Friday, February 08, 2008

"Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights - Hollywood to the Heartland" -- * *

After sitting and watching "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights - Hollywood to the Heartland," it's easy to see why it's sat on a shelf for the last year and a half after premiering at the Toronto Film Festival. Not particularly irritating but rarely resembling entertainment, the documentary serves simulatenously as a stand-up concert film and profile of comedians and life on the road, and doesn't satisfy on either front. Admittedly, this is the fault of the subjects themselves, and not the filmmaking; as comics, they're not very funny, and as guys, they're relative douchebags. Assembled by Vaughn (who explains the film's conceit and title over the credits), these are the sort of comics who should appeal to the frat boys who made Dane Cook and "Wedding Crashers" so popular, and whose acts are occupied by familiar, obtuse bits that wouldn't pass muster on "ComicView" without Vaughn's name attached.

Vaughn apparently realized the meager talens on display quickly, as he fills up much of the shows with his "special guest" friends, such as Jon Favreau and Justin Long, improvising bits with him. The film/tour's comedic highlight, unsurprisingly, isn't material by the dumbshit comedians, but rather a re-creation by Vaughn and his "best friend" Peter Billingsley, of the steroids PSA the two met while filming as young men. In a less successful bit, Vaughn employs his "Crashers" co-star Keir O'Donnell to re-create his homophobic-stereotype character/joke from that film.

In fact, much of the headlining comedians' (Ahmed Ahmed, Sebastian Maniscalco, Bret Ernst, John Caparulo) bits have notable homophobic and misogynistic streaks, which wouldn't be as much of a problem if any of them were remotely original. Based on the editing, you'd think this shit was great, since regardless of the city or crowd, the audiences (which seem to be populated entirely by young, attractive women) are shown loving everything they see. Literally the only negative reaction we see is when one audience boos a derisive crack about men who wear flip-flops.

One by one, we get profiles of the comedians, none of whom are particularly interesting despite attempts to be humanized (one laments his day job as a waiter, but it seems he should keep that day job). When all else fails, the filmmakers/comedians turn to sentiment, delving into deceased relatives or regaling us with anecdotes about parents. Much like the 30 cities, each time the film begins a profile of a comedian, we mentally cross them off our list, wonderful how many more we have to sit through. The movie briefly grasps for depth midway through by having the guys visit a displacement camp for Katrina victims, but even that feels ham-handed. And despite his situation, recalling the image of a displaced twerp clad in American Eagle attire chortling at O'Donnell, "You're the gay dude?!" just makes me weep for America.

"Wild West Comedy Show" may bring out Vaughn's devoted fans (though after this and "Fred Claus," one wonders how long they'll stay that way), but ultimately, it's pretty low on laughs as well as insight other than offering further evidence that most comedians are pretty miserable people. In this jam-packed weekend, it'll probably not make much of a dent, and then leave theaters fairly quickly, but it'll likely feel more at home at 2 a.m. on Comedy Central anyway.


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