Reality Bites Back!
Just when you thought the reality television craze couldn't become any stranger, the exploited turn the tables with an exploitation of their own. Original Real World-er, Norman Korpi, gathers friends and fellow reality show survivors to mock-ument his forthcoming nuptials. Is it real? Is it scripted? Is it funny?
Facts of the Case
This is the story of 10 Real World alumni, reunited for the wedding of their friend Norman, who lives in a castle in Beverly Hills and hires a novice videographer to interview reluctant friends and family and record the festivities—This is The Wedding Video.
Borrowing equal parts from MTV's The Real World, Rob Reiner's This is Spinal Tap, and Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman, The Wedding Video establishes an intriguing premise. A hack videographer criss-crosses the country for two months, capturing the thoughts and reflections of Norman's friends and family regarding his upcoming wedding. The funny thing is half of them don't realize he's gay and the other half have some not so nice things to say about him. Ultimately, the joke is on the audience, as the cast and crew parody and spoof the reality TV genre with insights and a biting intimacy few others could understand or capture. Let's face it, these people have been transformed into pop culture icons who need their own support group to readjust to life after the red light goes off.
In addition to the familiar MTV faces—Norman, Heather, and Julie (New York), Rachel and Cory (San Francisco), Sean and Syrus (Boston), Mike (Miami), Lars (London), Lindsay (Seattle), and a voice cameo by Coral (New York II)—all playing somewhat twisted versions of their real life personas—Sean is Norman's cousin, Syrus a childhood friend of Norman's fiancée, Lars is the uppity German DJ hired for the reception—the rest of the cast are all actors, including Sky (Brien Perry) the coke-sniffing, ex-porn star, groom-to-be. Norman's real-life partner, Clint Cowen, is behind the camera in a dual role as both the naïve videographer and co-director. In a bit of social commentary, we find that Clint holds the ultimate power over this collection of characters, as he can show as much or as little of what happens and cut things together to make it appear however he chooses. Perhaps these Real-Worlders feel a bit maligned by how they were portrayed on television?
The film plays as one long in-joke for fans of the long-running MTV franchise, meaning newbies will be more than a little lost. However, everyone can appreciate the hilarious performances of Heather B and Julie. The duo easily steals the movie with such scenes as the discovery of "Big Red" and any of Heather's many solo interviews. Unfortunately, the joke doesn't have the stamina to last the entire 84 minutes, going limp when Sky is caught cheating on Norman by fooling around with a woman at the bachelor party. From there on out, the story painfully repeats itself, as we wait and pray for a quick climax that never comes. Taking it back to the editing room and tightening up the storyline would make this film a hilarious 60-minute arthouse satire. As it stands now, it's a bloated great idea that never reaches its potential.
Presented in 1.33:1 full frame format, the digital video image duplicates the look and feel made famous by The Real World. There is nothing fantastic about this transfer, but then again, this is supposed to be a novice cameraman who knows nothing of proper lighting and framing. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is practical and adequate, requiring little more to get its message across. Bonus features include a feature commentary by co-directors Norman and Clint, along with actor Mike Lambert. If you do watch the movie all the way through, the commentary is definitely worth listening to, as the boys explain in detail the many twists and turns the production took—including several last minute additions to the cast, after principal photography has already wrapped. The outtakes, as with most similar collections, should have remained on the cutting room floor. Although, in this case, you do get to see more of Heather B, which is never a bad thing. Finally, the post screening Q&A is passable, especially if you've already heard the commentary. The package is rounded out with a handful of TLA studio trailers and some rather nice interactive menu designs. Not bad for an indie film.
If you are a fan of The Real World, especially the original New York cast, The Wedding Video is worth renting for a few really good laughs. On the other hand, if you have never seen the show, don't waste your time.
This court respects Norman Korpi and Clint Cowen for taking a well-deserved poke at this revenue-generating monstrosity that has launched the reality television tsunami we are currently drowning from. We encourage TLA Releasing to continue its work in cultivating the creative artistry and providing a voice for independent filmmakers.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
• Feature Commentary by Directors Norman Korpi and Clint Cowen
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