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Film review: Notorious C.H.O.

Published: Friday, Nov. 1 2002 8:16 a.m. MST

Directing a good comedy concert film should be a pretty easy task. All a filmmaker really has to do is to make sure the camera is in focus and position it to capture the best bits.

At times, however, the makers of "Notorious C.H.O." try to make that simple job a little more difficult than it should be. For example, they've opted to start their film with audience reaction and fan opinions of the showcase performer, Margaret Cho. Consequently, it takes nearly 10 minutes to finally get to the part of the movie where the Korean-American comedienne actually takes the stage — which is an eternity by comedy standards.

Also, it should be noted that much of the material is extremely raunchy — in fact, the frank language and explicit discussion of both sexual relationships and drug usage could make even Richard Pryor or the late Redd Foxx blush. Yet it's also frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and Cho's observations about personal self-image are extremely insightful.

This follow-up to Cho's 1999 comedy tour and subsequent concert film, "I'm the One That I Want," finds the former television star perfecting a new routine in front of a sold-out audience at Seattle's Showbox Theatre

Among the weightier topics: Cho's post-Sept.11 feelings of guilt and paranoia (including well-directed jabs at the unjustified anthrax scare), as well as her relationship with her tradition-minded parents.

On whole, the film is certainly too bawdy for mass consumption, and some may feel pangs of guilt about laughing at Cho's dead-on impersonation of her own mother (it's not the most flattering of portraits, to put it mildly).

But, as the film shows, neither parent seems to be all that offended about being in the spotlight (in fact, they seem tickled at that prospect), and when the material is funny, it's extremely funny.

"Notorious C.H.O." is not rated but would probably receive an R for excessive use of strong sex-related profanity and crude sexual slang terms, as well as graphic sex talk, discussion of drug use and use of a few racial epithets and ethnic slurs. Running time: 95 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com