When one reviews a Kennedy movie, a critic rarely thinks about Kennedy sitting on the other side of that review, reading your comments and perhaps reacting emotionally to them. Who would've thought that, deep inside, Kennedy was the proverbial clown that cried.
Heckler begins as a documentary about its title cretin -- the comedy club heckler -- featuring grainy footage of jerks interrupting stand-up sits, the inevitable comeback from the stage (some of which fail miserably... remember Michael Richards?), and the comics themselves offering their opinions on the phenomenon. (Shorthand: Comics hate hecklers.) The film glosses along, interviewing serial hecklers (unapologetic) and numerous comics, from David Cross to Carrot Top, who offer an understandable frustration with heckling.
But the film soon segues into film criticism, where it spends the bulk of its running time, essentially trashing the art, science, and career path of movie reviewing. Here is Heckler at its most frustrating -- because while I am with Kennedy in hating live show hecklers, his thoughts about written criticism are awfully misguided. (And I'm not just saying that because, you know, I am a critic.)
But let me explain: When Kennedy interviews movie stars and directors, the themes that come up are the same as with the comedians: Critics are illiterate jerks, they aren't qualified to judge movies, they're saying mean things just to sell papers, and they are held to no real editorial standards. While no one in Heckler believes that film critics serve a useful role or that they are qualified to make judgments about movies, everyone in Heckler feels qualified to make judgments about critics. It's a double-edged sword, and it finds a variety of subjects digging themselves into quite the hole. Jon Lovitz (who ironically was the voice of the animated lead on the well-regarded The Critic) asks whether he would be qualified to coach the Lakers just because he's watched them play for 20 years. Maybe not, but is judging a movie the same thing? Another subject assures us that no child has ever grown up, wanting a career in film criticism. I have hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of letters from aspiring critics, desperate for advice on how to get into the business. Worst is Joel Schumacher, the infamous director of Batman & Robin, who complains that superhero movies are just "comic book movies" and implies that they aren't supposed to be good... conveniently ignoring how Christopher Nolan singlehandedly rescued the Batman franchise by not making "coming book movies," elevating it from the ruin in which Schumacher left it. Whoops.
Of course, Kennedy doesn't call anyone on these points. Instead he is mostly obsessed with negative things people have said about him personally, and in the movie's most memorable moments he confronts some of his critics head-on. Usually, though, they peter out, with Kennedy suggesting to one critic that he'd like his movies more if only he had more sex. A civilized debate this is not.
Things devolve further when the internet comes into the picture, with "the bloggers" being demonized by everyone from Carrie Fisher to Christopher Hichens (who, himself, is a critic of sorts). Even old guard critic Leonard Maltin complains about internet critics, laughing at the notion that "CHUD.com" could have anything serious to say about a movie. Cut to the single best scene in the film, as a CHUD.com critic explodes with rage and rips Maltin apart, saying that his grandmother doesn't even read Maltin's stuff. If only Kennedy had gotten Maltin and the CHUD crew together... yikes.
Are there bad critics out there? Yes, but by ignoring almost anything good that critics have done, Kennedy comes off as one-sided and petty.
If nothing else, it's easily the best movie that Kennedy's ever been involved with.
Run time: 80 mins
In Theaters: Sunday 4th November 2007
Distributed by: Jizzy Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Michael Addis
Starring: Stephen Burrows as Himself, Dave Attell as Himself, Criss Angel as Himself, Louie Anderson as Himself, Vince August as Himself, Maria Bamford as Herself, Fred Belford as Himself, Doug Benson as Himself, Al Berman as Himself, David Bernal as Himself, Lewis Black as Himself, Uwe Boll as Himself, John Bowman as Himself, Christa Campbell as Herself, Paul Chilsen as Himself, Deenie Castleberry as Herself, Chingy as Himself, Andrew Dice Clay as Himself, David Cross as Himself, Tommy Davidson as Himself, Mike Ditka as Himself, Robert Englund as Himself, Jim Everett as Himself, Devin Faraci as Himself, Craig Ferguson as Himself, Adam Ferrara as Himself, Carrie Fisher as Herself, Greg Fitzsimmons as Himself, Larry Flynt as Himself, Pablo Francisco as Himself, Judah Friedlander as Himself, Billy Gardell as Himself, David Garrett as Himself, Todd Glass as Himself, Gilbert Gottfried as Himself, Tom Green as Himself, David Alan Grier as Himself, Kathy Griffin as Herself, Peter Grumbine as Himself, Peter Guber as Himself, Arsenio Hall as Himself, Bill Hicks as Himself, Paris Hilton as Herself, Perez Hilton as Himself, Christopher Hitchens as Himself, James Inman as Himself, Dom Irrera as Himself, Ron Jeremy as Himself, Robert Kelly as Himself, Jamie Kennedy as Himself, Jewel as Herself, Andy Kindler as Himself, Jen Kober as Herself, Richard Kyanka as Himself, Dean Larit as Himself, Bobby Lee as Himself, Tom Leykis as Himself, Jon Lovitz as Himself, George Lucas as Himself, Rod Lurie as Himself, Bill Maher as Himself, Leonard Maltin as Himself, Howie Mandel as Himself, Nicole Mandich as Herself, Joe Mantegna as Himself, Jamie Masada as Himself, Craig Mazin as Himself, Rob McKittrick as Himself, Andy Milonakis as Himself, Chance Minter as Himself, Patton Oswalt as Himself, Rick Overton as Himself, Russell Peters as Himself, Drew Pinsky as Himself, Dennis Prager as Himself, Ronald Reagan as Himself, Simon Rex as Himself, John Ridley as Himself, Paul Rodríguez as Himself, Richard Roeper as Himself, Joe Rogan as Himself, Jim Rome as Himself, Roseanne Barr as Herself, Jeffrey Ross as Himself, Eli Roth as Himself, Deep Roy as Himself, John Salley as Himself, Julian Schnabel as Himself, Flip Schultz as Himself, Joel Schumacher as Himself, Pauly Shore as Himself, Bobby Slayton as Himself, Jeffrey Sneider as Himself, John Stockwell as Himself, Barbra Streisand as Herself, Nick Swardson as Himself, Scott 'Carrot Top' Thompson as Himself, Paul F. Tompkins as Himself, Danny Trejo as Himself, The Used as Themselves, Jody Vaclav as Herself, David Wain as Himself, George Wallace as Himself, Sheila Wenz as Herself, Mike White as Himself, Harland Williams as Himself, Henry Winkler as Himself, Mark Young as Himself, Sean Young as Herself, Rob Zombie as Himself, Eric Edwards as Himself, Daniel Tosh as Himself, Eugene Mirman as Himself
Also starring: Michael Addis
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