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Let's Go to Prison

If your expectations aren't too low based on the premise and (lack of) buzz, you might actually find the humor in Let's Go to Prison. Either way, there'll come a time well after its DVD release when you'll love it!


Crime has always come naturally to John Lyshitski (Dax Shepard). As a young boy, he stole the Publishers Clearing House truck and tried to cash the check inside--and the list goes on. For each crime, the same judge hands down the verdict and becomes No. 1 on Lyshitski's s**t list. Following release from his latest stint in the slammer, Lyshitski seeks to finally act on his hatred for the judge, only to learn that he died just days ago--but his son, Nelson Biederman IV (Will Arnett), is free. Wealthy and bratty, Biederman is the kind of guy anyone would love to hate, and John exacts revenge on him. Getting him thrown in the can is the easy part, but John wants to actually witness and take part in Nelson's prison hazing. So, with relative ease and indifference, he intentionally gets himself thrown in prison for selling pot, and shacks up with Nelson. Now he gets to give him "the full treatment."


For Shepard and Arnett, admission into the fabled "Frat Pack" (whose ever-expanding alumni include Vince Vaughn, Owen and Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell) is still a ways away, but Prison is a good cred builder. Shepard (Employee of the Month, TV's Punk'd) might be a minor hit away from becoming a star. He has a natural knack for comedy, but also has shown great variation from role to role. In Prison, his impassivity towards incarceration and its goings-on is funny, but this is still not the vehicle to transport him to "breakout" stardom. Arnett has more work to do. His brand of comedy is more dry, i.e. his late, great Gob on Arrested Development. The more overt comedy in Prison, Arnett's biggest film role to date, doesn't always work, but that's not to say he doesn't provide hilarity. Chi McBride (TV's Boston Public) sheds his shirt for laughs as rotund inmate Barry. Dylan Baker (Happiness) is funnily sadistic as the warden, and David Koechner, himself a "Frat Pack" fringester, is zany as usual.


Adapted loosely from Jim Hogshire's cult book You Are Going to Prison, the film doesn't always successfully translate. But it occasionally makes up for its comedic misfires by being funny in unexpected ways. For that we can thank director Bob Odenkirk--who also has a small role in the film--a man who's given us underappreciated shock humor for years (and by "shock" we mean the kind that sneaks up on you, not the Borat kind). The co-star and -creator of HBO's beloved Mr. Show--along with the equally outlandish David Cross--Odenkirk is never satisfied with the straightforward stuff and often swings for the fences. Sometimes he misses, but when it's funny, it's hilarious! Such is the case with Let's Go to Prison (and he re-teams with Arnett on next year's The Brothers Solomon), which is stupid-funny in a way that might turn it into a cult hit upon DVD release.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.