“There is an ancient myth surrounding the anus,” says Highsmith (Peter Stormare), the vaguely New-Agey therapist in Jacob Vaughan’s Bad Milo. It might have been a funny line except that it’s supposed to be. Despite Stormare’s enjoyably intense yet weirdly soothing performance, it’s indicative of the film as a whole. Vaughan is so convinced that he’s fucking you up with a hilarious twist on pop-psych conventions, he can’t see far enough beyond his own smugness to the film’s brazen flaws.
Ken Marino stars as Duncan, a generically sketched man with a generic office job and an insultingly generic, almost personality-free, wife (Gillian Jacobs). He’s been told that his longtime digestive problems are caused by stress but, try as he might, he can’t reduce the amount of it in his life. When things finally come to a head (pun intended), a miniature monster suddenly escapes from Duncan’s ass to eliminate the sources of anxiety in its host’s life, be they meddling coworkers or smarmy doctors.
Really, Milo – as Duncan names the little guy – doesn’t need to be so discriminating. Pretty much any character in the film should be a candidate for flaying and disembowelment, as every last one of them is an exasperatingly unoriginal creation. Sarah (Jacobs) is only concerned that her husband still likes her, no matter how strange and inconsiderate his behavior becomes. Duncan’s mother (Mary Kay Place) is too thoughtlessly meddling to exist outside of a narrative archetype and the painful running jokes about her healthy sex life with her young second husband are the stuff of neophyte improv troupes. Meanwhile, at work, Duncan’s boss – despite admirable commitment from Patrick Warburton – is an empty shell of the stereotypically arrogant, blustery supervisor. By the point early in the film when Duncan is moved into a new office with a pointlessly pesky coworker (Erik Charles Nielsen), it’s already become clear that Vaughan has no interest in relatable nuance or perhaps even in second drafts.
Oh, and that new office? It’s actually in the bathroom. There’s no explanation given for that, nor for the fact that Duncan’s boss wants him to be in charge of telling people they’re being laid off despite the fact that Duncan is an accountant. If Bad Milo took place in a world that made sense, adding in a murderous, rectum-dwelling creature would be a genuine shock. But since the whole movie is ridiculous, it might as well but just another bullshit, undercooked, high-concept Hollywood comedy. Just a little grosser.
To his credit, Vaughan does have a point to make. It’s clear from the beginning that Milo is a metaphor. What’s also clear is that he’s only employing that blatant metaphor to make a hopelessly trite assertion that a person has to confront her or his problems in life rather than attempt to ignore them. Take it from me. Bad Milo is one problem you should ignore.