Michael Bolton’s Big Sexy Valentine’s Day Special © Netflix

Sex Sells | Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special Review

From The Lonely Island (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping) and Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang! Bang!, W/ Bob and David) comes Michael Bolton’s Big Sexy Valentine’s Day Special, an incredibly weird romp through the comedy of romance. The fifty-four minute long special’s bizarre and loose plot follows Michael Bolton as he holds a telethon to encourage people to make sweet love on Valentine’s Day, and thus make enough babies to meet the supply of Santa Claus’s presents in time for Christmas. At this point you probably already know whether or not you want to watch this film.

As with most productions featuring The Lonely Island, the comedy involves throwing a lot of funny stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks. There is a huge variety of bits in this special, including Sarah Silverman and Randall Park’s duet about pubes, Will Forte dressed as Michael Bolton’s twin brother, Bob Saget answering sexy phone calls, and was that Michael Sheen teaching Michael Bolton to dance? With this approach, it’s not likely that any one person will find the entire show funny — in fact there are a lot of parts which might make some viewers want to switch off — but it almost guarantees at least one hearty laugh. Speaking for myself, I found a large portion of the show funny, being familiar with The Lonely Island’s work, such as the song “Jack Sparrow”, which Bolton performs on a piano, surrounded by ballet-dancers dressed as pirates.

Equally, there are parts that are bizarre and tedious, such as Eric Andre’s Kupid shuffle, which goes on for so long it stops being funny and then keeps going until it is funny again, which is the sort of sketch expected from the writer of Comedy Bang! Bang! This particular brand of comedy is becoming more popular due to the internet, because comedy programs like Mr. Show with Bob and David did not obtain the viewership, which met the demand of stations such as HBO require. Fortunately, thanks to the internet, Aukerman’s career was sustained by working on his podcast, Comedy Bang! Bang! which later became a TV show of the same name, and so he eventually went on to create Netflix’s W/ Bob and David. Thanks to the global nature of Netflix, and a large portion of the audience being twenty-something stoners, Aukerman’s profile grew, allowing Netflix to trust him with their bizarre Valentine’s Day musical featuring a host of celebrity cameos, similar to 2015’s A Very Murray Christmas, directed by Sofia Coppola.

The reason this kind of project works is because people don’t expect corporations like Netflix or seemingly self-serious musicians like Michael Bolton to head something so ridiculous, so when they see it at the top of their Netflix home page on Valentine’s Day, curiosity takes control and they have to watch it. I can hazard a guess that my nan, who was recently bought a Netflix subscription for Christmas, saw this one night and thought, “why is my favourite singer in a Valentine’s special,” and watched at least some of it before getting confused. If it weren’t for the people who know The Lonely Island and Aukerman’s brand, Netflix could still count on one thing: sex sells.

The special is almost certain to confuse people, considering its high production quality. It’s shot and lit very well, to convince the audience that it takes itself very seriously, while also having non-stop canned laughter, like a second-rate sitcom. Estabishing tone is something that Scott Aukerman excels in, similar to David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer, They Came Together). He is able to convince the audience that everything bad is bad on purpose, and so rather than coming away from this special thinking it was a so-bad-it’s-good B-Movie, viewers see it for what it is — an over the top self-satirisation of Michael Bolton.

Speaking of whom, Bolton is one of the most unexpectedly funny components of the show. His big, sexy ultra-serious performance along with a vocal trill on almost every line, depicts his fictional alter-ego as a deluded hero of romance with a supernatural ability to fertilise women with his voice. His apparent unawareness of what the joke is, comes across as far more charming than some other self-indulgent performances which convey, “I totally get that the joke is on me — aren’t I cool!” The other cast members do a great job with characters such as Peter Salanz, played by Fred Armisen, but the greatest moments of humour are created by those playing themselves, such as the telephone operators like Andy Richter trying to understand what is actually going on.

As this special is technically a musical, it is probably worth commenting on how creative some of the songs are. The opening number about how Valentine’s Day is only “Ten Months ’Til Christmas” compares the faux-romance created by corporations to sell gifts (usually ballad albums by artists like Michael Bolton himself) on both Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Maya Rudolph’s appearance, singing a song with 20 key changes was also hysterical as her voice eventually becomes a high-pitched beeping noise. The rest of the songs are covers, but this works to great effect as some of Bolton’s greatest hits are covers, and the idea of the power of well-known songs such as “When a Man Loves a Woman” being able to impregnate women is ridiculously funny.

It’s no secret that Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special is not for everyone, but there is an audience for this. Fans of The Lonely Island or Scott Aukerman will enjoy the absurd tone set by the variety of random bit characters and people playing themselves; fans of Michael Bolton will get a kick out of him really giving his all for this ridiculously sexy special.

With thanks to Ana Bonitch