Del and Mladen review ‘Big Ass Spider
“Big Ass Spider” Starring Greg Grunberg, Clare Kramer, Lombardo Boyar, Lin Shaye and Ruben Pla. Directed by Mike Mendez. 80 minutes. Rated PG-13. Amazon Prime.
I’m shocked – SHOCKED, I tell you – that Mladen consented to review a movie rated PG-13.
Wasn’t it on these very pages he vowed to never again sully his pristine sensory apparati with a lowly PG-13-rated film? Wasn’t he worried that such unwashed entertainment might detract from his snarly joie de vie?
Yet here he is, slumming with “Big Ass Spider,” a PG-13-rated farce that even my cynical ass got a kick out of. I guess Mladen’s moratorium on almost-family-friendly films doesn’t apply to comedies.
Although I wouldn’t call “Big Ass Spider” a comedy per se. It’s more of a lighthearted romp … with a giant, man-eating spider that skewers half of Los Angeles, a military commander who wants to blow up the other half of Los Angeles, and a lowly exterminator who, despite his modest lineage and lack of leading man pecs, sets out to overcome this eight-legged nonsense, winning the girl and the day.
The gossamer-thin plot goes like this: A spider escapes from an experimental military facility and starts eating its way across LA. The more it eats, the bigger it gets. It takes up residence in a hospital – a veritable buffet for a large carnivore – which draws the attention of nice-guy exterminator Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg), who is a patient at the hospital after being bitten by – can you guess – a spider. The hospital agrees to write off his bill if Alex will write off whatever critter just sank its chompers into the staff mortician. Meanwhile, the military swoops in and declares martial law, allowing Alex to fall for a cute L.T., Karly Brant (Clare Kramer). Alex is determined to win Karly’s heart, despite her withering disdain for his, and sets off with sidekick Jose Ramos (Lombardo Boyar), a hospital security guard, to kill the now house-sized spider, save Los Angeles and make an impression on Karly.
“Big Ass Spider” is like “Godzilla” on helium. It’s all silly fun – except for the thousands of people who die – which lands the movie in the not heavily populated science fiction-horror-comedy category. You’ll find yourself giggling because the movie makes no attempt to take itself seriously, except for the pretty good special effects, and you’ll be rooting for Alex because he strikes you as the kind of guy who might park his battered van in your driveway to clean out the trap in your kitchen drain. He’s just a regular Joe, overweight, overworked and underpaid. Boyar is pretty funny as Ramos, the timid security guard who grows a pair of cojones over the course of the movie, though I’m surprised the Thought Police haven’t protested his caricature of Hispanic males. The other performances made less of an impression on me. They fit the standard models for their characters.
I had never heard of this movie until Mladen suggested it, and when I looked it up I also found several TV episodes of the same name. Don’t be confused – this is the 2013 movie by director Mike Mendez.
“Big Ass Spider” was favorably received by the public but of course, movie reviewers trashed it as schtick. I might have thought the same before I had that corncob removed from my ass. “Big Ass Spider” is not high art, not that high art is very entertaining. Like I said, it’s silly fun. I can think of far worse ways to spend 80 minutes of my life.
I give it a B.
Leave it to Del to try to upend my unfettered enthusiasm for a movie. Until I read his review, I had no idea “Big Ass Spider!” was PG-13. There’s at least one face melting and shots of faces that had already been melted. There’s blood splatter. But, there wasn’t big-ass swearing or, unfortunately, nudity. So, yeah, no R-rating.
Until Mr. Corncob Now Removed dropped the rating thing in my lap, my only beef with “Big Ass Spider!” was the spelling. Did the filmmakers want the movie’s title to be descriptive or reflect the fact the arachnid is a new species? The spider is large. It eventually grows a few building stories tall and wider than a boulevard. So, should the film title have included a hyphenated compound adjective, as in “Big-Ass,” to let the viewer know from the get-go that the movie is about a huge beast. If the goal was to simply name a specimen fresh to nature, “Big Ass Spider!” remains acceptable. I contend the movie title should’ve been hyphenated because the beast is a man-induced mutation, a combination of Martian DNA and a black widow-like (note the hyphen) spider native to Earth. “Big Ass” describes the spider, rendering the hyphen necessary. “Big Ass” isn’t the spider’s scientific name, which would have disallowed hyphenation.
“Big Ass Spider!”, hereafter referred to as “BAS!” to shield our moral readers from the cuss word “ass,” is a delightful farce that mocks sci-fi horror films by incorporating many of the tropes of the genre. Examples are:
- One person going after a creature he/she suspects to be dangerous by himself/herself, often in a dark, forbidding place where no one can here you scream
- A military officer saying, “God helps us now” or something akin to, “That’s my job”
- Radio communication failures
- Relationship banter amid a crisis between the likable but geeky, portly, and uncool-job wielding hero and an attractive gal at least initially uninterested in copulating with the good guy
- Coincidences such as protagonists continually bumping into each other through the movie or a solution to a problem materializing from thin, dry air
- Jump from your seat moments such as the creature moving as a blur in the foreground of a scene as the hero expresses fear and doubts about the wisdom of his/her choice to chase the animal
- Buxom females playing a sport that makes breasts bounce or gratuitous displays of cleavage via tight, low-cut T-shirts (more hyphens)
The advantage of a farce is that it can pull off the tropes by making them amusing. “BAS!” does that very well. The script is solid and the actors do the dialogue sincerely and mirthfully. They were enjoying themselves. The visual effects, both computer-generated and of material substance such as monster goo and webs, are surprisingly pleasing and when they’re not such as the “BAS!” fires, you don’t care because the film is a farce by design.
“BAS!” is not a B-movie, though it cost, I’m guessing, $8.37 to make. It’s significantly better than at least a couple of expensive A-movies and by those I mean Alien3, Prometheus, and Alien: Covenant. Sure, “BAS!” steals a little bit from the very good “Starship Troopers” and the excellent “Aliens,” but that’s the point. By mocking the good and the bad of sci-fi effectively, “BAS!” fulfills its purpose.
The movie also made the best of shooting in real-world locations that fit inside its, ah, limited budget. There was no travel to exotic locales to get the background of a lush tropical forest or towering mountains. When the action was outdoors, it was filmed amid the brownish hue of what I took to be Southern California. The spider’s raid on a park full of people was darned entertaining, including the child in jeopardy. I detest when movies put children in danger. With “BAS!” I was OK with it for some reason.
“BAS!” has a sparing run time of 80 minutes. In moviemaking these days that seems an unfathomably short duration. And, it’s also one of the reasons I give “Big Ass Spider!”, despite its misspelled title and PG-13 rating, an A. Everyone tied to making the film stayed true to its character, including length. One minute longer and the movie would’ve failed.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.