Go to an old movie. SPend an evening cleaning out the closets. But don't go to one of the movies just out. They're really bad this week.
"Rabbit Test" is so bad that it make the other one, "FM," which is just routinely bad, seem benign. "Rabbit Test" has created a whole new level of bad, which means that every film in which psychics' eyes go all bonkers, and every film in which a new place on the body has been found from which the victims bleed, moves up a step.
But "FM" also has in common with "Rabbit Test" a peculiar pseudo-morality. The concept of selling out, the Faustian pact, the Watergate ethic, whatever you want to call it, is simultaneously exalted and trivialized, so that the merest squeak of resistance to any opposing force is heralded as virtue triumphant.
"FM" is a movie about a rock radio station in California, and an excuse for filming performances by Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffett, which are being peddled, along with previously recorded works played by the fictional radio station, as "the 'FM' sound-track." If this is an excuse for a record, it is probably also an excuse for a film that provides a backstage look at turntables and husky disc-jockey voices.
But a plot was needed. So the Forces of Evil, as personified by people who wish to use commercial radio for commercial purposes, attack the Chosen Representatives of The People, the disc jockeys. A tremendous battle ensures in which the station employees take over the station while the police besiege it. The ensuing violence is a collegiate sort in which nobody seems to get seriously hurt, but nevertheless it is clear that the good citizens have been pushed beyond endurance and when the station manager exhorts them to act peaceably he is exhibiting saintly restraint. What is this over? Whether the station should have to air pre-recorded Army commercials, and whether they should be able to limit the number of commercials on the station. This may be a legitimate professional issue, but it is hardly the reason to start another Children's Crusade.
In "Rabbit Test" a character accepts thousands of dollars' worth of goods for endorsing products related to pregnancy and is then congratulated on the morality of not then taking a bribe to abort the baby. The issue is not important in Joan Rivers' first film: Anything would have done, as long as it was funny. What makes it so bad is the jokes, a collective of offensive jokes - imagine uncomic Polish jokes applied to every race, religion, form of life and nationality, even including Polish - which are so poorly acted out by a cast including Imogene Coca, Alice Ghostley, George Gobel, Fannie Flagg and Roddy McDowall that they actually sound funnier in the recounting that they are on film.
For instance, the central joke is that an unmarried man finds that he is pregnant. Not hilarious, this is, however, an idea that has gotten by before, usually to make the political point that men shouldn't decide issues that do not affect them directly. Even on the level of I-had-the-last-one-now-it's-your-turn, it works, a little. The best this can do is to keep referring to him as "El Freako."
And if there is one really heinous sin a silly movie can commit, it is not being silly well.