Aristophanes’ comedy “Lysistrata,” the one about women refusing to make love until the men stop making making war, has proven as timely and malleable as any play the ancient Greeks gave us. Thousands of years before women got the vote in much of the world, the playwright spun a comic parable demonstrating the REAL power of women in a culture.
And it still resonates. Just last year, Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” re-set the women-on-a-sex-strike story in the mayhem of modern day Chicago.
Erase the violence and rub most of the sexual and political edge off that film, and you get something like “Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?”, a gun-crazy “Lysistrata” with the feel of a PG-13 TV movie, perhaps one more inspired by “The Andy Griffith Show’s” sexless spin on “Lysistrata” back in the ’60s.
Matt Cooper’s film takes place in Rockford, Texas, a fruit-packing town that’s actually a pistol-packers paradise. “Live free, shoot straight” is the motto they slap up on signs you see as you enter the town limits.
Everybody there loves hunting, sport shooting and the comfort and safety they think their guns give them. Until one day, a kid who has absorbed more of the gun worship than the gun safety ethos of his parents takes his dad’s new pistol to school to show a friend.
A hail of misplaced and fortunately not-fatal bullets later, the boy’s mom, Jenna (Andrea Anders of “Modern Family” and “About a Boy” and many other TV series) is taken aback enough to wonder what kind of fatal-accident prone world they’re raising their children in. Her boy got a slap on the wrist from the school and the sheriff (John Heard). Boys will be boys and boys with guns, etc.
She’s a minority of one, but Jenna thinks Rockford should give up its guns.
“Every avalanche starts with a single snowflake.”
Her avalanche starts with her bookclub and snowballs from there. The women will swear off sex with their men until they destroy their assault rifles, shotguns and pistols. The menfolk, including Jenna’s husband (Matt Passmore of “The Glades”) get their “Second Amendment” backs up over this. And a battle of the sexes and war of wills is on.
John Michael Higgins is the politically spineless mayor, Horatio Sanz and Fernanda Romero are a couple trying to have a baby, Katherine McNamara is a teen who has been making her boyfriend wait — for a year — only to have this protest interrupt their coital plans.
And Cloris Leachman plays the obligatory potty-mouthed granny in this debate. She has the best speech, the testiest scene, laying down the straw men that gun control foes throw up “just like when they were fighting chlorinated water and smoking bans.”
The movie throws a few mass shooting statistics, a history of how the meaning of the Second Amendment was quite recently twisted and broad portrait of the gun lobby that did the twisting, here called The National Gun Association (whose leader reveres his “Cold Dead Hands” portrait of NRA spokesmodel Charlton Heston).
“I doubt the Founding Fathers had this ‘no sex’ thing in mind when they wrote all that stupid crap.”
But this is a toothless satire, a sermon lacking the bite or broad wit of similar films. Cooper attracted a few names to his script, but he’s no Christopher Guest (“Best in Show”) or Norman Lear (“Cold Turkey”). There’s no bite to the debate, no edge to the satire, no sin in the sex.(How DID this earn an R? MPAA hypocrisy?). And, if you’d care to notice, there’s no racial component to all this, either. There isn’t a black face to be seen in this corner of Texas.
That makes “Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?” a sermon sorely in need of more sass, more silliness and more sting. It’s pointless to show Jenna scanning the Internet, paging through all the mass shootings and careless “accidents” at gun shows without making the pointed and still very funny (See “The Simpsons,” “The Cartridge Family”) connection in the movie.
The setting and subtext were ripe for lampooning, and Cooper sensed that with his simplest, pithiest argument. He just didn’t take it far enough.
“When did you become such a damn liberal?”
“When did you become such an idiot?”
MPAA Rating:R for sexual content and language
Cast: Andrea Anders, Matt Passmore, Katherine McNamara, John Heard, Cloris Leachman, John Michael Higgins, Horatio Sanz, Kevin Conroy
Credits: Written and directed by Matt Cooper. A Momentum release.
Running time: 1:35