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'Return to 'Nuke Em High Volume 1' offers a return to life outside Hollywood

Catherine Corcoran and Asta Paredes in Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1
Catherine Corcoran and Asta Paredes in Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1
© Troma Entertainment, Inc.

Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1


There is a certain checklist of things that are pretty much required for a movie to be a Troma film. Well, that’s not completely true. There are many films put out by Troma Entertainment every year and I’m sure there are some that don’t fit the typical Troma mold, but when it comes to films made by Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman there is definitely a tried and true formula. This formula has never failed, at least for Troma fans, since the ‘80s so why bother now?

Troma has always existed outside of Hollywood. If you have seen a Troma film then you know why. The films put out by Troma Entertainment are not at all like the movies that big Hollywood studios put out. The films at Troma are never toned down to gain a wider appeal. Troma movies have a very specific appeal to them. You could say this appeal is limited, but that may give a certain implication that there is something wrong with what Troma is doing. There is nothing wrong with making movies that are not catered to everyone’s taste. In fact, by not caring so much about appealing to a wide audience, Troma has produced movies that offer things you won’t find in any other kind of film.

Troma films completely obliterate the boundaries of what you would see in a typical Hollywood film. No topic is off limits and no action is deemed too explicit to show on screen. In a Troma film, you will see things both beautiful and grotesque in copious amounts. Troma is not a company known for being subtle. Everything is big, loud, and clear from the visuals to the music to the performances to the social and political commentary. Troma does everything in a completely over the top manner that lends a certain feel to their films that really makes each film a Troma film.

So, here we are. It’s 2014 and Lloyd Kaufman has unleashed his latest movie under the Troma Entertainment banner. The movie is a sequel to the classic Troma film "Class of Nuke 'Em High" and it is titled “Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1”. You might think that Troma is finally trying to go mainstream by jumping on the popular Hollywood trend of splitting stories into multiple movies, but have no fear, this movie definitely lives up to the Troma name.

I mentioned that there is a checklist of things that Lloyd Kaufman tends to put in his movies. Let’s look at those and see how well this movie implements each of them.

The first thing on the checklist is that a Lloyd Kaufman movie will have lots of topless women in it. “Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1” can absolutely check this off the list. The nudity is not done so much to titillate the audience as to make the audience laugh. The sex scenes in a Troma movie are never truly sexy, but more of an over the top joke of what Hollywood isn’t willing to show in their movies. Not much is meant to be taken seriously in Troma movies and all the nudity and sex falls under this rule.

Now that I have just told you that most things are not to be taken seriously in a Troma movie, let me give an exception to that rule and tell you about the second thing on the checklist of any Lloyd Kaufman movie. The second thing that you tend to find in a Lloyd Kaufman movie is commentary on current issues. This commentary has become more prominent in the more recent Lloyd Kaufman movies and this one is no exception. “Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1” addresses many issues in its running time. The most obvious is pollution, which is a part of many Troma films. However, the movie addresses other things as well such as homophobia, for example. The movie as a whole could also be seen as a kind of commentary on the state of movies in Hollywood. By pushing everything so far past the limits of what Hollywood would do, “Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1” can be seen as a response to the failings of the Hollywood system.

The third, and maybe most important, part of the Troma checklist is the car stunt. What is the car stunt? The car stunt is a scene that was filmed for Lloyd Kaufman film "Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D." in 1990 and has been used in every one of his films since. Troma movies are not known for their big budgets so a big stunt like the one seen in this particular scene was not likely to happen more than once. Through the clever re-use of this car stunt, Lloyd Kaufman is able to have a big, expensive, stunt in every movie he makes, regardless of the budget. The stunt is always used to humorous effect and he has found a way to make it seem fresh in every movie he has used it in. “Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1” continues this tradition.

The fourth part of the checklist is similar to the third part. It is the inclusion of actor Joe Fleishaker, who has appeared in every Lloyd Kaufman movie since 1988's "Troma's War". He is an obese man who isn’t afraid to poke fun at this fact. He also isn’t afraid to show off his body in a Troma film. “Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1” does not, however, feature this man. So, the checklist is not completely fulfilled.

The last part of the checklist is something that all Troma films seek to do. Troma films, above all, are meant to entertain. Lloyd Kaufman goes to great lengths to provide all sorts of entertainment in his films. Whether or not people find his brand of entertainment entertaining is up to them, but you can’t say he doesn’t try. "Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1" definitely does everything it can to entertain.

Overall, “Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1” easily fits into the Troma Entertainment brand. In fact, perhaps this is one of the few problems of the movie. Initially, when Troma Entertainment first came about, the movies went against the norm of what movies were being produced at the time. Now, the movies are still going against the norm of Hollywood, but have become part of the new norm at Troma Entertainment. If you have seen Troma films before then you have almost already seen "Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1". It does nothing here that hasn't been done similarly in other Troma movies. What was once different at Troma has now become its own kind of standard.

The other problem with "Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1" is a problem that plagues most movies that tell one story over multiple movies. The problem is that the ending to this movie just doesn't feel like much of an ending. Everything can't be wrapped up in this movie or there would be nothing left for the next one, but I would have been okay with an over the top cliffhanger to keep us wanting more. There is no such thing. There is not even a joke made about the multiple-movie storytelling format. The movie ends on a note that is low key compared to what happens in the rest of the movie.

Endings are an important part of a movie, but often I find that filmmakers don't put as much effort into the ending of a film as the rest of it. Oftentimes, endings are rushed or just end suddenly and in a seemingly random nature. Openings are important as they are what draws a viewer into watching the movie in the first place, but endings are what keep the film in the viewer's mind so they will come back for more. The ending of "Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1" is one of those sudden endings that doesn't really feel like an ending at all. Fortunately, the real ending to the story is coming in volume 2 and I trust that the ending there will be much more satisfying.

So, yes, "Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1" is not without a couple flaws, but for the most part it is a satisfying experience. Troma films are made to entertain and "Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1" is very entertaining from start to finish. The acting, in particular, is an extreme joy to watch as it is the kind of over the top acting that you will only find in a Troma film. Particularly hilarious is Clay von Carlowitz as the character of Eugene. There are also a couple cameos that are just perfect. The serious topics are also there if you want to explore them, but they don't get in the way of the humor if that is all you want. "Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1" may not do anything outside of the Troma norm, but it is certainly unlike anything that you will find from any other studio. The Troma style of film-making is tried and true and "Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1" is another solid example of this.

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