42 Story House (2007)

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Todd W. Langen Todd W. Langen

5.4 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Absurd Comedy, Comedy, Screwball Comedy
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Review by Chad
Added: June 23, 2007
After over a decade out of the spotlight, Todd Langen has returned to the world of filmmaking with a collection of 42 shorts entitled, appropriately enough, 42 Story House. Wait a sec... Todd who? That's what I thought upon popping in the DVD, but the man actually has some solid credentials: he wrote for the first two seasons of The Wonder Years as well as the first two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. Granted, it may not be Casablanca and Gone with the Wind, but at least we know that we're not dealing with some scrub living in his mother's basement with this release.

So then, what exactly is 42 Story House? Well, it's a collection of 42('ish) comedic shorts which were shot over the course of a year, and each of these shorts had two "rules" in place: everything had to be shot at one place (Todd's house) and by one person (meaning, Todd directs, writes, acts, holds the camera, edits, everything). Dedication to his craft? An artistic decision? Nah - as explained by the man himself on his site, he simply wanted to see if he enjoyed doing this sort of thing before he dragged other people into it. Smart decision there, and also one that more indie directors should take note of (hint, hint).

Now, with the 'who' and the 'what' out of the way, we come to the hard part: the 'why', and more specifically, the 'why should you put ten bucks into this man's pocket.' Well, to put it simply, there's some great material on this disc. Granted, there are a couple of gags that would have wound up on the cutting room floor had I been the man in charge, but with 42 (mostly) separate shorts, that's almost a given: not everyone will enjoy the same thing, but there are some real gems to be found nonetheless. The best part? Most of the shorts only run for a couple of minutes, so if you find yourself watching a dud, chances are good that it's almost over by the time you realize that you dislike it.

What sort of humor are you in for with this release? Think of what would happen if you took a dash of Mike Judge's observational humor and mixed it with a hearty helping of the bizarre, "what in the hell am I watching?" style of humor found in something along the lines of, say, Liquid Television. Since everything takes place inside of Todd's house, it sort of goes without saying that the guy had to get creative in order to keep the attention of the home audience... and trust me, creativity was definitely not in short supply. One short finds an egg wanting to commit suicide, only to discover that his shell is a bit thicker than most other eggs. Another finds a gang of toilet paper rolls banding together and arming themselves with knives in order to put an end to their "abuse" at the hands of Todd's... well, you know. Yet another story is the tale of a computer printer which gets a mind of its own and decides to play a little game with Todd while he attempts to work. These are but three of the stories, and I'll leave it up to you, the potential viewer, to discover the other 39.

Yes, these shorts are goofy, and yeah, some of them missed the mark (as a rough, pull a number out of my ass guesstimate, I'd say about six of them did nothing at all for me). However, there's also a lot of hilarious moments mixed in with the package - there were more than a couple of scenes where I had to rewind and rewatch something due to having laughed so hard that I missed pieces of it. So, bottom line: is it worth the ten bucks that they're charging for it over at the official site? That averages out to less than a quarter per short and at that price, I'd definitely have to say yes. Pricing aside, I'd still recommend it for fans of offbeat comedy that doesn't have to rely on the tired, overdone gross-out style of humor that seems to be so prevalent in much of today's indie comedy, and for that, I'm going with an 8/10.
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