“When the wine runs out, it’s time to go. That’s the rule.” You’re very right about that, Eric Jonrosh, and it’s certainly time for The Spoils Of Babylon to go. It was a noble effort, undoubtedly, but it never quite hit the heights it was aiming for. As satire, it was well-executed. As absurd comedy, it had its moments. As an actual story for an audience to get involved in, it was fairly perfunctory. From the in medias res opening of the first episode, it was pretty obvious how we’d end up with Devon bleeding onto his desk, dictating his life story.
Everything felt very telegraphed towards the big showdown, which is no fun for an absurd spoof of a miniseries. It wouldn’t be fun for a regular miniseries, so why should the satire be even more predictable? A lot of threads—Devon’s daughter, the gasless carburetor, Iran getting the bomb, the underwater research—never got spun out into anything major. Many actors were underutilized, and even those with a lot of screentime were too bogged down in plot dramatics to have anything to do.
In Spoils, Cynthia finally reunites with a very bearded Devon on a beach, and the two make passionate, pedestrian love, shot through every ridiculous filter known to man. Their happiness is quickly spoiled when Winston runs over Devon’s daughter (was that accidentally or on purpose? I could never quite tell) and Devon vows revenge. Winston also vows revenge for some reason? And then there’s a big showdown in front of the Shah of Iran (played by Eric Jonrosh aka Will Ferrell), and everyone gets shot, and Devon dances with Cynthia in heaven as papa Jonas looks on.
It all happens pretty quickly, and none of it is that surprising, as I mentioned. Winston’s villainy is never allowed to make sense—he’s just a jerk, raised in Cynthia’s worst image. Devon’s grief about his daughter is poured out in one scene where Tobey Maguire is made to act as ridiculously as possible, which is not as funny as it should be. Even Jonrosh’s cameo as the Shah was disappointing. Yes, the glasses were spot-on, but that was nothing compared to his opening and closing monologues. The one thing that constantly amused about Spoils was its “epic” staging. The miniature models, the stationary car running over Devon’s daughter, the giant prop bullet coming out of the gun—every time these visual gags got a deserved laugh from me.
Overall, I admire the effort of Spoils, I really do. Its decision to tell a complete, coherent story makes a lot of sense, although I think it turned out to be a bad decision in the long run. We were deprived the nutty Noises Off making-of story, alluded to by Jonrosh (perhaps a spin-off had this been a ratings success, which I doubt it was). But we were given a very nicely made and well-acted bit of silliness, with moments of true insanity that I will remember. If only we’d had far more of them.
- Eric wants his waitress to come away with him. “I want to have you. For my collection, my menagerie if you will.”
- Devon and Cynthia’s colossal glasses of “Burgundy red wine” were something ese.
- “Devon. the blood is leaving me.”