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MAY 4, 1998: 

Parappa the Rapper

Sony Playstation

My introduction to this game was inauspicious. A friend who'd played it said, "You remember that thing Simon where you had to punch out the colored, beeping lights in the right order? It's like that, only it's more cheesy." I was utterly appalled when I first played it, but grim fascination kept bringing me back. I kept thinking I'd struck bottom; surely it couldn't get stupider than this? (It does.) Now, months later, I can't achieve closure with this game. It has colonized my subconscious. The ridiculous catchphrases are still stuck in my head. "Step on the gas! Now step on the brake!" "I gotta believe!" "Ribbit, ribbit, hey mon me can't hold it!" The game is little more than an extended cartoon about a dog trying to impress his girlfriend. He wins her affection by developing his (you guessed it) rapping skills with a series of instructors: a Kung Fu master with an onion for a head, a Rasta frog working a swap meet, a chicken that hosts a cooking show, and a buffalo driving instructor. In the magnificent finale, Parappa must challenge his old masters for their place in line at a public rest-room. (Don't ask what happens if you lose.) The mindboggling raps become agonizing (and increasingly hilarious) the more times you are forced to hear them. They sound like they were offhandedly trans-literated through a couple of decidedly unfunky languages. A sample couplet:

...My style is rich

dope, phat, in which...

The game play is surprisingly smooth, and the music video style of the game environment is revolutionary. Expect to see a flood of games modeled after this one. Parappa only has a few levels, so you'll probably want to rent rather than buy. If you aren't ashamed to let other people know you have it, you'll find it makes a great icebreaker at parties. Oh, and if you have kids, they'll probably like it too. I wholeheartedly recommend Parappa the Rapper -- it's like Simon, only it's more cheesy. -- Chris Baker



Caveman

D: Carl Gottlieb (1981)

with Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach, Shelley Long, Dennis Quaid

laserdisc

Caveman starts with the concept that any movie depicting dinosaurs and humans in the same place at the same time is inherently ridiculous, and runs with that idea. Carl Gottlieb is perhaps best known for his work on the script of Steven Spielberg's classic Jaws, but Caveman is strictly for laughs. During the course of the movie, Starr and his band of prehistoric outcasts discover fire, learn to walk upright, and (of course) discover music. Along the way they triumph over a rival tribe, led by John Matuszak, as well as a number of dimensionally animated dinosaurs. Given that the script is in a nonsensical language, it's a credit to the performers and to Gottlieb that Caveman manages to be as coherent as it is. The humorous dialogue is even more uproarious to those who have seen the likes of One Million Years, B.C. and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, wherein the cast is forced to attempt delivering caveperson gibberish with real conviction. There's also a plethora of scatological humor, but it's good, if messy, fun. The animated dinosaurs are quite memorable, particularly an aged, nearly toothless Tyrannosaurus Rex that ends up stoned out of its mind on narcotic berries. The laserdisc of Caveman, although letterboxed, is pretty much a no-frills presentation. No trailers, no captivating "Making of Caveman" featurette, and, sadly, no Ringo Starr music video. Still, the film succeeds within the bounds it sets for itself and that's more than most of what's marketed as comedy manages to do nowadays. -- Bud Simons



Boogie Nights


Mark Wahlberg as Dirk Diggler and Cheryl Tiegs (uncredited) in Boogie Nights.
D: Paul Thomas Anderson (1997)

with Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg

File under guilty pleasures. In retrospect, Boogie Nights is a sloppy, scattered movie that rambles on for far too long and has far too little in the way of a message, except to say, "Drugs are bad." But what a way to say it! Where else are you going to see Heather Graham in nothing but a pair of roller skates? Or a prosthetic "enhancement" on a young Mark Wahlberg that makes for one of the most memorable finales in the history of film? Julianne Moore acting the part of a drugged-out zombie... and pulling it off? Burt Reynolds with a toupée that doesn't look half bad? Only in Boogie Nights, probably the most memorable film of last year, if nothing else. Anderson's sophomore directorial effort may have suffered in the prudish theatrical marketplace, but home video seems the ironically perfect place to watch the film. The movie isn't so much an informational look back at the heyday of the porn industry as it's just a hysterical laugh riot. If you're so inclined, you can get lost in the minutiae of the settings and characters, and forget about the story altogether. Finally, a respectable way to have your porn. -- Christopher Null


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