For a movie about an ass demon – literally a creature that repeatedly comes out of (and escapes back into) Ken Marino’s ass – Milo is a remarkably cohesive film, both thematically and tonally. While I’m a huge fan of the talent involved, the central conceit seemed sketchy at best and I walked into the theater expecting to laugh for a few minutes before being worn down by the film’s subject matter. Color me surprised. Not only did I laugh consistently throughout the film’s running time, I found the movie as a whole to be remarkably more cohesive than anticipated.
Milo is the story of Ken [Ken Marino], an affable pushover with a history of slight erectile disfunction and persistent 90 minute bowel movements. His wife, Sarah [a great but slightly underutilized Gillian Jacobs], is beautiful and patient and craves a child. But Ken too often finds himself at the mercy of his own weaknesses when it comes overcoming the stress he associates with standing up for himself (in situations both hostile and loving).
It’s worth summarizing Ken’s emotional difficulties because, admirably, the film maintains an almost laser-sharp focus on them when it could have been content to just coast on the more juvenile surface aspects of its concept. That’s not to say Milo isn’t juvenile, it is – and gloriously so – but for every bloody joke or splash of toilet humor, there’s a reasonably well thought out connection to the obstacles that Ken needs to overcome in order to be master of his domain. Not only does this concern his dealings with his comically evil boss [Patrick Warburton], but (more interestingly) it also means he needs to tweak the dynamics of his relationship with Sarah – who is nothing if not patient and understanding. Sarah loves Ken enough to start a family with him, a responsibility he doesn’t quite feel equipped for in light of his tenuous employment situation and family history.
But family comes to Ken anyway in the form of the ass demon Milo (originally misdiagnosed as a colon polyp). Milo essentially functions as Ken’s Gremlin version of Tyler Durden – a violent extension of his id that will stop at nothing to do the job Ken himself cannot do and violently dispatch any source of stress in gory fashion. Problem is, stress doesn’t only come from negative developments, it comes from positive ones as well, and Ken needs to learn how to cope with those in order to keep them from being destroyed.
I fear I may be describing Milo as if it’s some sort of dramatic chamber piece. It’s not. As most comedies of this scope go, it’s charmingly slipshod and throws more jokes at the wall than it can handle. Still, most of them stick. I found myself laughing with alarming regularity and anticipating the replay value I’d find even in some of the more minor exchanges. Milo operates on the small visual scale of a Mike Judge comedy but trades in the absurdist personal satire of a David Wain film and, as a result, it often doesn’t find its optimal bearing between the two aesthetics. But those are good problems to have.
Milo has laughs, ideas, gore and heart to spare and it never fails to entertain. Better than you thought it would be – this Ghoulies meets Knocked Up approach works surprisingly well.
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