Jane White is Sick & Twisted

on January 27, 2002 by Wade Major
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   Considering how many people actively try to make what are commonly referred to as “cult movies,” it's a wonder that so few of them actually wind up earning the moniker. “Jane White is Sick & Twisted,” however, joins the handful that get the formula absolutely right. A madcap, schizophrenic love/hate-letter to the television medium, carried off with light-hearted flair by a colorful cast of television veterans, “Jane White is Sick & Twisted” should have little trouble earning a long and faithful following.

   Kim Little (from “Diagnosis Murder”) stars as Jane, an unstable female version of “Being There's” Chance the Gardener whose life is so wrapped up in television that she imagines the popular Jerry Springer clone “Gerry” (David L. Lander, aka Squiggy on “Laverne and Shirley”) to be her long-lost father. Desperate to rejoin him and leave the orbit of her agoraphobic, overprotective mother (Alley Mills of “The Wonder Years”), she sets out on a quest to become any kind of sideshow freak that could conceivably land a guest spot on “Gerry.” Transvestites, aliens, serial killers and assorted weirdos of all stripes come and go during the course of Jane's off-kilter Oz-like journey. Colin Mochrie (of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”) shows up as a closeted semi-gay man with “she-male” fetishes, Richard Kline (Larry on “Three's Company”) makes a devastatingly funny cameo as a tactless television anchorman, while Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) takes nerdiness to a whole new level as Jane's even more unstable soul-mate, Dick. Other recognizable figures who pop up along the way include Chris Hardwick, Ted Shakelford, Michelle Phillips and the immortal voice of Gary Owens.

   Celebrity-driven comedy isn't enough, however, for writer/director David Michael Latt. The very style and overwrought essence of television is fair game here, too. Animated interludes take shots at everything from “South Park” to “Monty Python's Flying Circus” to the Rankin/Bass holiday specials of the late ‘60s and early '70s, while custom scene transitions, canned laughter, commercial bumpers and faux interstitials finish off everything else. It's a furious, kinetic potpourri that sometimes feels as though John Waters had been unleashed on a “Kentucky Fried Movie”-style parody of “Nick at Nite.” But to the credit of Latt and Little, who co-authored the story, the sensory overload never overloads the characters or short-changes their very real, albeit freakish, dilemmas.

   Boasting exceptionally impressive production values for its diminutive budget, “Jane White is Sick & Twisted” achieves that rare balancing act of skewering a subject while simultaneously paying homage to it. Just what kind of message audiences are meant to take from such treatment isn't clear, and probably isn't meant to be--not unlike television itself. Starring Kim Little, Wil Wheaton, Alley Mills, Chris Hardwick, Colin Mochrie, David L. Lander, Michelle Phillips, Richard Kline and Ted Shakelford. Directed and written by David Michael Latt. Produced by David Michael Latt and Leigh Slawner. A D&K Enterprises release. Comedy. Unrated. Running time: 84 min

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