static monologues delivered aloud to no one in particular, then hoo-boy, are you in for a treat.

The grand, stirring action theme over the beginning credits starts us off right, with Bill confusing this film for Captain Blood. Once we’re into the short proper, however, mockable material quickly dries up. A few of the better comments: While Jeff’s parents leave and Jeff complains that his evening is ruined, Kevin shrills, “Can’t you let Grandma die?” As a long tortured analogy compares living without ideals to driving without headlights, Bill notes that both scenarios end “in a hail of twisted metal and shattered glass.” When Dad finally finishes his stilted, formal sermon, Mike concludes with, “From Jeff’s bedroom, I’m Dad. Goodnight.” Decent riffing means that Understanding Your Ideals isn’t totally devoid of merit, but you’ve still got to go in steeled against one of the whiniest, speechiest shorts they’ve ever done.