To endorse a movie titled “Butt Boy” is to commit to its lunacy — and, dare I say, cheek — as fully as its makers. And maybe it’s the hell we’re all living through right now, but Tyler Cornack’s orificial fantasy struck me as a hilariously bawdy, intermittently inspired act of vivacious vulgarity.
The premise alone is a humdinger. Chip (Cornack) is a schlubby, middle-aged I.T. drone whose wife barely notices him and whose boss continually overlooks him for promotion. To call him unhappy is an understatement: He’s virtually catatonic. Then, miraculously, a routine prostate exam sends a wave of delight rippling across his normally frozen face, and Chip becomes obsessed with reproducing the sensation. A bar of soap, the television remote and, oh yes, the family dog are all sampled as instruments of gratification. Like the Tardis on “Doctor Who,” Chip’s capacious cavity is clearly much bigger on the inside.
Leaping forward nine years, we find Chip a stalwart of his local A.A. and apparently in control of his colonic compulsions. When he’s asked to sponsor Russell (Tyler Rice), a squirrelly police detective, Chip learns that his new charge is fanatically involved in the hunt for a missing child. Is Chip’s rectal sobriety real? Will Russell’s suspicions be confirmed? Did the toilet paper shortage impact the movie’s production schedule?
“Butt Boy” is, on its face, thoroughly absurd. Yet no matter how weird or tasteless it becomes, the movie refuses to be dismissed as a juvenile provocation. It’s too clever for that, too sympathetic toward addiction and grief, and too understanding of the loneliness of the unloved. Chip is filling a void that his marriage and career have vacated. Russell is also empty, but the reason for his pain is withheld until the third act. Until then, we see only hints, playing out in weirdly comic behavior that becomes surprisingly touching once its context is revealed.
The larger shocks come not from Chip’s terrifying tuchis, but from the unexpected loveliness of some of the film’s images. (The color palette doesn’t turn scatological until the ingeniously designed finale.) Slathered in turquoise and carmine, neons and pastels, sequences accumulate an occasional dreaminess that defies the typical constraints of low-budget filmmaking. In one beautiful, baffling scene, Russell climbs a tree at night to spy on a man and woman in their apartment, and Cornack allows the image to settle until it becomes inexplicably moving. This undercurrent of pathos not only fortifies the essential connection between the two leads, but also presents their predicament as something more than farcical.
Merging monster movie, serial-killer story and deadpan comic noir, Cornack and his co-writer, Ryan Koch, have produced something that’s aggressively original and undeniably polarizing. Viewers will be in no doubt as to where they stand — though it probably shouldn’t be behind Chip.