An intermittently amusing low-budget satire, PIZZA MAN strains for outrageousness but lacks the kind of B-movie smarts and inspiration that would have made it truly special.
Elmo Bunn (Bill Maher) is an L.A. pizza delivery man with a reputation for never having delivered a cold pizza or being stiffed on a bill. When a call comes into his shop for an extra-large with sausage and anchovies to go to a dangerous part of East Hollywood, Elmo knows he's in for trouble. Ten
years earlier, his best friend filled the same order to the same address and was never seen again. Sure enough, at the address Elmo is confronted by a gang of thugs who don't want to pay. When Elmo insists, L.A. mayor Tom Bradley (Bob Delegall) appears and tries to mow him down in a hail of
bullets. Elmo overcomes Bradley, who escapes, and frees a tied-up woman, known only as the Dame (Annabelle Gurwitch), who kills the other thugs before Elmo can collect for the pizza. The Dame offers to pay Elmo if he'll give her a ride home to her palatial Hollywood Hills pad.
There, instead of the cash, Elmo discovers Ronald Reagan (Bryan Clark) and Geraldine Ferraro (Cathy Shambly) in the Dame's bed together. The Dame knocks Elmo unconscious. When he wakes up, he's tied up behind the wheel of his delivery car, about to be pushed off a cliff in Griffith Park with
bottles of gasoline in the back seat. With the help of the Dame, who's fallen in love with Elmo, he escapes, hitching a ride from Michael Dukakis (Ron Darian) back to Hollywood to continue his search for the person who stiffed him. Along the way, he has run-ins with other infamous 80s figures
Michael Milken, Robert Woodward, former Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone and Dan and Marilyn Quayle. (Presumably, the impersonators for George and Barbara Bush were tied up working on NAKED GUN 2 1/2.)
The trail leads to Donald Trump, a pizza deliveryman himself before building his real-estate empire, who gave up his career because he couldn't compete with Elmo and who has been obsessed with revenge ever since. As Trump is about to kill Elmo, a case of exploding pizza sausage comes to his
rescue and allows him to lay the 80s to rest once and for all in a fireball of incendiary pizza toppings.
Never as funny as it wants to be, PIZZA MAN's main distinction is behind the camera. Writer-director-editor J.D. Athens, better known outside the B-movie world as Jonathan F. Lawton, is best known as the credited writer on the heavily rewritten smash hit PRETTY WOMAN. However, you would be hard
pressed to find any shard of the audience-pleasing inspiration of that film in this one.
Left to his own devices, Lawton/Athens shows himself here, as he did with his earlier film, CANNIBAL WOMEN IN THE AVOCADO JUNGLE OF DEATH, also starring Maher, to be a scattershot satirist with more scatter than shot. The gimmick of a pizza deliveryman recast in the hard-boiled mold of a Raymond
Chandler hero is amusing for a while but, like so much else in the film, wears thin pretty quickly in a procession of dull gags and tiresome comedy devices. The satire itself is blunted mostly because the celebrity look-alikes generally don't look much like their real-life counterparts. Overall,
the film plays like a "Saturday Night Live" skit stretched well past the point of exhaustion. Athens's direction ranges from routine to inept. Shots appear occasionally to be out of focus, which is just as well. When shots are in focus, they generally betray an extremely pinched budget in cheap
sets and awkward, unimaginative staging.
In fact, about all that does work consistently is the pairing of Maher and Gurwitch, both talented performers who work well together. However, since the film inexplicably keeps them apart for much of the running time, even they finally fail to breathe much life into this lame, labored farce with
pretensions. (Profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: An intermittently amusing low-budget satire, PIZZA MAN strains for outrageousness but lacks the kind of B-movie smarts and inspiration that would have made it truly special. Elmo Bunn (Bill Maher) is an L.A. pizza delivery man with a reputation for never… (more)