Some movies are slow to reveal themselves, shedding their mysterious tulip petals until nothing is left but the perfect bulb of truth from which the story sprouts. “Mother Schmuckers” — which opens with two bone-stupid adults trying to force-feed their mom a fried pan of human shit until she vomits the film’s title directly onto the camera — is not one of those movies. At just 70 minutes long, it doesn’t have the time.
Then again, you have no idea how long 70 minutes can be. Not until you’ve sat through Harpo and Lenny Guit’s feature debut, an anarchic blitz through the lower depths of Brussels that blends flavors of “Pink Flamingos” and flamboyant Italian comedies into a tasteless Pixy Stick of a movie. Ultimately, it betrays those influences in favor of something that feels more like a Dardenne brothers remake directed by Jake and Logan Paul (and would even if “Young Ahmed” star Claire Bodson wasn’t cast as the titular schmuckered mother).
The world is still wide enough to make room for cinema that celebrates idiocy for its own sake — even the fetid sort that reeks off your screen — and it’s not like anyone reading this hasn’t cos-played as a giant Labrador so they could gain access to an “Eyes Wide Shut”-like bestiality orgy and rescue the family dog from being spit-roasted to death between two sweaty old men. The gags in “Mother Schmuckers” are consistently more gross than funny, and the movie lacks the visual wit or malformed heart required to keep blood pumping as it runs itself ragged from one joke to the next.
Issachar (Maxi Delmelle) and Zabulon (Harpo Guit) are a pair of bored enfants terribles who live in a rundown flat with their aggrieved sex-worker single mom and her beloved dog January Jack, whom she understandably loves more than either of her human children. There have probably been yeast infections that she loved more than either of her human children. Issachar and Zabulon are the kind of impossible delinquents who never stop to think about consequences; ostensibly sui generis morons who do whatever comes natural and would have been killed 1,000 times over by now if not for the good fortune of being characters in a movie.
For all their hedonism, these idiots feel all too familiar. There’s something implacably self-conscious about the “Jackass dans le Métro” energy of the breezy title sequence that follows our boys as they zoom through Brussels looking for trouble, just as there’s more than a little sprinkle of “Dumb & Dumber” about how they react to the trouble they find (imagine the weird Spongebob meme equivalent of Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne and you’ll be on the right track).
The first 20 minutes of their misadventures include a failed shoplifting attempt, a large bite out of a maggot-infested burger, and a hole shot through a homeless man’s hand, all of which are presented in a way that suggest this is just another Tuesday for the brothers Schmuckers. What’s out of the ordinary is Issachar and Zabulon lose their mom’s precious January Jack. “I’m not even sure I love you anymore,” she says upon hearing the news. This, of all things, is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Perhaps for the first time in their lives, the brothers seem genuinely distressed. It might be a stretch to say that “Mother Schmuckers” is pulled along by any emotional undertow, but the boys appear to panic at the threat of abandonment. It’s easy to be an agent of chaos when you’re born with a partner in crime and a tolerant mother, but even unconditional love can show its seams if you stretch it far enough. (The scene where the brothers interrogate their father is mostly amusing for the “What the hell is Mathieu Amalric doing in this?” of it all.)
There’s never any fear of the movie chickening out and veering into corny sentiment; of all the gooey things to worry about in this movie, warm feelings of love is the least of your concerns. Not that all of the set pieces are so gross: The best of them trend toward the absurd, such as the bit where a large man hurls himself out of a third-story window without a scratch, and the episode where the brothers are cast as dancers in a lo-fi music video for a song called “Who Put Me in the Well?”
But… well, it’s hard to spoil the ending of a film with so little story to tell, but any description of how the brothers’ mother finally gets schmuckered would take away from the sick fun of feeling it slowly dawn on you. Let’s just say the Guits save their most vile idea for last, as their exhausting debut — a breathless half-marathon of bad taste — somehow builds to an even less appetizing note than the one on which it began. There’s no doubt that some (very drunk) people will swallow everything this movie has to show them, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone will be hungry for more by the time it’s over.
“Mother Schmuckers” premiered in the Midnight section of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. It is currently seeking U.S. distribution.