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Review: Beauty queen wannabes can't muster laughs in 'Ass Backwards'

That fine comedic line between laughing at self-delusion and being thoroughly turned off by it is not really in play across the 85 excruciating minutes of the indie comedy "Ass Backwards." Because without the sketch-performance mugging and candy-colored tone, the dignity-stripping road trip that dippy single ladies Kate (improv vet June Diane Raphael) and Chloe (ex-"SNL"-er Casey Wilson) take to conquer their hometown beauty pageant would be enough to fill at least two Todd Solondz depress-a-thons.

Raphael and Wilson, a writing team who surely created "Ass Backwards" as a calling card of sorts for their Lucille Ball-meets-"Romy and Michele" chops, adhere so thoroughly to the vogue for unearned-arrogance-is-automatically-funny that they forget to imbue their losers with any lovability. Where movie comedy teams once required a "straight" member — or so-called normal characters — off which to bounce stupidity or silliness, Raphael and Wilson believe total immersion in thickheadedness and failure is riot enough.

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It also means the scenarios in "Ass Backwards," which director Chris Nelson contributed to by filming in focus, feel arbitrary rather than organic, as if the creators' list of humor targets — lesbian bikers, trailer trash, drug-addicted reality TV stars, pageant world denizens — were picked out of a hat. A thoroughly worn hat.

"Ass Backwards." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. At the Los Feliz 3.


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