'Mother Schmuckers' Review: This Deranged, Belgian Beavis And Butt-Head Flounders In Frenetic Filth [Sundance 2021]

Mother Schmuckers marks the first time a Belgian film is playing in the Midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival. Normally, this section is a great place to find unsettling horror and/or twisted dark comedy, and while the debut film from directing duo Harpo & Lenny Guit delivers both, the problem is that the comedy is, well, horrific. What starts as an amusingly immature madcap quest across Brussels for food and a lost dog takes an unnecessarily inappropriate turn into scandalous incivility.

Issachar (Maxi Delmelle) and Zabulon (Harpo Guit) are two childish, rotten, twenty-something brothers who we first meet frying up a piece of shit in their mother's apartment. Yep, that's where this movie starts. While that could be enough to turn some people away at the starting line, it might help to know that this movie has been pitched as a cross between Jackass and John Waters. While the offensive nature and filth of both is certainly present, this movie simply takes things a little too far.

Initially, I appreciated the simple, nasty zaniness of the comedy antics Harpo & Lenny Guit bring to the table. The movie is just about two dimwitted, immature brothers who are hungry as hell. Their prostitute mother Cashmere (Claire Bodson) doesn't have any food lying around, so they head down to the grocery store to get some food, despite the fact that they have no money. When they end up losing their mother's dog, they spend the next 24 hours trying to find him so they don't get kicked out of their mother's apartment. But they're also not above continuing their quest looking for something to eat at the same time.

With this simple premise, the first half of Mother Schmuckers has some solid laughs as these two desperately try to find food or the dog, whichever comes first. It strikes a vibe that feels like a more demented version of Step Brothers mixed with Beavis and Butt-Head. Delmelle and Guit have genuinely hilarious chemistry when it comes to their brotherly rivalry that finds them constantly wrestling, smacking and bickering, even if it's in the middle of the street. You can't help but laugh at a grown man in a leather fringed jacket battling with his lanky brother in a tanktop on top of a long sleeve shirt, complete with tight jeans and an outdated shaggy haircut. The movie peaks early with a grocery store chase full of commendable slapstick comedy, and it never finds solid footing again.

Even with just a 70-minute runtime, the rest of the production overstays its welcome. As Issachar and Zabulon make their way around Brussels, they get help from an oddball friend, take a ridiculous detour with a gun, stir up trouble at the brothel where their mother works, and end up at a secret dirty club where a bunch of people are having sex with all sorts of animals. That's not the only reason this movie comes with a warning of graphic depictions of animal abuse. The film's ending senselessly dispatches with the plot's driving force in a truly grotesque and stomach-churning way. Let me just say, if you're a dog-lover, you'll probably want to stay away.

As someone who has enjoyed gross-out humor and envelope-pushing, irreverent comedy countless times before, I must say that Mother Schmuckers goes for sheer shock value without the laughs or substance to back it up. It has the wild, wandering, frenetic spirit of something like National Lampoon's Animal House mixed with a 1970s, lo-fi European visual style full of quick zooms and whip pans, but it's also wildly offensive without much of a point. It gets lost while trying to offend, and then comes to an abrupt end when it seems like the Guit brothers ran out of ideas. But maybe that's for the best.

/Film Rating: 3 out of 10