"LUNATICS." By Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel. Putnam. $25.95.
The aptly named "Lunatics" delivers exactly what one would expect from two award-winning humorists: an outrageously funny, irreverent, over-the-top comic mystery that has no boundaries.
How funny is "Lunatics?"
It's the kind of humor that inspires snorts, may make you spit out your soda and probably burst into hysterical laughter on an airplane. It's the kind of humor that won nationally known columnist Dave Barry a Pulitzer Prize and made him a best-seller of some 30 nonfiction books and two novels.
It's the kind of humor that won Alan Zweibel the Thurber Prize for American Humor, numerous Emmys and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild of America. Zweibel also has written books, screenplays for films and TV, including being one of the first writers for "Saturday Night Live," and has collaborated with Billy Crystal and Martin Short on their Broadway plays.
And Barry and Zweibel pull from that comedy arsenal to drive "Lunatics" from its silly beginning to its crazy finale without slowing down or becoming mired in their own cleverness. "Lunatics" never feels overwrought or forced or, thankfully, sophisticated.
Philip Horkman and Jeffrey A. Peckerman are just two ordinary husbands, fathers and businessmen living the good life in New Jersey. Philip owns a pet store called The Wine Shop. Jeffrey is a forensic plumber who can tell which apartment tenant is throwing balls down a toilet; he has testified in several high-profile murder cases involving toilets and has a very limited cable access show. Philip, the calm optimist and recycler, and Jeffrey, the bombastic rage-aholic and slob (whose sloppy habits will be horrifically revealed) are also lunatics who meet on the soccer field. After soccer coach Philip calls Jeffrey's daughter "offside," a feud begins that escalates into international incidents.
Following a crash on the George Washington Bridge, they are labeled terrorists and, soon after, branded sex perverts by the media following an encounter with a bear and a gang of thugs. With trains and planes closed to them and roadblocks everywhere, the pair sneaks on board a "clothing-optional" cruise. Their ineptness and, yes, stupidity allows them to bungle into resolving problems in Cuba, Africa, China, the Middle East, among other places. All of that may pale when they crash the Republican primary. The pair goes from being vilified as terrorists to being lauded as heroes and humanitarians.
Through this "Amazing Race"-esque journey, their mutual hatred of each other never stops, nor do they cease being "Lunatics."
"Lunatics" works because the authors never lose their core mission -- to deliver a scatological, silly and bizarre comic romp. "Lunatics" has no hidden message, no issue to its plot and certainly no elegance -- all of which works to its advantage.
Just be warned: If you read "Lunatics" in a public place be prepared for others to stare at your uncontrollable laughter and complete strangers to ask what you are reading.
-- Oline H. Cogdill