Jamie Kennedy is an interesting celebrity case study. When his most recent film came out, I received an amusing email from a friend, baffled that — more than a decade after Scream, and despite ample evidence rejecting a widescale public embrace of him as a comedic leading man — Kennedy could still headline a film in which he gets to kiss Maria Menounos. Tonally, the email was one of awed respect. A bit tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, but tinged with true amazement. Kennedy, though, is undeniably fairly shat upon; a quick perusal of message board threads on IMDb turns up: “Annoying and not funny,” “Nothing worse than a dude who thinks he’s black,” “How did he sink so low?,” “Horrible comedian” and “Cancer is funnier.” Only Carrot Top and Dane Cook may currently serve as the targets of more vitriol amongst comedians.
All of which brings us to Heckler, Kennedy’s two-headed, ramshackle documentary examination of show-interrupters and professional critics. Directed by Michael Addis, the movie is packed full of revelatory interviews with other comedians, which form the backbone of the film and are inarguably its highlight. Bobby Lee recounts getting punched out by a guy. Louie Anderson jokes about shooting a single heckler, to end it all. (Word would quickly spread, he reasons.) Patton Oswalt, meanwhile, advocates for a que sera sera mindset, saying, “Eroticism and comedy you really can’t argue. If there’s a comedian I hate but everyone else is laughing at him, then I’ve lost the argument.” Other interviewees include Bill Maher, Joe Rogan, Lewis Black, Jon Lovitz, Dave Attell, Carrie Fisher, Henry Winkler and Craig Ferguson. Arsenio Hall probably gets in the best sideways crack, assaying Michael Richards’ infamous moment of profane heckler snap-back thusly: “That’s some other kind of problem — like, ‘I need therapy,’ or ‘Somebody from the Raiders fucked my woman.'”
There’s also some semblance of intellectual inquiry, with Dennis Prager, Christopher Hitchens and Drew Pinsky offering up their thoughts on why hecklers heckle. More of this line of social examination and evaluation would have been welcome and edifying, particularly at the expense of the baffling talking head inclusions of ex-football coach Mike Ditka, singer Jewel Kilcher and a random transsexual.
Coming off a nasty critical drubbing in Son of the Mask, Kennedy obviously feels aggrieved, and that he has an axe to grind, but the connection that Heckler tries to make between live, in-person stage heckling and film criticism (however poorly written, and/or driven by ad hominem attacks) is a fairly tenuous one at best, and it doesn’t make its argument very convincingly. The movie succeeds rather smashingly as a piece of lightweight entertainment, but it suffers from this bifurcated focus. Kennedy should have either made Heckler much more of a personal journey — meaning even more interviews with dissatisfied club patrons and (published) critics of his work — or gotten out of the way. As is, Heckler is caught in a weird limbo that mitigates its effectiveness.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby digital 2.0 audio track, Heckler was sent to me on a bare-bones screener disc, sans bonus features. Touted supplemental extras include a feature-length audio commentary track with Kennedy and Addis, and more than 35 minutes of deleted scenes and extended material, including footage of director Uwe Boll‘s boxing challenge matches with critics. To purchase the movie via Amazon, click here. B- (Movie) I, for Incomplete (Disc)