From high-end online production house 60 Frames comes the story of five henchmen who are the 21st Century’s web video answer to the Marx Brothers set in a world where Hot Shots meets The Most Dangerous Game with just a touch of the Evil League of Evil. Or you could say it’s Tropic Thunder except with not-so-good guys and extra terrestrials.
Weapons’ Expert Jax, Cynic Ajax, Comptuer Whiz Zaptop, Commander Carruthers, Another Guy, and a number of nameless underlings to evil overlords are training in the nation of Val Verde, learning how to hate on action heroes and aid and abed bad guys.
Created by sketch comedy crew Elephant Larry, the thus far four-epsiode plot features the wacky quintuple as a nebbishy commando troupe of misfits trying to survive in the jungle of Central America. Death and destruction comes with the territory, but a recent stint of macabre murders – and the narrator and the alien-looking thing that’s killing everyone – slowly leads the aspiring vigilantes to believe they’re living inside the Predator movie franchise.
Episode 2’s ‘Piss Lines‘ leads us to a gun shakedown between Ajax and a real-life action hero, replete with American flag bandana. The scene’s hilarious and zen in its parodic deconstruction of the genre and features surprisingly top-level comedic acting from Jeff Solomon, Stefan Lawerence, Chric Principe, Alexander Zalben, and Geoff Haggerty. It makes you wonder why we haven’t seen more of this Elephant Larry crew on the web video circuit.
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In addition to witty-cum-slapsticky dialogue, there are nice touches like the logo punchline, in which the introduction of a silly weapon is greeted with its own shiny advertising, action movie font and accompanying (‘bing’) musical note. The special effects are also good enough to either be believable or appropriately cheesy (whichever is fitting for the scene), without distracting from the pace.
Val Verde moves along like a great example of the genre it parodies – without tedium or over-indulgence, and with scenes of relaxed or anxious dialogue before deadly climaxes. The humble and ragged look of the cast adds to the appeal, especially commander Carruthers, who with his high-hairline and wide, almost-mutton-like chops is somehow both schlubby and tough in one character.
Episode 3’s ‘Has Anyone Seen My Skin‘ hits its own comedic high notes when Carruthers and Ajax have an extended conversation with a head in a box who keeps reverting to a series of one-lines about his wife’s genitalia (he is a head in a box, after all).
And here lies the strength of Val Verde. It’s not just taking the piss out of the action movie genre, but pummeling it beyond recognition. When you lose awareness of its action-film premise, that’s when Val Verde is at its most successful and satisfying.
Check it out at 60Frames.com. It might be the best series the studio’s produced yet. Definitely one to watch.