By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 19, 2005 12:00 AM
"Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls" (Not rated; List price: $19.95)
Release Date: July 26
In the more than two years I have spent reviewing DVDs for washingtonpost.com, I've certainly received my share of offbeat box sets and lame collections.
The first two seasons of "Punky Brewster."
Numerous Lifetime Original Movies.
Almost any film starring Vin Diesel.
But nothing prepared me for the beyond-bizarre DVD that recently arrived from the independent home video distributor Vanguard Cinema: "Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls," a schlocky comedy starring Eric Roberts, Evan Marriott (aka Joe Millionaire) and ... Michael Jackson. Yes, in the upper right-hand corner of the DVD's case, surrounded by beams of angelic light, lies the face of Mr. Thriller himself, promoting what Vanguard touts as "the first new Michael Jackson DVD in the retail marketplace since closure of the recent trial events."
Normally I don't review straight-to-video titles, mainly because there are so many other high-profile (and typically more worthwhile) DVDs on the market. But this one seemed so out there (Evan Marriott and Michael Jackson??), so deserving of a place in the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" Hall of Fame, that I felt compelled to watch. When the train looks this crazy, you can't help but board.
As expected, the 90-minute movie was terrible -- a disjointed mishmash of Zucker Brothers-style comedy and fantasy-adventure. The convoluted plot focuses on a batch of beauty pageant contestants who crash land on a deserted island that happens to house Noah's Ark and a huge wild boar named Jurassic Pork. Their mission -- along with that of their co-pilots, played by Roberts and Charlie Schlatter of TV's now-defunct "Diagnosis Murder" -- is to escape the island and stop the ark from sailing and creating a "Perfect Storm" that will somehow cause the Earth to be taken over by apes. And who is their spiritual adviser in this quest? That's right, Michael Jackson, who plays a secret agent commissioned by the pope to appear as an Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque hologram -- stay with me, people, I swear I'm not making this up -- and help the castaways save the planet.
Of course, Jackson's role is a parody of his cameo in "Men in Black II." Indeed, when the movie isn't making lame, satirical references to other films -- including "Catch Me If You Can," "Miss Congeniality" and "Planet of the Apes" -- it employs amateurish special effects that would get laughed out of an episode of "Lost." Heck, they wouldn't even pass muster on "Land of the Lost." As for Jackson, he appears in the movie for a grand total of two minutes. Yet he does the most convincing acting job of the entire cast, which, of course, isn't saying much. The only reason to watch "Miss Cast Away" is for those surreal Jackson scenes, which don't come until 55 minutes into the movie. Fans of shlock cinema, the curious and the vaguely masochistic should definitely not buy this piece of tropical-island trash, but check it out on Netflix, fast-forward to the King of Pop portions and immediately send it back.
In fairness, "Miss Cast Away" deserves a tiny (very tiny) bit of credit for not taking itself too seriously. The same can't be said of the DVD's extras, which include a few chintzy featurettes, all of which are rolled into one 25-minute documentary called "The Making of 'Miss Cast Away.'" The highlight is the "Top Secret Visit to Neverland Ranch" hosted by director Bryan Michael Stoller, a longtime friend of Jackson's and author of the book "Filmmaking for Dummies," which, come to think of it, wouldn't have been a bad title for this movie. The nearly seven-minute doc serves up behind-the-scenes footage of Jackson shooting his brief scenes in the library of his Santa Barbara County estate, accompanied by unintentionally hilarious comments from Stoller. While describing his working relationship with Jackson, the director notes, "It was important for him to understand the part, to know why he was saying certain lines and what had happened [in the movie] before."
All of which gives the impression that maybe Jackson had no idea what he was getting himself into when he agreed to appear in this picture. If that's true, then Jackson just might be the least crazy passenger on the crazy, tacky train that is "Miss Cast Away."
Most Absurd Bonus Point: A featurette on the film's special effects, which plays more like a gag reel than a window into the filmmakers' technical wizardry.
If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.