There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
No shock here: Let’s Go to Prison is not the next Borat. But you gotta laugh at anyone—convict or otherwise—who says with complete sincerity, “I go apeshit over Chuck Mangione.” Mr. Show’s Bob Odenkirk directs this passable comedy, which was co-written by Reno 911! scribes Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, and Michael Patrick Jann. Their script, a bit disturbingly, is based on Jim Hogshire’s quite serious survival guide, You Are Going to Prison, but the movie’s intention isn’t to scare anyone straight: John Lyshitski (Dax Shepard) has been in and out of the slammer since he was a kid, always convicted by the same judge. When John finishes his latest sentence, he sets out to seek revenge on the guy, only to discover that hizzoner was promoted to that great bench in the sky only three days prior. So instead John decides to frame Nelson, the judge’s spoiled, anxious son (Will Arnett) and get tossed back into jail so he can personally torment him. The clichés, from corrupt guards to cigarette currency, are as frequent as a Cops arrestee’s proclamations of innocence, and a few funny gags had to be stretched to stupidity to fill the movie’s slight 84 minutes. Shepard’s dry narration and the cocky-but-dim act that Arnett perfected on Arrested Development are the best parts of this foe/buddy flick, along with Chi McBride’s physically intimidating prisoner, who doesn’t declare Nelson his bitch but instead warns him to “prepare to be woo-ed” by his smooth-jazz come-ons. Odenkirk’s direction, too, helps strengthen the script, most ingeniously by frequently zooming in on Arnett’s looks of either 1) childlike terror or 2) stunned resignation, both somehow made funnier by his purty blue-green eyes. (Giving him lines such as “Crying takes the sad out of you” doesn’t hurt, either.) When Let’s Go to Prison really tanks, it does so suddenly and significantly. Its forced third chapter, however, is arguably worth enduring, considering previous joys such as a montage of Nelson’s initiation—set to the nearly literal “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.”—Tricia Olszewski