Insane City is Too Much Dave Barry

INSANE CITY   (2013)
By Dave Barry
Berkley Trade, 400 pp. #9782425264720
* *

I used to read Dave Barry's columns religiously until he gave up the weekly grind back in 2005. I usually guffawed like a fool, even though I knew that a lot of Barry's humor was shtick and quite a bit more was sophomoric. In short, I was a fan. Alas, what one can get away with in 900 words wears really thin when stretched to 400 pages.

Insane City is a tale of a wedding gone wrong, but its real protagonist is Miami, the namesake metropolitan loony bin and one of Barry's frequent foils. Seth Weinstein has hit the romantic jackpot, or so he thinks. Seth is little more than a hunky slacker who does social media for a douche spray. To date, his greatest life  success was graduating with what may be the tallest empty pizza box collection in collegiate history. But his intended is the gorgeous Tina Clark, a high-powered (and high maintenance) attorney and the daughter of one of the richest men on the planet. All Seth has to do is get to the altar without screwing up. And, of course, that won't happen. Seth is capable of plenty of mayhem on his own, but the poor sap has no chance when his college buddies–aka/ the Groom Posse–decide to arrange a boys' night bachelor blowout.

There are plenty of laughs in a novel whose cast includes the following: an overweight stripper named LaDawne; her pimp boyfriend Wesley; the bride's stoner sister Meghan; an anal wedding planner who had her name legally changed to Blaze Gear; a grab-ass guru who goes by Banza Dazu; a tattooed (semi) tough guy, Duane; Cyndi, a well-endowed but slightly cheap Cuban woman; two muscled ex-cop (for a reason) bodyguards; a nine-foot albino python named Blossom; a Haitian woman, Laurette, who washes ashore with her two children; and a lovesick orangutan called Trevor. There's even a scene­–and I kid you not–that involves a pirate ship firing frozen chicken wings at a speeding tour boat trying to board it. Barry presents Miami as a repository for every kind of human being and animal except those one might dub 'normal.'

Does this sound funny? At times it's laugh out loud hilarious. It's just as often inane and dumb. Barry has never shied away from lowest common denominator humor, though sometimes we wish he would. We'd also like him to avoid strolling down Biggest Cliché Imaginable Boulevard. Tina, as you no doubt surmised, isn't the perfect catch. She's smart and has a body that turns heads, but she's also controlling, egoistic, spoiled, self-deceived, and in possession of every quality necessary for a Bridezilla. I'm a supporter of recycling, but I had my fill of Bridezilla books, TV shows, and movies decades ago. Insane City reads more like an ongoing Saturday Night Live sketch than a novel. To imagine the book's tone, think Carl Hiaasen crossed with The Three Stooges, and a little bit of Cheech and Chong. I'd call this a classic airplane book–the sort you  leave it in the seat pocket, and never give it another thought, even if you don't finish it. My emerging impression is that maybe Dave Barry is like the big gooey desserts on the Applebee's menu–a small taste is all you need. A second bite is too much.  Rob Weir    

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