Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Buddy System

It's been a little while since I reviewed a movie. Have you seen the pickings at the multiplex lately? They are slimmer than a beanpole with an eating disorder. It's the annual pre-Oscar blahs. But I did get to see a couple of motion pictures recently. One is an Oscar contender that just opened in my neck of the woods which I'll be reviewing tomorrow (teaser!). The other is ....

Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days and 30 Nights -- Hollywood to the Heartland (d. Ari Sandel)

I wish I was Vince Vaughn's pal. Besides seeming like an affable guy who'd be a hoot to hang out with, he's willing to use his celebrity and pull to get some exposure for his buddies. Who could ask for more from a friend?

In 2005, flush with success from starring in such films as Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and Wedding Crashers, he and some friends arranged a barnstorming comedy road show that started in Vaughn's adopted hometown of Hollywood, ended in Vaughn's actual hometown of Chicago, and hit points all through the country in between, including the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show documents the grueling tour both onstage and off.

The onstage material is a mixed bag. Vaughn admirably showcases four relatively unknown comedians, Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst, and Sebastian Maniscalco. Of the four, the only one I'd seen before was Ahmed, who was once Vaughn's roommate and whose act consists primarily of material about how hard it is to function in America these days as someone with a Muslim name and Egyptian heritage. Caparulo is a regular guy schlub with a baseball cap and a foul mouth. Ernst is a physical, energetic stand-up whose observational material leans a little too hard on the obvious (it turns out men and women behave differently). And Maniscalco is a dark, brooding comic who gets booed early in the tour for pointing out how ugly the feet of San Diego men are.

Along the way Vaughn and company are joined by some of Vaughn's famous friends. His co-star from Dodgeball, Justin Long, is there for much of the ride, as is Keir O'Donnell from Wedding Crashers. The highlight of the film is when Vaughn and long-time chum Peter Billingsley -- yes, Ralphie from A Christmas Story, and also an Executive Producer on the Wild West Comedy Show -- recreate the Afterschool Special where they first worked together.

Backstage, however, the film is much better. We get to see the comedians piled onto their bus and in their hotel rooms, meet their families along the way, and see them interact with the fans. At one point Ahmed complains about having to share a hotel room with three other comics, then takes it all back after visiting a Hurricane Katrina evacuation camp.

Ultimately, Vaughn himself is the film's best asset. He brims with energy and seems completely in his element here, whether he's improvising onstage, tirelessly promoting the show on local radio, or just hanging out with his friends.

If he calls me up and invites me out for a drink, I'll take back all the bad stuff I said about Fred Claus.

3 stars

No comments:

John and Dave talks Oscar nomination predictions