Movie Review: Jemaine C. stars in a Kiwi Comedy in (Intentional) Gibberish — “Nude Tuesday”

“Nude Tuesday” is a a deadpan, daft and seriously off-center comedy from The Other Land Under, New Zealand. No, it’s not their first. The presence of Jemaine Clement in the cast reminds us of that.

But this screwball/screws-loose “Couples Retreat” farce plays around with a prejudice foreign film fans have had since the movies learned to talk. The film has a story, but all the dialogue is gibberish, a sort of Muppets “Swedish Chef” meets The Minions mush of what sounds like Danish or maybe Dutch or perhaps German that’s gone Scandinavian.

That doesn’t matter, because as any film snob (or those put-off by snobs) will tell you, it’s SUBTITLED. So of COURSE it’s more “important.”

Screenwriter and co-star Jackie van Beek and co-writer/director Armagan Ballantyne showed their finished film, about a couple sent on a ditzy get-away with some relationship/sex guru (Clement) on what looks like New Zealand’s wild and snowy South Island, to comics in Australia and elsewhere.

The subtitles are thus written by a comic, who invented (in the case of edgy Brit comic Julia Davis) dialogue that changed the situations, added in sexual indiscretion confessions and ran even further with the wordplay of the enterprise.

“I vibrate on your frequency,” our over-sexed guru/therapist “Bjorg” (Clement) says as he touches Laura (van Beek) intimately, right in front of her hapless husband Bruno (Damon Herriman). “Together we tremble!”

References to a “toothy vulva” and “You biggened my mister” were not what Clement or anybody else had in mind when they were gibbering, which adds a comic irony to the enterprise.

Group therapy sessions include the introduction of livestock — animals that “choose” to be with this or that couple; a pig with these folks, a goat chooses to hand with Bruno and Laura. The rooster?

Look, “the feathery gigolo” has chosen “our lesbian potters. Enjoy some c–k, ladies!”

Davis must have a working knowledge of the comedy stylings of Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords,” “What We Do in the Shadows”), I must say. Her fleshing out the story is most convincing with the words that aren’t really coming out of his mouth, printed out on the screen beneath him.

The oddest touch for me in this experiment in improvisation was the inclusion of gibberish versions of very familiar pop songs on the score. It takes a moment to recognize “Sea of Love,” “Time of the Season” and Kenny & Dolly’s finest duet.

The soundtrack plays like “The ‘Despicable Me’ Minions Sing the Hits,” and it’s a hoot.

But when the bouncy beat of “Road to Nowhere” rolls out, you have to wonder, “Why didn’t they use the original David Byrne gibberish in this case?”

Not all of it works, but more than you’d expect does. Sure, there are entirely too many d–k jokes (a failing stand-up’s best friend). But there is nudity, it is comic and the actual “Nude Tuesday” may just involve a dip in a glacial pool high up in the mountains.

And “experiment” or not, what actor’s going to risk hypothermia or “shrinkage” just for a gag? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.

Rating: unrated, comic violence, full frontal nudity

Cast: Jackie van Beek, Damon Herriman, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Ian Zaro, Byron Coll and Jemaine Clement.

Credits: Directed by Armagan Ballantyne, scripted by Jackie van Beek, Armagan Ballantyne, with subtitles by Julia Davis. A Cornerstone release.

Running time: 1:40

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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