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.
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.