Heckler Movie Review

As a critic, one approaches Heckler with a sense of dread. The brainchild of perennial whipping boy Jamie Kennedy -- whose movies are savaged by the press, each one rated worse than the last -- it is a film in which Kennedy gets his chance to fire back at the critics who have hounded him his entire career. At 38 years old, he is now on the Rob Schneider trajectory, destined never to make a critically loved or even artistically interesting film. He makes goofball comedies that appeal to the PG-13 crowd (if that), and for years Kennedy has been unapologetic about that fact.

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.


Comments

Heckler Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 2007

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