By Dan Krovich
November 22, 2002
Schizopolis begins with a prologue which in part warns, "In the event that you find certain sequences or ideas confusing, please bear in mind that this is your fault, not ours." It also opens with the disclaimer; "No fish were harmed during the making of this film." Right off the bat you know that it is going to be pretty odd and pretty silly.
The basic plot consists of Fletcher Munson (played by Soderbergh), who having just received a promotion, is now responsible for writing a speech for T. Azimuth Schwitters, the head of a Scientology-like self-help organization called Eventualism. At home, Munson is in a passionless marriage to his wife, who may be having an affair. Then throw in a lothario pest control specialist, a naked lunatic in a tee shirt riding a bike, nameless numberhead man, breaking news reports, and a right hand man, a spy, and a mole.
Schizopolis isn't too concerned with narrative clarity. It is more in the tradition of skit movies like Kentucky Fried Movie, and the comedy is generally of the absurd variety. While the main motivation is simply to make the audience laugh, Soderbergh also uses the film to make a few points. One such point is about language, whether it be specifically about movie dialogue or about conversation in general. One character speaks only in nonsense phrases: "Nose army." "Beef diaper." "Smell sign." Other characters describe their conversation rather than speak dialogue. "Generic greeting." "Generic greeting returned." Later characters speak dubbed foreign languages. The point seems to be that the actual words we say are often irrelevant and a lot of times we can get by perfectly well without specifically stating what we mean. Or perhaps that most of the time we don' t say what we mean anyway.
The film shows its relatively small budget, but in many ways this seems to be an asset rather than a hindrance. Schizopolis isn't overly concerned with creating an elaborate visual look, so it comes off very relaxed and casual. This style fits perfectly with the fast and loose narrative structure. Soderbergh's acting doesn't necessarily scream for him to give up his career behind the camera to spend more time in front of it, but his deadpan delivery and sense of humor work perfectly here. Overall, the cast works together like a comedy troupe that has been together for a while.
If you're completely adverse to "those weird movies," then it is probably a safe bet that you should skip Schizopolis. However, if words like offbeat, experimental, or bizarre don't frighten you, Schizopolis just may well be one of the funnier movies you've seen. One tip: If you do decide to give it a try, make sure you watch it all the way through the end credits.