There’s a special sense of bravery when placing a pun in your movie title. It’s a bold declaration of confidence in the content’s general cleverness. Your movie has to cash in on that promise your brave title makes. In that general sense of brashness, the latest from Paul Hough, The Human Race, not only embraces that bold pun title, it raises it to a level of pure spectacle. In its relatively short running time, the film introduces ridiculous sequence after ridiculous sequence, raising the bar of exaggerated ridiculousness to its maximum level. So in the end, is The Human Race and all of its intentionally ridiculousness successful? Or do we have a case of a punned title gone wrong?
More-so than in most other films, The Human Race lays forth what it’s going to be within its first ten minutes or so. If you are onboard with it, you will be onboard with the rest of the film. If, though, you hate quick edits, “Run Lola Run”-esque title sequences, and narrative false starts, you’re probably in for a long eighty-minutes. The strange thing though, is that this opening and the following ridiculousness does mostly work. It will never be confused with a film like “Run Lola Run”, but it does share that exaggerated experience of fun. It feels like more of a morbid amusement park ride than a traditional story.
Take that false start, which takes an appreciable amount of time to introduce us to a character and their melodramatic backstory only to watch them explode moments later. This is the film sending the audience a message, “don’t get too invested here, just sit back and have some fun”. And if you do that, it is mostly pretty fun. If you turn off the brain factory and just watch the sequences elevate to cartoonish levels you will be entertained.
The problem though is the film falters a bit in the commitment to its own outlandishness. They continually pause for unneeded character development that eventually gives way to strange and illogical leaps of character changes. A deaf couple who are nothing but sweet, suddenly turn into angry, rapey, murderous people. There is a theme of people resorting to terrible and animalistic behavior in stressful situations that could be explored, but this movie never shows any interest in that exploration. The change from lovely deaf couple to murderous deviants only takes place because the plot demands it in order to raise the body count. Again, all of this would be fine in the cartoon world of The Human Race, if the filmmakers would have been brave enough to ditch the backstory and just present us with bloody caricatures. As it stands, however, this strange hybrid robs both elements of any real effectiveness.
So, in the end, The Human Race really does stick to its pun-title roots. It’s basically a “Looney Tunes” cartoon with a little more blood and a lot more one-legged ass kicking. This would be all fine and dandy if it didn’t continually try to dip back into the serious character development well in the middle of the blood spatter. Someone once said “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”. Well, in the case of The Human Race, you really can’t have your exploding heads and your drama too.