Take Out (2013) – By Josh Samford

Whoever first uttered the phrase, "comedy is the most subjective genre" had to be a genius. It is a single sentence that can completely obliterate a review, and it is oddly enough very true. There are tangible aspects that make up what we understand of humor. A witty retort, something that is so far from your own brain and yet perfectly lampoons a situation, can be a very understandable piece of humor. Sometimes a silly vocal inflection can be enough to make a person giggle. Then, sometimes, something that isn’t meant to be funny at all can lead a person into hysterics. It is a concept that is incredibly difficult to gauge, and in the case of film, a writer only has one chance to try out his material. Unless the author develops a stage production where he can hone his script, once a movie has been shot there’s very little that they can do with it. Yet, no matter what, I believe that there is an audience for everything. While Take Out certainly has its moments, with some of those previously mentioned "witty retorts" popping up along the way, it isn’t a comedy that left me in stitches. In the end, it is a movie that is concerned very much with its message and it doesn’t often deviate from it.

Take Out is the story of Zack Turk, the cynical young grandson of Irving Turk, one of the head honchos behind the conglomerate Chief Beef. Zack works as a lowly newspaper reporter who is demoted to writing critiques of local restaurants, but when his boss gives him this position, he could have never expected all of the trouble that was to come their way. Zack decides to take on the business that made his grandfather rich: chain restaurants. He writes up a scathing article for his newspaper in which not only does he savagely attack the local chain restaurants that annoy him to no end, but he attacks all chain restaurants in general. His editor absolutely refuses to publish the article, but he eventually sneaks it into the newspaper through a bit of espionage. Following this, Zack’s paper takes off and makes all of the American populace rethink their position on chain restaurants. As might be expected, this gains him some very powerful enemies who are searching for an apology in the press.

While the synopsis for the film makes it sound like this is going to be highly political, Take Out does not go after the easy targets that you might think. Sure, the film does broadly reach out for some pretty simplistic targets, but this is not a ninety minute movie about the evils of McDonald’s and Burger King. The restaurants that are being attacked are more like Texas Roadhouse and Red Lobster. Throughout the movie, the character of Zack is seen going to several restaurants and they are not the general Fast Food targets that one might expect from a highly politicized movie such as this. And to be certain, many of the points made within the film ring true. In the midst of the film there is a sequence, probably the moment that inspired the biggest laugh from me, where Zack and his girlfriend are led through the kitchen and through the back end of a restaurant in order to be seated at a table right back near the front. When properly seated, the hostess informs them that there is only one menu and it is posted on the wall. She says this under the guise that this is a "family style" restaurant. When questioned further, as the one menu on the wall does not even have a light pointed on it and can not be read, the hostess freaks out and walks away mumbling the phrase "family style." The sequence demonstrates the trained incapacity nature of some restaurants and the way in which the employees are trained to do things a certain way, even if they don’t make logical sense. Indeed, Take Out can be fairly on-point at times when it comes to its satire.

Unfortunately, not all of the satire comes from as real of a position or place. The movie often relies on stereotypes and shortcuts in order to make its satire. The only character who comes across as remotely three dimensional is Zack, but we really don’t know much about him other than the fact that he is the only person of intelligence within the movie. Those who surround him are broad caricatures that are so far from reality that it ends up stealing some of the bite away from the satire. Characters who are supposed to be broadly idiotic are played with extremely aggressive Southern accents, despite this being a film set within Arizona, and there are other notable characters who are defined solely by accents or statuses. Rich people have inane conversations about burning $100 bills, they brag amongst each other about not giving to charity… for sure, this is a movie that doesn’t care much for subtlety.

Yet, despite all of my misgivings, the movie currently has more than 400,000 views on YouTube and it features numerous positive comments. So, there is an obvious audience for the film. For those looking for quick and dirty satire of the food industry, especially those of you who are easily riled up by dumb questions when you go to any local restaurant, you might want to give this one a shot. It can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube as of this moment, so check it out! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIE9h9WIqGE