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Heckle This Movie

Jamie Kennedy's poor track record leads to a misfiring attempt to take on hecklers and critics

Heckler,” now screening in the Tribeca Film Festival, is ostensibly a documentary about hecklers in comedy clubs, and is produced by and nominally starring Jamie Kennedy, and that’s practically all you need to know right there.

At about 80 minutes, this movie has about 20 minutes of material on hecklers, with talking head commentaries from both authorities and would-be authorities, and then about a full hour’s worth of Jamie Kennedy complaining about bad reviews of his movies, TV show and stand-up act.

That’s especially galling when it seems most of the bad reviews of Jamie Kennedy’s work are justified. Even his own documentary contains quick screen shots indicating that about three-quarters of all reviews of Kennedy’s movies “Son of the Mask” and “Malibu’s Most Wanted” were negative reviews. That’s a consensus, my friend.

Kennedy also complains that he wants constructive criticism, but apparently hasn’t learned a thing from bad reviews of “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” because since shooting “Heckler” (mostly during fall 2005), he’s already gone out and made a similarly lame attempt at comedy with another movie where he plays a white rapper who shouldn’t be rapping in “Kickin’ It Old Skool.”

“Heckler” also really fails to even dig all that deep into the phenomenon of heckling, with only a tangential discussion of the Michael Richards incident through a few clips of the Laugh Factory owner talking about what happened and some comments by Arsenio Hall and Kathy Griffin. A real documentary about hecklers would have used this as a jumping off point and then dug deep into the subject. Instead we get something of a bait and switch, with Kennedy trying to paint his critics as similar to hecklers, to see if he can trick his audience into believing that.

There’s a clear and obvious difference -- hecklers are disrupting live performances in progress, while critics are writing or commenting about them after the fact, where readers or viewers can decide whether to listen or not.

There are a few people who have thoughtful and interesting things to say in “Heckler,” such as Joe Rogan, conservative commentator Dennis Prager, and Patton Oswalt, as well as some interesting clips of good and bad ways comedians ranging from Bill Hicks (a profane but targeted verbal evisceration of a woman who heckled him) to the more obscure, like Kenny Leon, dealt with hecklers (Leon assaulted a heckler by smashing his guitar over the guy’s head). The few hecklers Kennedy does talk to are ones typically who had been heckling him and don’t make too much of a case other than saying Kennedy sucks, which is, well, true, but all the same, by picking them Kennedy is stacking the deck. When Kennedy goes face to face with credible critics like Richard Roeper in this movie, he's the one left speechless.

In the end of Heckler, Kennedy claims he’s learned something and is a better person for having absorbed all the bad reviews, but what does he do? He puts them in a pile and burns them, which comes off more like another whiny, childish fit of pique. It would have been so much better to see a real, credible treatment of hecklers and heckling in a documentary.


(Editor's Note: Buy it used, if you must) 



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