Although George W. Bush has provided The Onion’s writers with an endless trove of material, the bread and butter of “America’s Finest News Source” is still the evergreen “Area Man” article. The emphasis on such stories is probably the only reason The Onion Movie is seeing the light of day: If this collection of sketches and blackout gags based on articles from the satirical newspaper were even vaguely topical, it might still be in the same vault where it gathered dust for five years.
The film is held together by Len Cariou’s performance as Norm Archer, the anchor of an Onion news channel who is fighting a lonely battle against the new corporate owners and their use of onscreen graphics to advertise a Steven Seagal film called Cockpuncher (for which the bloated martial artist appears in several bogus trailers). Another recurring device is introduced by the Onion newscast’s profile of Melissa Cherry (Sarah McElligott), a Miley Cyrus type who insists songs such as “Take Me from Behind” and “Shoot Your Love All Over Me” have nothing whatsoever to do with sex.
The general tone recalls 1977’s The Kentucky Fried Movie (still the gold standard for sketch films), and a number of segments are quite sharp—the only real problems are the slight overlength of some skits and a general sense of disorganization (the original filmmakers reportedly walked away from the project, and in 2006 Mr. Show writer Scott Aukerman was hired to pick up the pieces). Call this one Supposedly Disastrous Movie Not Really That Bad.