My dive into the world of Troma Entertainment and their Toxic Avenger film series finally comes to a merciful close with the fourth and (as of now) final installment
CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER PART IV. Just as the duo of PART II and PART III were vastly different in tone to the original, the fourth movie feels like a creature all its own in comparison to its predecessors. This was released a whopping eleven years after the third movie, so Troma and writer/director Lloyd Kaufman had plenty of time to figure out their new approach. The end result is a film that tones down the almost childish humor of PART II and PART III, ramps up the brutality in the violence, and goes for every possible opportunity to offend. CITIZEN TOXIE also stands proud as the only Toxic Avenger film that feels as if someone thought through the plot. The movie opens in Tromaville with the Diaper Mafia invading a classroom in the School for the Very Special on "Take a Mexican to Lunch Day." I didn't say the movie was any smarter; I just said it was written better. The Toxic Avenger (David Mattey) intervenes with his new sidekick (Troma regular Joe Fleishaker) and the resulting explosion from Toxie's failure in saving the school somehow knocks Toxie and two of the students (Michael Budinger and Lisa Terezakis) into a parallel dimension while his evil alternate, Noxie (also Mattey), is brought into Tromaville. Now Toxie and his friends must find a way home in time to end Noxie and his band of Nazis' reign of terror.
The Toxic Avenger movies have always been stupid. It's part of their charm. It's why, no matter how bad those middle films were, I can't hate them. In CITIZEN TOXIE, Kaufman and his three co-writers have shifted gears with the aim of offending as many people as possible. You'll find jokes aimed at the obese (which isn't new) and the mentally-handicapped. There are rape jokes, scat jokes, masturbation jokes, and an AIDS joke tossed in for good measure. And let's not forget the lynching scene and the whole abortion subplot that builds to a climactic battle between good and evil fetuses. I'm almost certain there's something I'm forgetting. The filmmakers tossed in anything and everything they could think of to get a reaction. I know the earlier films had their share of crude humor but CITIZEN TOXIE goes for the gold, and in the end it feels as if they're trying too hard. Don't force it, guys, or it comes off as desperate for attention. The film also features cameos from Ron Jeremy (as the religious Tromaville mayor), Corey Feldman (as an abortion doctor, credited as Kinky Finkelstein for some reason), and Hank the "Angry Drunken Dwarf", of Howard Stern show fame, as God. If nothing else, one thing is abundantly clear: CITIZEN TOXIE wants your attention. On a more low-key note, James Gunn makes a quick appearance and, as a fan of SUPER and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, I thought that was cool. I have to say though, despite all its shameless "look at me" antics, this is still the most solid Toxic Avenger film.
The plot actually makes some sort of sense and has an actual narrative flow. This is a big deal, especially after the last two films. It makes the movie a lot easier to watch when you feel propelled from one scene to the next. Not only that, but some of the jokes actually land. I may not have gotten many laughs from the more extreme humor but there were actually a handful of funny bits. The writing wasn't atrocious and I suppose I'll have to credit that to Trent Haaga, Patrick Cassidy, and Gabriel Friedman. I loved how the movie sort of teased a Troma Avengers/Justice League sort of gag when the mayor of Tromaville calls in a team of super heroes to help defeat Noxie: the Vibrator, Dolphin Man, the Mad Cowboy, the Master-Bater (exactly what it sounds like), and their leader Sergeant Kabukiman, NYPD. I had high hopes that this would spin-off to larger adventures of these ridiculous superheroes or at least get me excited to possibly check out the Kabukiman movie. That wasn't to be the case, unfortunately. Their team is short-lived in the span of the movie and we never even really get to see them in action, and Kabukiman (at least in the case of CITIZEN TOXIE) comes across as a drunken rapist so I don't think I need to see that one-note joke through any further (although I did get at least one laugh out of him, in the very final moment of the film). The alternate dimension version of Kabukiman was pretty cool. I wouldn't mind a separate movie on that.
Now that I've watched all four of the Toxic Avenger films, am I interested in pursuing other Troma films? Not so much. I was almost tempted to check out the Nuke 'em High films but I think I've had my fill for now. How do I feel the Toxie films rank? The first TOXIC AVENGER is probably the best "film" but I found more enjoyment in the utter chaos of PART II. CITIZEN TOXIE could've been a strong contender as the best if it hadn't tried too hard to get under the audience's skin. Honestly, the best Toxic Avenger movie isn't a Toxie movie at all; it's APOCALYPSE SOON, the feature-length behind-the-scenes video of CITIZEN TOXIE that documents the miserable conditions these independent filmmakers suffered to bring this movie to life. I may not be the core audience for these movies but I'll always respect what they do. For that alone, it might be worth recommending these films so these peoples' pain and mental anguish wasn't all for nothing.