Lionsgate // 2006 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // December 21st, 2007
Hitting rock bottom has never been so funny.
Remember Andy Dick? He was that guy on NewsRadio who was marginally funny for a while there, until everyone found out the hard way he had alcohol and drug issues in a big public way. After that, his career kind of evaporated like water on a hot road, except he never really went entirely away. Now and then, he pops his head up to say and do annoying things, molest the occasional woman on late-night television, or generally make a fool of himself. Oh, Andy.
Now, Andy has his own movie, writing and directing the almost-story of his life. Danny Roane: First Time Director tells the tale of a pretty funny guy with a sitcom, until everyone found out the hard way he had alcohol and drug issues in a big public way. Oh, Danny.
Danny Roane (Andy Dick, NewsRadio) used to be a somebody. The bumbling sidekick on a popular office comedy, his television career was sidetracked by his constant alcohol and substance abuse, leading to a public breakdown on national television.
Now, a few years older and a few years wiser, having worked his demons out in rehab (and community theater), Danny Roane is back, this time as a first-time director. His film, an autobiographical tale about his own misfortunes (with the addition of gangsters and musical numbers), struggles through all stages of conception, fighting for funding, casting mishaps, and Danny's own slipping from the wagon, captured for posterity by his camera crew recording the "making of" footage for his inevitable DVD release.
I'll give him credit: Andy Dick doesn't mind degrading himself for a laugh. Essentially reducing his entire career malfunction into a pseudo-documentary, Danny Roane: First Time Director substitutes Dick's name for another, but basically goes through the same motions as the last few years of the hapless comedian -- except this time with more jokes. Every aspect of his life comes under the roast: his time on television as a bumbling goof, his problems with alcohol and his public outbursts on late night television that effectively blacklisted him from working in the medium again. The answer for both characters, of course, is to make a movie. Hence, first-time director.
Making a movie of his life certainly gives Dick the subject matter to work with, but the largely improvised performances fail to generate much in the way of comedy -- most of the jokes center around Dick getting drunk, taking off his clothes and being stupid, or around making fun of Jews, retards, black people, and the like. It is a tedious kind of comedy. What keeps the movie from drowning in its own lousiness is the barrage of cameos called in -- Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Anthony Rapp, James Van Der Beek, Jimmy Kimmel, Frankie Muniz, Maura Tierney -- probably every person left that would still talk to Dick in the industry (just kidding). It's fun to see his legitimate real-life friends sign up to kick him around in fake-life.
The strange thing about this film is not how unbearably lame and annoying it is to watch, but rather how ones expectations plummet statistically through the ground after the first few minutes. All hope we had for the film simply vanishes away, leaving us dead and morbid, lifeless from the neck down. The more you watch it from this reduced vantage point of low expectations, the funnier the film gets. Not legitimately funny, mind you, but oh, how lowering your expectations increases ones enjoyment of a film. In particular, Danny's final created project, when we get to see the film finally air at a small film festival, is jaw-dropping. Likewise, when Roane (after a night of drinking and movie-watching) decides to re-cast and re-formulate his movie into a musical a la Moulin Rouge, some decent comedy emerges. Anthony Rapp gets some magnificent musical numbers on the subject of substance abuse that are like bizarro B-sides from Rent.
Alas, for a movie with a less-than-90-minute run time, you could count the legitimate laughs on one hand. Most of the jokes fall flat, and for every burst of competent humor found, another seven or eight minutes pass with boring, dull, and tasteless jokes. Some good bits, like trying to secure funding for his project and having to deal with inane producers, merits a chuckle, but most of the humor in the film is just plain bad -- tasteless, crude, and not really funny at all. It is ironic how a film about how total inebriation all the time makes you unable to function only functions as a comedy when the viewer is totally inebriated all the time. The film is full of good intentions, and that counts for something, but not enough to salvage the title from anything but an obscure entry at the back of a rental store.
Shot entirely on DV, the film has that gritty washed-out look that low-quality digital video cameras produce, giving the film an authentic "behind the scenes" documentary quality. Colors are bland, black levels are nonexistent, and digital artifacts are noticeable -- not the best-looking transfer. The sound, a simple stereo presentation does the job adequately, with minimal bass response and not much in the way of post-production -- just a microphone in the room, really.
Not much in the way of supplementary features here: some outtakes and extended scenes and a trailer or two. The aforementioned additional scenes are pretty painful to endure -- they were clearly excluded for a reason and represent more of the awkward improv comedy that already perforates gigantic holes throughout the film.
What, you need a rebuttal? It's a movie written by Andy Dick, starring Andy Dick, about Andy Dick. The prosecution rests, your Honor.
You have to give the guy credit for putting the gnarled wreckage of his career under the microscope for the sake of comedy, but a well-intentioned train wreck is still a train wreck. Andy Dick's public breakdown wasn't really funny or captivating the first time through, and Danny Roake: First Time Director is no different. It has a few genuine flashes of inspired brilliance, but far too much annoyance to justify a viewing.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Outtakes and Extended Scenes