Movie Review by Neil Sadler
Starring: Bob Balahan, Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins
Director: Christopher Guest
Comedy is very specific art. One man’s comedy meat is another’s poison. I went into this film with high hopes – a comedy from the writers and performers of BEST IN SHOW and A MIGHTY WIND – it had a great pedigree. The subject, a team of minor actors, caught up in media circus that is the promise of an Oscar, seems ripe for comedy. Unfortunately although this has some very funny moments it seems very short on ideas and soon out stays its welcome. This is strange for a film that doesn’t even stretch to 90 minutes.
As with the other Christopher Guest films, the actors create the film through improvisation. When it works, it takes the comedy into broad and original areas. When it doesn’t however, the awkward silence in the cinema was obvious. Clever editing cut the hours of footage down to the very short running time, but there are still times where the humour drags.
All the troupe are well versed in this form of comedy and the roles sit easily on their shoulders. A lot of the performances seem to be variations of characters from other Guest films.
The stand out performances are easily Fred Willard and Jane Lynch as a couple of over-the-top and yet very familiar entertainment presenters. Mixing inane comment, non-sequiturs and silly hats – the two of them light up the film when they are on screen.
Also worth a mention is Jennifer Coolidge, as the film’s vapid producer. Ricky Gervais however seems a bit out of place in this film. Surrounded by some of the best character actors in Hollywood, the film only serves to highlight the fact that his comedy is a much subtler affair.
Often the comedy here veers towards obvious. It doesn’t make it any less funny, but it leaves less of a lasting impression. I wanted this to be richer. The targets they pick, from folk bands to dog fanciers, are easy targets and here the targets are much closer to home. Don’t get me wrong – I laughed a lot at this film. I also felt vaguely satisfied by it but it doesn’t leave much of an impression and ultimately felt a bit disappointing – more an extended sketch than a fully formed comedy movie. Guest and co have proved that they can do better than this and although it amuses, it certainly won’t win any awards.