Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, The

By Jeff Farr

Visit Films

“The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle” takes the idea of “toilet humor” to new heights. This independent film, which has screened at Sundance, South By Southwest, and recently Tribeca, follows a group of young janitors as they scrub toilets, empty the trash, vacuum, philosophize here and there, party pretty hard, and even have sex — all on their graveyard cleaning shift. Cleaning toilets seems to have an almost intellectual or spiritual pull for this gang of outcasts, who often go so far as to photograph unusual sightings in toilet bowls.

The group’s ringleader, O C (Vince Vieluf), sums things up in the film’s best line: “Yes, there’s toilet humor, but there’s also toilet sadness, toilet triumph, toilet a lot of things — because I’m a janitor, and this is my world.” The toilet is more than a toilet to the Spiffy Jiffy team; it symbolizes their lives. O C, not just a janitor but a frustrated artist as well, later in the movie opens his own show of toilet-based art.

We enter this strange toilet-obsessed world — and, as we will soon find out, also cookie-obsessed world — through the eyes of a slightly unhinged office worker, Dory (Marshall Allman). For reasons never revealed, Dory is on a fruitless, desperate religious quest. During the course of the tale, we see him dabble in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and, to great comic effect, Hare Krishna, never sticking with one thing for long.

It is when Dory loses his job as a data manager, after completely blowing his top at work, that he joins the team, starts spending his nights scrubbing away and gradually getting on the Spiffy Jiffy party train. He arrives on the scene just as the crew is developing a dangerous interest in experimental and addictive cookies they have been finding in the trash of a product research company they clean.

These cookies cause hallucinations, cramps, and eventually — hold your breath — pregnancy in men. Dory is the first of the gang to realize just how serious the side effects of these cookies can be.

It is to first-time director David Russo’s credit that he makes male birth — in this case, the anal birth of small florescent blue fish — not only funny but also touching and, most impressive of all, somehow convincing. How many films can claim that their climatic scene is of a man being videotaped as he gives birth to a tiny blue fish from his posterior?

What all this means never necessarily gets clarified, but it will may inspire some debate among younger hipsters, who seem to be the film’s target audience. There is definitely potential for a cult following here. A couple of strong performances hold all of the craziness together. Vieluf, while sometimes over the top, successfully embodies the film’s gonzo spirit. He has most of the funniest lines, which he delivers with expert timing, and brings out the best in the other actors. Whenever he comes onscreen, things pick up. Allman, meanwhile, brings the exact degree of earnest boyishness needed to make the character Dory work. He is the mentee to mentor O C, the innocent being initiated into this corrupt new world. Allman makes Dory easy for us to identify with by always playing it straight, no matter how absurd the situations his character is involved in become.

The way these two actors play off each other throughout grounds the film. To a great degree, despite all the outrageous stuff going on, this is a film about their friendship, which Russo could have developed more. Their pairing recalls that of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in David Fincher’s “Fight Club” (1999), a film to which “Immaculate Conception” bears some resemblance. Both movies center on the extreme struggle of young men to find meaning in their lives and through camaraderie in the face of what seems to be a corporate lockdown on society and the very nature of reality itself.

Russo’s film has a tremendous kinetic energy and joie de vivre that contrasts with its often dour Seattle setting. In particular, the opening credit sequence, following a message in a bottle on the ocean, and a couple of hallucinatory montage and animated sequences are nothing short of dazzling.

A psychedelic celebration of July 4 atop the research headquarters is particularly memorable. Russo has had success as an animator before, and here his animation work, including a collaboration with the Dutch animator Rosto, fits into the narrative seamlessly. It would be interesting to see what Russo could accomplish with a feature-length animated film, perhaps one combining animation and live action. In contrast to these animated sequences, however, much of “Immaculate Conception,” shot by Neil Holcomb, looks disarmingly flat, despite the generally fast pace of the action. This disparity is so pronounced that one suspects it may have been a conscious artistic decision.

“Immaculate Conception” is a clever film that, while a lot of fun, occasionally feels too clever for its own good, perhaps a bit self-satisfied. In this day and age, it is harder and harder to surprise audiences; while we have probably never seen male anal birth onscreen before, it fails to completely shock in the way the filmmakers may have hoped. As well, some of the big questions Russo dances around — like how to find real meaning deep inside mundane existence — could have been explored further. The final minutes of the film leave us more bemused than enlightened. As in “Wait a minute, what was that all about?”