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As Always, Caveat Emptor

  • Jun 15, 2011
It's fat-free, creamy and addictively delicious, and with the aid of aggressive marketing, it's quickly edging ice cream out of supermarkets. When executives of the floundering ice cream industry hire an industrial saboteur (Michael Moriarty) to uncover the origins of The Stuff and put an end to its production, nobody involved has a clue of just how insidious this tasty white goo really is. Accompanied by the disgruntled designer of the goop's advertising campaign (Andrea Marcovicci), a ruined candy tycoon (Garrett Morris) and a young boy (Scott Bloom) whose family has been subverted by their favorite treat, the colorful spy sets out to combat the fatal spread of America's most appealing new comestible.

Despite its great premise and frequently engaging energy, The Stuff is one of Larry Cohen's less ably executed projects. The film's production values are of mixed quality; Bret Culpepper's gloopy, frequently gruesome special effects are a lot of fun, but at best, they're compensating for Paul Glickman's shoddy photography and Armond Lebowitz's embarrassingly haphazard editing. These detrimental factors and Anthony Guefen's hokey score often make this theatrical feature seem like a particularly weak episode of The A-Team, especially when the plot unnecessarily diverges to bring a militia (led by Paul Sorvino, who's in a perpetual losing battle to suppress a smile) into the story. Cohen's career is packed with great ideas that are drawn out poorly in needlessly circuitous stories. If he'd had someone like John Carpenter as a screenwriting collaborator, his enormous satirical inspiration would surely have been better exploited. Here, the proceedings are so badly paced that they seem simultaneously rushed and protracted, and all the more tedious for it.

Every performance by this film's cast is either delightfully hammy or as stiff as plywood. Moriarty and Morris fare best in the former category, bringing a lot of charisma and charm to a pair of very silly roles. Morris can't deliver a line without inducing a chuckle, and Moriarty (hardly so annoying as he was in Cohen's Q, though just as overwrought) affects a ludicrous southern accent while obviously relishing every shot.

There's plenty to enjoy here: the sinister product's commercials, lots of goofy dialogue and an almost innocent enthusiasm that's infectious. Unfortunately, most of it is badly shot and cut, and the story's less involving asides should have been excised to admit more screen time to the titular Stuff. However, any movie that encourages people to reconsider consumer culture or compulsive overeating is always worth a viewing.

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More The Stuff reviews
review by . March 15, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****    Larry Cohen's "The Stuff" concerns the discovery of a mysterious bubbling goo that some man located in the arctic or somewhere like that happens upon and samples; only to become instantaneously entrapped by how drop-dead delicious it is. From then on, we learn that the glop has been harvested and is now being sold as a yogurt-like product called The Stuff. It's very popular amongst the people of America; and so it is frequently bought at the supermarket, and …
review by . August 30, 2009
The Stuff is a very interesting film from low budget film maker Larry Cohen. A funny parody on American consumerism and the greed of business. The movie is about two men who discover a strange kind of goo that's resembles and taste a bit like yogurt but is calorie and sugar free. Except it has a few problems such as a strong craving for more "stuff" and a very nasty side effect. One of the few films to feature Michael Moriarity (a Larry Cohen favorite) in a lead role as a corporate spy …
About the reviewer
Robert Buchanan ()
Ranked #2
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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