Director: Jacob Vaughan
Stars: Ken Marino, Gillian Jacobs, Peter Stormare, Stephen Root, Patrick Warburton, Mary Kay Place
Running time: 85 minutes
Milo certainly wins the award for SXSW's silliest premise: Ken Marino (VH1's Burning Love) plays a guy who's struggling with the realization that an infant-sized creature lives inside of his ass. Yes, that's the actual plot. And, yes, Milo is a tongue-in-cheek, goofball comedy made by a writer-director, Jacob Vaughan, who's well aware of the concept's lunacy. The opening credit sequence, for one, is a rapid navigation from Marino's character's mouth right down to his colon.
And frankly, there aren't many comedians in the movie business who could pull of such bizarre material. Blessed with the ability to make being stressed the hell out seem hilarious (see: Party Down), Marino the perfect actor to embody Duncan Haislip, an easily pushed-over accountant who's dealing with a multitude of personal headaches. He's been demoted at work and repositioned from his own office to working inside a converted bathroom; his loving, understanding wife (Community's Gillian Jacobs) really wants to start a family; and his mother is shacking up with a much younger dude. Duncan's many stress factors somehow impregnate him with the titular mini-monster, a freakier, chubbier lookalike of Mac from Mac & Me that shoots out of Duncan's derriere whenever somebody pisses him off and rips them apart with its razor-sharp fangs.
There's an enjoyably '80s vibe to Milo that comes directly from Vaughan's wise decision to go with a puppet over CGI to bring the eponymous critter to life. Giving his actors the chance to physically interact with Milo allows Vaughan to stage some nifty spurts of comedic violence, as in one particularly nasty bit where Milo chows down on a man's member and a montage in which Marino tries to co-exist domestically with his new pal.
Considering that it's literally about a man's complicated relationship with his very own ass monster, Milo gets a lot of mileage out of its inherently limited construct, yet the repetition in sight gags and high-concept jokes gradually diminishes the film's charms. By the time Milo goes on his ultimate rampage, Vaughan's film gets dangerously close to overstaying its welcome. That moment of panic doesn't arrive, thankfully—Marino and the bonkers puppetry always combine to elevate even the corniest of jokes.