The Great Chameleon

By: Addison WylieTGCposter

If Goran Kalezic’s film was conceived a few years earlier, I’m certain Larry the Cable Guy would’ve played Victor Altomare’s leading role.  The Great Chameleon has all those traits one would find in the comic’s low-brow outings – including a cast made up of fairly familiar and puzzled faces as well as cringe-worthy politically incorrectness trying to pass as humour.

I think my passiveness towards poorly written, brash racial stereotypes in recent comedies speaks volumes about how 2013 is slowly starting to chip away at my patience and my ability to feel anger towards the filmmaker and the screenwriters who should know better.  Kalezic wears both of these hats; he should really give his head a good shake.

First we had Movie 43.  A comedy that lobed jokes our way playing – occasionally – on silly stereotypical humour.  Some of it made me giggle, some jabs made me feel uncomfortable.

Then, InAPPropriate Comedy.  An anthology film with zero punchlines and a ton of hateful, offensive snap judgements towards every type of race.

Now, we have The Great Chameleon.  A movie that has Altomare playing Joe Murky, an elusive “master of disguise” who is released from prison to be immediately thrown into a search for his missing niece.  Meanwhile, an easily angered Officer Curry (played by Robert Davi) and his partner Katy Simm (played by Monique Zordan) follow Murky hoping he’ll uncover the whereabouts of stolen money.

With the help of his flamboyant right hand make-up artist Max (played by a barely recognizable Stacy Keach who is drinking in every second of his cliched supporting role), Murky dons accessories, accents, and aberrancy to gain close contact to the underworld he’s trying to manoeuvre through.

He even goes to great lengths to enwrap himself in that character he’s impersonating.  For instance, these are the types of disguises that has Murky dropping his drawers’ and defecating in public in order to “stay in character”.  Or, maybe he’s going number two to take the piss out of the enemy.  Either way, it’s unfunny and goes on and on.

I watched The Great Chameleon with dead eyes while succumbing to the numbness it steamed out.  It’s a comedy that is so knowingly inappropriate, it almost wants to evoke a strong, negative reaction from its audience between its lame attempts to make us chuckle.  It’s kind of like being bullied by the captain of the chess team or by a future Apple genius.

What’s really disappointing is that the film is on the right track early on.  When The Great Chameleon is doing everything it can to excite movie goers (including adding a frenetic, oddball title sequence), Kalezic convinces his audience that he’s going to take a stab at sending up exploitation movies.  Where Black Dynamite was a spoof of blaxploitation cinema, Kalezic’s film will be the equivalent to “one more job” gangster flicks.

All cylinders aren’t exactly fired on during this goofy start-up, but its willingness to try and pay tribute to a certain genre of film is greatly appreciated.  It also helps that the cast all seem to be game for the task.  Unfortunately, The Great Chameleon breaks its cover and goes for cheap shots in order to bring in laughter with no such luck.

Here’s the thing with Goran Kalezic’s comedy: it never made me mad or even a little ticked off, just tired.  It’s because The Great Chameleon isn’t worth the trouble of getting worked up about because of how confused and broad this whole debacle is.  It’s flaws are so obvious, that they serve as immediate turn-offs.

The Great Chameleon is a farce.  A tasteless and shabbily executed farce, but a farce nonetheless.  The jokes are supposed to be over-the-top in every sense of the word.  But, these puns are hampered by being paired alongside shallow and offensive stereotypes.

Take the scenes featuring Keach.  If the character of Max had his attitude and physical appearance toned down, Keach would’ve had a fun role within his reach.  But, Kalezic and co-writer Altomare add a secret love to the stereotype where Max is consistently making advances towards Murky.  This is a type of joke that – inevitably – would be dull in any filmmaker’s hands because of how limp the build-up and the payoff are.

The same can be said about a scene where Officer Curry grabs an opportunity for a free haircut.  Davi’s straight-faced reactions to his hairdresser (who is Murky in disguise) will have you giggling at first, but the hairdresser persona is revved up with an obscene amount of puns poking fun at how homosexual men can’t keep their hands off other good looking men.  Ha Ha.

While The Great Chameleon is a disaster and will often have you asking yourself if you’re actually watching a movie going to these dimwitted lengths to make you smile, I never found it mean-spirited.  It’s that line in the sand that separates this from something evil like InAPPropriate Comedy.  These gags were thought up by Kalezic and Altomare with their best intentions riding shotgun.  Maybe the case is that these acts were funnier on paper…or at 3 a.m. while trying to exhaustively meet a screenwriting deadline.

So, if you find yourself in a theatre watching The Great Chameleon and you’re about as straight-faced as Robert Davi getting a hair cut, the biggest “middle finger” you can give to a movie like this is watching it with those same emotionless looks I had.  As soon as the credits roll, you check your watch and leave – instantly forgetting about everything you just witnessed.  If you don’t give this filmmaker a reaction, he’ll hopefully get bored of this approach to comedy and retool his future works.

If you feel any other sort of fuming resentment towards The Great Chameleon while watching it, inclining you to want to scream and shout about it from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, take a couple of deep breaths and remind yourself that surprisingly this could’ve been much, much, much, much worse and that the movie is almost over.  It isn’t worth burning the extra calories about the miscalculations that will surely send this “comedy” into obscurity – never to bother movie goers ever again.

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