John Bourgignon (John Candy) is now the head of an African tribe, in spite of being previously a limousine driver in Los Angeles, and he's here to tell you how he wound up in that position. He was engaged to Nancy Reese (Alley Mills), the daughter of Senator Ed Reese (Pat Hingle), who was trying to legally take down a cult leader calling himself Sun-Yi Day (Richard Libertini), a man who was threatening what the senator believed was the American way of life. John meanwhile was working with his driving partner Chick Leff (Joe Flaherty) and they both were mixed up with a movie producer called Salvatore Di Pasquale (Eugene Levy) who was trying to get a fresh project off the ground...
If some of those names sound familiar in the context of working in comedy together, that was because Going Berserk was the first film from the stable of Canadian comedy sketch show SCTV, a programme that was a rival to Saturday Night Live and in some of its gags superior to it. Much of its humour was based around keen-eyed parodies of television and film, and if you recognised what they were sending up then the results could often be hilarious, such was their take no prisoners attitude and ability to notice elements of pop culture (and even highbrow culture) that you wouldn't think were ripe for spoofing, yet when they were this well prepared and delivered you welcomed the effort.
So if SCTV is regarded as a classic, a cult classic if nothing else, then why is Going Berserk so obscure? It's certainly not often brought up in the mentions of Canadian comedy movies, if that subject ever arises that much anyway, and if it is Strange Brew will be held up as the favourite example from the nineteen-eighties. By no coincidence, as that was the second SCTV movie, and found success far easier to come by thanks to its surer footing on bringing Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas's Great White North sketch characters to a take-off on Hamlet - see, when they did the parodies there were few who could top them in that part of the world. This item was something different in that it seemed like a collection of sketches in search of a plot.
Sometimes a ragbag of wacky ideas can result in comedy gold, see Airplane from three years earlier for a good example, but Going Berserk was not on a par with that, though every so often they would come up with a joke that made you laugh. Just not often enough to really justify the enterprise as it was; some would say a comedy with even a single laugh was justification enough, it had achieved at least part of what it set out to do, and there were assuredly more laughs than simply one here, but the effect was so scrappy the impression was of a script where they had not merely thrown their ideas at the wall to see what stuck, they had thrown them all into the mix regardless of whether they stuck or not. The results were frankly all over the place, as just as you were settling down with one idea, it would get distracted by something else.
Take the notion of a Scientology or Unification Church-style cult that had suddenly brought its mania for world domination to bear, not a bad one to go with, yet too often Candy would be landed in some scene where he had to fight off raving women who were trying to grab a male stripper he was playing drums for, whereupon he was arrested and eventually found himself handcuffed to an escaped convict (Ernie Hudson, warming up for Ghostbusters). It was more random that amusing, not that it was unwatchable, it more left you hoping they would make up their mind what kind of movie this was supposed to be. Thanks to a cast who knew what they were doing, you stuck with it for the odd nugget of genuine humour among the rather forced alternative (including cult aerobics, for instance, because it was the eighties, naturally), but it was telling that Candy had been given the task to pen the script which was never finished by him, explaining why it came across like a series of half-completed sequences. You wanted them to finish their thoughts. Music (with a rap that explains the plot) by Tom Scott.
[The Simply Media Region 2 DVD has no extras, but the image is good and in the correct ratio.]