MULE SKINNER BLUES

5 Stars
Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 93 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

That’s it! I’ve had it! I’m packin’ up my shit and I’m movin’ to a trailer park down in…down south…somewhere. Apparently, there’s a lot more interesting people in these places than one could ever imagine meeting in their Starbucks bruised metropolitan areas or crosswalk guarded suburbs. Trailer parks are where it’s at to meet people you’d be proud to chug a family size bottle of Robitussin DM with and I’m heading there right now. Forget this movie review business. I’ll be reporting straight from the frontlines of poverty and if there aren’t several different deadly chemicals floating through my system, then I’ll just be drunk as a skunk!

We all know music videos suck, at least for the most part they do, but music video producer Stephen Earnhart pulls something positive from his experience with the commercial art form by taking notice of one of his extras – an elderly eccentric named Beanie Andrew. Beanie Andrew is a resident of a trailer park just outside of Jacksonville, Florida where he exists as a renaissance man of entertainment – a singer, dancer, writer, director, actor, producer and kazoo player. Beanie Andrew’s passion to entertain and to forever have the spotlight cast upon himself is the husk of this documentary as Earnhart joins Andrews on his adventure to make a horror film about a musician who winds up turning into an ape bent on finding his severed arm. But as out of control as that may sound, it’s the behind-the-scenes guts of this husk that make “Mule Skinner Blues” a train wreck that you just can’t take your eyes away from no matter how grisly the events.

Beanie Andrew ropes several of his trailer park comrades into his filmmaking dream. These people include his buddy Larry who writes horror stories while cleaning dentists’ offices with his mail-order bride, a guitar virtuoso who looks like someone straight out of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a lounge singer who believes that Schnapps can improve her vocal ability and a special effects director who decides to keep her dog on ice, for reals, until she finds him a proper burial place. All of these people and more come together to make a horror short called “Turnabout Is Fair Play”. All of these people are put under the microscope in this documentary and just when you think human beings couldn’t stoop to a lower existence, the depravity just gets deeper.

What’s amazing here is how Stephen Earnhart tempers his music video savvy in making this documentary so that it never overshadows its true entertainment value – the drunken and desperate subjects. Earnhart interjects fog machines, theremins, hallucinatory sequences and hilariously cheesy blue screen effects to enhance the viewing experience, not to show off. The result is brilliant.

Sure at face value “Mule Skinner Blues” is an absolute riot. Poking fun at trailer trash is something that I don’t think will ever lose its comic appeal, but halfway through this documentary, you’ll realize that along with the hilarious parade of freaks you’re also getting a poignant film that shows no matter who, what or where you are – everyone just wants to be noticed. Yes the subjects in this film are crumby “artists”, but they’ve created a tiny little world for themselves where they thrive off one another’s maniacal passions, a world where each and every one of them can be regarded as superstars.

Now that I think about it, maybe the trailer park circus of stars is too much of a bizarre living situation, even for me. Maybe I’ll stay in Los Angeles a little longer, writing film reviews for the intronet. Hmmm…



Posted on September 9, 2002 in Reviews by
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