Kehr Capsule of the Week: Used Cars (1980)

For once a comedy in the Animal House school that knows what it’s about: the vulgarity of the gags matches the vulgarity of the subject, and this 1980 film becomes a fierce, cathartically funny celebration of the low, the cheap, the venal—in short, America. Most of the time, I didn’t know whether to laugh or shudder, and I ended up doing a lot of both. It was Steve Martin who said “Comedy isn’t pretty,” but it’s Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the writer-directors here, who prove it; this is the Dawn of the Dead of slapstick. Kurt Russell, in an eloquently obnoxious performance, is the chief salesman; the supporting cast has been drawn, evocatively, from The Gong ShowLaverne and Shirley, and The Munsters.

PS: Searching for the actor who was on The Gong Show (I don’t think I’m alone in assuming he meant Frank McRae, a ringer for Gene Gene the Dancing Machine) shows that the supporting cast’s collective resume also includes Miami Vice, SCTVSimon & Simon, The Incredible Hulk, CHiPsLove American Style, Charlie’s Angels, Bosom Buddies, Who’s the Boss, and Private Parts.

PSS: Also a fan of Kehr