Review of “Love Shack”


Love Shack is a gleeful, slick faux documentary in the grand tradition of Best in Show and This Is Spinal Tap – except instead of dog shows or hair bands, this flick takes aim at the porn industry. Directed by Gregg Saccon and Michael B. Silver, it’s a decidedly goofy, gay-inclusive, PG-13-appropriate take on the making of a “legacy” porn flick.

A cast of commentators, including former porn stars, a “professional” porn historian and a VH1 “I Love the 80s” style snarkmeister begin the picture, detailing the life of recently deceased “Mo Saltzman” (Ian Gomez), a beloved and wildly successful porn producer with 40 years of “commercially and artistically successful” films under his belt.

Mo has left an artistic legacy, according to the “academic” commentator, an empire according to Mr. Snark, and a loving, non-traditional family, according to his many stars.

Now in their 50s and 60s, former performers recall their very first Mo productions with warm nostalgia, while hilarious fake porn posters grace the screen: “Hey, That’s Not Fondue” and “Diddler on the Roof,” to name two.

Of course, the arty film history spin is the best part. Looking the part in every way, “Professor of Pornography” Dr. Allen Rudnick (Brad Hall) tells of Mo’s incredible artistic talent, fusing porn with social commentary and experimental filmmaking. Clips from his work in the 70s seal the deal, showing off the poetry/porn, “pornetry,” if you will, along with action-adventure porn flicks starring the beloved married couple, Doug and Debbie Vanderspiegl.

Archival interviews with Mo from 80s documentaries like “Mo on Mo” reveal the man to be a guru caricature. A semi-brilliant, semi-mad artist in one scene, a happy, smiling hippy in another, he waxes on about his philosophies on life and the importance of love. Mo emphasizes that the work he does has created a family – well, a family that has sex with one another on camera.

It’s revealed that Mo left one unfinished script – his magnum opus – in a trunk he bequeathed to former porn director extraordinaire, Mack Hollister (Christopher Boyer). To honor the deceased, Hollister calls all of Mo’s favorite former stars to come to Mo’s estate (the titular “Love Shack”), to film the movie.

The set-up is pure, absurd hilarity. The new script is a piece of Hitchcock-meets-soap opera-meets Sherlock Holmes garbage. The plot has something to do with a detective and a rich Swedish couple and a whole lot of sex. It’s called “Dial M for Milkjugs.” And that’s all you really need to know.

With a loony, fun premise like this, all we need are good, hammy characters and a few solid jokes. Thankfully, we have that and more, as the ensemble cast is phenomenal and the script is as hilariously dopey as you could hope for in a porn spoof.

Doug (Pete Gardner), and Debbie (Molly Hagan), are onboard, their picture-perfect marriage in shambles. Bud, the previous stud of Mo’s 60s and 70s films is now a paunchy 60-something “model airplane enthusiast” but he’s still got it. The “Sphincter Brothers” (played by director Michael B. Silver and Mark Feuerstein) are a tag team duo that hasn’t seen one another since a traumatic incident on a porn shoot 20 years ago.

Producing the whole shebang is a positively adorable gay couple: Andre (Paul Vaillancourt) and Ted (Brian Palermo), first seen preparing for the arrival of their first child. Sweet and kind, the veteran filmmakers are entrusting the project to Mack’s supposedly steady hands, even though his last major shoot was the homoerotic flop “Fondling Fathers,” an American history lesson gone horribly wrong.

Best of all is diva, Whitney Sweet (Lindsey Stoddart) and her barely-closeted agent, Gretchen Becky (Jamie Denbo). Dim-witted and kind of mean, Whitney misses the point in every conversation and says hilarious off-kilter things to everyone, save Gretchen. Gretchen, for her part, is a pit bull in a power suit. She’s power-hungry, yet inexplicably dedicated to her dopey star, even to the point of drawing multiple contracts and explaining away her leading lady’s “special” necklace.

One of the funniest sources of conflict (in a movie swimming with hilarious clashes) is Whitney’s hatred of Hallie Lujah (Amberlee Colson), an up-and-coming young porn star with whom she has a hot lesbian scene. Hallie comes across as genuine and understanding, and plays nice at first, but after Whitney causes some serious drama involving mascara and superglue, the ladies pretty much hate one another.

Kat Waters (Susan Yeagley), who is introduced as the “lesbian negotiator” is called in to settle the score and act as a “diva doctor.” She holds a hard line in negotiations and wins more than just the respect of Gretchen, who just loves a “pony tail and a power suit.”

Riding on a cast that is clearly enjoying the hell out of every scene and a script that jumped the shark somewhere in the first five minutes, Love Shack is uproariously funny. The “confessional” interviews are a hoot, the “on-set” footage is a blast, and the flashbacks to “previous films” are an absolute riot. The style of humor – heavy on sight gags and absurd situations – works perfectly for the goofy, almost playful tone, and the actors sell every scene.

Mind you, this isn’t exactly highbrow humor. One would hope that any viewer looking to enjoy a spoof about the porn industry knows this going in. There are a few cheap jokes, and all of the fake porn movies that make up Mo’s “legacy” are completely obvious bits of goofy naughtiness (there’s no subtlety in Pile-Driving Miss Daisy, for instance).Then again, if you’re looking for nuanced commentary, you’re clearly in the wrong place.

It’s no Best in Show, as we’d need a serious injection of Jane Lynch magic for that, but Love Shack is a lot of fun. It’s goofy and a little obvious, never too proud to go for the easy joke – but it’s more laugh-out-loud funny than not, and the surprisingly meaty plot keeps things interesting right up until the end.

Be sure to keep watching as the end credits roll for a glimpse at the post Dial M for Milkjugs lives of our stars. More than one of these vignettes involves lesbian marriage.

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