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It's a little weird and very ironic - to review Heckler, a
documentary that speaks out specifically on film criticism. Despite the
title and promotional materials suggesting that it focuses on those who
heckle stand up comedians, the film has a change of heart half way
through, switching its efforts over to berating film critics. Therein
lies one of the bigger problems with Heckler: the two topics don't have
much to do with one another, despite Jamie Kennedy's, the star of the
film, attempts at correlating them. Besides this major flaw, Heckler is
an entertaining film. Personally, I disagree with nearly every point of
view featured within Heckler, but the film held my interest, containing
what must be hundreds of different interviews with celebrities.
The first half of Heckler focuses primarily on audience members at stand-up comedy shows who take it upon themselves to interrupt the performance, insult the comedian, or occasionally even try and steal the spotlight by finishing the jokes. While this may not seem like a big issue to most, the film demonstrates how hecklers have become an increasingly large problem for stand up comedians. Interviews with a myriad of celebrity comedians, including David Cross, Bill Maher and Tom Green among others, show the frustrations, self-doubt and career repercussions comedians face because of unruly patrons. Heckler also documents some of the more extreme cases as well, including an assault on a stand-up by an offended viewer, a musician who smashes his guitar over an unruly mans head, and the infamous Michael Richards incident. This portion of Heckler does a good job of shedding light on an issue most people have never given a second-thought to.
This is soon abandoned in favor of bashing film critics, especially, but not limited to, the internet kind. There are a few legitimate points made about criticism, particularly how in the "internet" age, more attention is focused on deriding and humiliating the actors/directors who created the film, then critiquing the film itself. While this does show a gradual decrease in the quality of film criticism over the years, it's still very difficult to sympathize with the various film directors interviewed within the film, who all seem to take film criticisms, and the small jabs that come with many of them, way too far. Anyone working within the entertainment business has to have thick skin, it comes with the job. One of these featured directors is Paul Chilsen, who supposedly dropped out of film-making because his first feature got poor reviews. This isn't the fault of the critics; he simply wasn't cut out for the business.
However, no performer featured in Heckler comes across as infantile and whiny as the star of the film himself, Jamie Kennedy. It's a wonder the man ever made it through high school, as it is frequently demonstrated throughout the film that he is unable to take the slightest criticisms of his work. When confronting two teenage hecklers, Kennedy doesn't seem to care about the fact that his show was disrupted; his only concern seems to be that they didn't find it funny, as he begins to say "What do you know about comedy? Who are you to decide what's funny". They're your audience, Jamie. They paid money to see your show, and while they don't have a right to ruin it for others, they have every right to decide whether it's funny or not. If you don't feel like people should judge your work, perhaps you shouldn't be performing it for them.
Kennedy also begins meeting with critics who have given his last feature film, Son of the Mask, a bad review. It becomes more apparent that Kennedy just can't accept the fact that people dislike it or other films of his. He blames others for his own failures as an actor/writer. It's not just the insulting reviews that Kennedy has a problem with: he has a problem with any review that speaks negatively of the film. In Kennedy's dream world, everyone would be forced to enjoy every single piece of art out there, for fear of upsetting the artists. Kennedy takes offense to Richard Roeper's review stating he wanted to walk out of Son of the Mask. The ensuing confrontation is hilarious, as Kennedy attempts to change Roeper's mind by saying in all seriousness that the movie was trying to push new boundaries...by having a baby with super powers who could throw people. In another scene, Kennedy confronts a critic, Peter Grumbine, who seems to find Jamie's overreaction rather funny. At the end of the exchange, Jamie actually calls Grumbine evil, putting someone who dislikes his film among the ranks of Hitler, Charles Manson and Osama Bin Laden. Even if you still have the slightest doubt after watching the movie that Kennedy is overreacting, the deleted scenes should clear everything up: Kennedy freaks out on a friend who merely said one of his comedy bits didn't work.
Perhaps the most alarming thing is many of the director's insistence that no one has the right to judge their work, that anyone who speaks negatively of their work misunderstands it. It shows a complete lack of consideration for the audience, and makes one wonder why these self-proclaimed masters of film even bother showing their work to audiences if they don't care about the reaction. The one exception is Uwe Boll, possibly the most hated man in the film-making business. While he does have an organized boxing bout with critics in the movie, letting off a bit of steam, he never once speaks out against film criticism. Perhaps this is why someone like Boll is increasingly getting better (his two latest movies have had some support) while people like Jamie Kennedy, Joel Schumacher and Eli Roth are continuously getting worse and worse. In the end, it's not film criticism that's destroying the film business, but Kennedy's (and others) inability to learn from the criticism.
This movie is complete garbage. I would have turned it off less than
halfway through, but I thought I would indulge Jamie Kennedy who I
sometimes find amusing. However, after the first 15-20 minutes the film
no longer deals with the topic of hecklers at all. Instead, Kennedy
goes off on a whining tantrum where he confronts his critics asking
them why they didn't like his movies. Instead of accepting the fact
that he has made some pretty terrible movies (Malibu's Most Wanted, Son
of the Mask) he confronts his critics and makes them explain why they
said the things they said. What he should have done was turn the tables
and explain to the public why he makes such shitty movies. Honestly, he
made hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars for those
movies. Criticism comes with the territory. Suck it up, stop whining,
and make some movies that are entertaining. I honestly wish he would
come interview me for "Hecklers 2", but we all know that nobody who
watched the first one would ever green light a sequel.
Just an absolutely 100% self indulgent piece of garbage that should be avoided at all costs.
I have never written a film review here before, but Heckler actually
compelled me to do so. One thing I gleaned from the movie was an appeal
to critics: Don't be mean for the sake of being mean. Instead, make the
criticism constructive. I aim to do that here.
I will start by saying I really enjoyed hearing the perspective of all the performers and artists on the subject of heckling and criticism. Since the interview subjects are funny and talented people, the resulting string of talking heads is actually quite entertaining. As for the subject matter, I have always been sympathetic towards comedians who have to endure hecklers while on stage, but this movie really hit the point home. Also interesting was the footage of actual heckling incidents, and the sometimes shocking reactions from the performer.
Jamie Kennedy, the de facto host of the movie, was good for the most part, but some sequences were more effective than others. He was at his best when his humor was self-deprecating. When Jamie confronted a critic, read their review out loud, and then sat there with a sort of deflated, forlorn look on his face as the critic continued to insult him, that was good stuff. But when he went on the attack, such as insulting one guy's babysitting job, or asking a critic about his sex life, he was turning into the very mean-spirited critic that he had been admonishing. If he instead became the better person, and turned the other cheek, he would have been a more sympathetic (and funnier) character. Still, his performance overall was good.
As for the treatment of film criticism, I felt like there needed to be more balance. There should have been some acknowledgment that film critics provide a valuable source of consumer information. When I go to see a movie, I have to make a 1/2 hour to 1 hour drive, sometimes pay for parking, pay $10 or more admission, and devote 2 hours of my life to watching it. Before doing so, I would like to know if it is worth the money, time, and effort. Film reviews are an essential tool in making this determination. I am a consumer, and a movie is a product I am purchasing. How is it any different from reading reviews for any other product before purchasing it? Why are car reviewers not berated for what they do? How about Consumer Reports, which reviews just about any product you can think of? As for internet reviewers, how about the customer reviews on amazon.com, or rei.com, or any major internet retail site? They may not be professional reviewers, but their opinions can be meaningful in large numbers. When 100 owners give something a good (or bad) review, that is useful information if I am thinking of purchasing that product. I think it is also a false argument to suggest that film critics lack credibility because most of them have never made a film themselves. Back to the car reviewer analogy, I bet most of them have never manufactured cars, but they have driven enough of them to separate a finely tuned machine from a lemon.
So, while I enjoyed Heckler overall, I couldn't help but leave a little disappointed knowing it could have been much better if it was made with a little less hostility and a little more thoughtfulness. With this approach, I think these filmmakers could turn a good movie into a great one.
In this documentary, Jamie Kennedy says that movie critics should make
a point of giving "constructive criticism," that is, instead of just
saying that a movie sucked, say why it was bad and what could have been
done to make it better. This is one of the parts that I agree with, so
I'll try to do that here.
The first 20 minutes or so were exactly what the DVD cover and title claim to be- a documentary about how stand-up comedians deal with hecklers. Listening to the comedians' war stories and methods of dealing with hecklers is hilarious and a fascinating subject.
But then the movie veers off course when Kennedy makes a ham-fisted comparison equating movie critics to hecklers. Plenty of others here have explained why that's a bad comparison, so I don't need to explain why again.
From that point on, it feels like the movie is nothing but JK whining that no one liked Son of the Mask. I'm a bit bitter about the bait-and-switch done here. He shows us a brief clip of SotM that's supposed to convince us that the whole thing is funny, and assumes that this gets us 100% on board with his belief that everyone who criticized it is totally wrong and/or mean-spirited. And EVERYONE he finds either didn't watch it or didn't like it. He mopes around between sadness and anger, never once stopping to consider that just maybe Son of the Mask really was a bad film.
In fact, he seems to be really stuck on the idea that there is no such thing as a bad film whatsoever. Kennedy argues that because every opinion on a movie is just an opinion, not a fact. However, most people would agree that if a film is universally hated by both professional critics and the viewing public, tanks at the box office, and gets singled out by Rotten Tomatoes as one of the 100 worst films of the decade, as Son of the Mask was, then it's a pretty safe bet to call it a bad movie. There is such a thing as a bad film.
He has some valid points about how mean-spirited and personal-level criticisms of films are excessively cruel, but these points seem to get lost in the mess of the post-heckler part of the movie. It's unfocused and has a lot of logical leaps. One minute all movie critics are scum, the next minute Roger Ebert is a great and well-respected exception (even though he's just as famous for tearing into truly bad films as writing great reviews), the next we see some kid saying that Ebert is an idiot and an out-of-context clip that makes Beyond the Valley of the Dolls look really bad, completely missing the point that that film was intentionally schlocky. One minute a professional movie critic is a valid career with a legitimate purpose, the next they're all scum again. One minute he's accepting of the idea of constructive criticism that doesn't attack on a personal level, the next 25 minutes, no one should ever have a negative opinion about anything.
We're treated to a parade of famous flop-makers that we're supposed to feel sympathy for, but don't, because we're still not convinced that there's no such thing as a bad movie. Bringing in people involved with incredibly bad movies like Joel Schumaker, Carrot Top, and Uwe Boll to argue your point only further cements the idea that your movie was bad and that you're just being bitter about everyone's natural reaction to it.
However, I thought that the part about how the Web has made everyone into an elitist critic with a tendency to hate everything was interesting ("0 out of 4 waffles?"). I find people who come to IMDb, give a good-but-not-great movie 0/10 stars and a review of "THIS WUZ The WURST MUVEE EVER LOLz!" to be some of the biggest morons on the planet, and their opinions to be about as worthless as he says they are. JK also has an interesting idea where he confronts some of his harshest, most personal-level critics to see if they'll say the same things to his face. But his reaction to one of those is so terribly immature and unfunny (and I'm no prude) that it ruins the whole exercise.
In conclusion, I think that Kennedy made this film too soon. His emotions about everyone's reaction to Son of the Mask were still too raw, and that got in the way of his ability to make a coherent documentary. Had he made it two or three years later, he probably would have been thinking clearly enough to leave out some of the moments that I'm sure felt gratifying to him, but just alienated his audience, like his contradictory opinions on Ebert or his treatment of the last critic he met in person.
The title: Heckler might lead one to believe that the whole film is
about standup comedians and their drunken, attention-starved
arch-rivals. The gaze shifts quickly to film critics, both established
and the legions of self-appointed online experts (like me... hey, wait
a minute!!!). Apparently producer Jamie Kennedy has a bone to pick
after the thrashing he got for his role in Son Of The Mask. (I sense he
might not have been as motivated for this project if he'd just won the
Oscar.) But it's not just him - he pulls up a virtual who's who of
comedy and just about everyone seems traumatized and disillusioned to
Getting dozens of great comic talents like Harland Williams and Bill Maher to speak candidly for any length of time on any topic is a sure-fire way to guarantee some entertainment value. Ironically, this approach got more laughs out of me than most feature film screenplays.
Oh, there I go. I keep forgetting I'm part of this problem.
I was surprised to see the extent and the intensity of the online vitriol. A lot of what gets said does seem excessively mean and uncalled-for. Apparently morbid, extreme insults are a cheap way to gain notoriety and generate lots of web hits. (Just like shouting "YOU SUCK" is a quick and dirty way to gain attention from everyone in the auditorium.)
This picture clearly distinguishes doers from I-could-do-betters and the latter group doesn't fare very well under scrutiny. They showed a clip from Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, screenplay by Roger Ebert, that makes makes Malibu's Most Wanted look worthy of the Palme D'or by comparison. And when 4 internet critics accept director Uwe Boll's challenge to a boxing match, well... let's just say they won't be lambasting his fight the way they did his films. (He pretty much knocks them all out, back to back, without even breaking a sweat.)
So as a documentary, I found Heckler to be very enlightening and provokative. (What am I doing here, picking apart other people's movies? Why don't I get off my ass and try making one?)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Documentary against hecklers and critics... and maybe even guy who has
an opinion... the next three questions were in the movie, so i'll try
to give my opinion...
1. How can you be a movie critic if you haven't filmed any movie in your life? - WTF!? Guys, this is the lamest and dumbest excuse ever! I haven't been president nor politician so far, but it doesn't mean that I can't criticize them or their work.
2. Everybody has an opinion about everything today... - Of course, is it wrong to have an opinion? A lot of comedians also have some kind of social criticism in their act. Is it me, or is this exactly the same opinion that we talk about?
3. We don't have thick skin, we also have feelings... - Yeah, humans usually have feelings, but you shouldn't feel bad and sad if some low life loser/nerd/idiot or how else you call them, wrote or said something offending to you or about you. You should work on your self-esteem. If you're more popular, more people will talk about you, and not all talk is cool. Get used to it. It's the price you have to pay.
I don't consider myself heckler, nor critic, not even basher of anybody's work, but this documentary and people in it are really asking for it. Folks, get used to it, it's part of life and especially part of entertainment, stop bitching about it so much.
I want to try to be as fair to this film as possible, because it's
clear from the comedians interviewed in this film that criticism from
anyone can be taken very personally.
Since this film isn't about hecklers so much as it is film critics (it's a bait and switch), let's address the latter. Comedies in general have always been held, fairly or unfairly, to the same standards by most movie critics as an Oscar nominated Meryl Streep film. And that is unfortunate. I can be guilty of the same comparisons. However, I don't see that changing anytime soon, and as long as Adam Sandler's target audience remains 12 year old boys, many critics are not going to recommend his films. Sure there may be a caveat ("If you're a pre-teen...") but generally, critics are looking to recommend films not to genre-specific buffs or age groups, but to all audiences (unfortunately this isn't really examined in this documentary).
"Heckler" takes an almost defeatist approach at the hands of film critics when actually there is a solution. Using eBay or even IMDb as a prototype, the buyer and sellers on ebay, and the critics here on IMDb are graded by the readers or themselves, thus helping to weed out unnecessary incendiary and non-constructive deals and/or reviews. Does it work for movie reviews? Do audiences have a way to grade Roger Ebert or Leonard Maltin? No, but it's likely to happen very soon.
I would compare the current film critic industry to the news media in general before profiteering became so prominent post Cronkite. The news media and their personalities have nearly lost any and all respectable viewers. Bill O'Reilly draws 4 million viewers to win his 8:00 time slot. But that's only 1/4 of 1 percent of the population. The 4th estate has been so inept, and the difference between "experts" with special interests so intertwined, that's it's taken Jon Stewart to create what I've been calling "The 5th Estate" to police the 4th estate, because they haven't been doing their job of working for the public, but rather the government, special interests or themselves. And that's where I see the process of film criticism heading--toward a state of viewers policing and correcting, if necessary, critics reviews.
I like Jamie Kennedy based on what I saw from "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment". I haven't seen any of his films but they don't appear to be targeted at me. There's a place for silly farce, slapstick and toilet humor (The Farrelly Brothers...) And there's a place for very sharp dialog comedies with small but adult themes like "The 40 Year Old Virgin", "Superbad" and "The Hangover". Unfortunately, Kennedy's film fall into the former category, and it's difficult to gain traction among critics who only want to recommend films to wider audiences than the 12-18 year old demographics in the Adam Sandler vein.
"Heckler" is not a documentary I would recommend because it's filmed to be more of a defensive commentary on Kennedy's movies (or at least a cathartic release for Kennedy to confront his critics) than anything constructive about critics of comedy--which ironically and to it's own point, is self-defeating. The day will come when the poison arrows are graded. Jamie Kennedy is not for everyone, but that's OK, and great! But like Sandler and even Vince Vaughn, David Spade, Tina Fey etc... he needs to realize this himself, and the sooner the better.
A few years ago I wrote that the infamous Monkees' movie "Head" was an
accidental masterpiece. Rereading that review recently, I realized that
many people may have thought I was writing sarcastically, ironically. I
was not. "Head" IS a masterpiece of cinema, even though it undoubtedly
was not what the Monkees or the filmmakers intended, it is just so
brilliantly put together that whatever the motivations, a real document
of the '60s had been produced.
"Heckler," similarly, is a film that reaches way beyond its initial intentions. Filmed 'on the sly' (i.e., whenever they could arrange an interview) over a three year period, the film evolved from a 'behind-the-scenes' tour documentary into a study into the relationship between comics and their hecklers, into an essay on the problematic relationship between performing artists and their critics generally (especially those on the internet, such as at IMDb). This evolution marks its 'accidental' character - the filmmakers are not trying for depth, they find it because it is there, and demands attention.
Some of this movie is funny, even hilarious, some even disturbing. As it should be. The film asks why we want to voice opinions of work that is solely intended to entertain us. Some of the answer to that is not pleasant to confront. Are we jealous of the more successful? Yet even the equally successful seem to have their opinions - why7 The film leaves the question with us, preferring to resolve the problem of how artists (of various genres) should deal with it (learn from it, burn it, move on).
I learned a lot from this movie. The cinematography is - well, anyone who could hold a camera and hit the record button did so. The editing is wonderful. There's no intrusive commentary except a handful of title cards. The people are real and captured in as real a manner as the present day (post 'reality TV) allows. It's just a brilliantly put together venture, however it came about.
My favorite part? - and I think the decisive moment of the film - Andrew Dice Clay's confrontation with a worm of a CNN commentator who had not the slightest idea what he was talking about, and then moved on to a story about Art Carney! You won't learn a lot about the mysteries of the universe, but you may learn something about yourself.
(2 BTW notes - (1. The dance towards the end is fascinating. 2. The 'bonus' material on the DVD is uniformly excellent.)
No artist likes receiving criticism. I understand that might be
frustrating to have your hard work not pay off. But you can do one of
two things, you can thrive on criticism or you can be so indulged with
your self and whine about it. Guess which one is practiced in this
To be fair I did like the first fifteen minutes of this documentary. Where it was about how hecklers during comedy shows need to stop and be polite etc. That part made sense. I for one hate it when people are rude during any form of entertainment. But when Jamie Kennedy changes the topic to attacking critics that's where it fell apart.
Not only are Jamie Kennedy's antics childish and rude, but also completely contradicting to the message against hecklers. And it doesn't help that Kennedy makes a fool of himself when he is interviewing a critic who gave one of his films a bad review.
Now on a positive note I at least do get behind some of what this documentary is trying to say. There are some critics who are bad at their jobs. Not giving the proper criticisms of the product's content and instead criticizing on how hot the actors are, and how many parts of a movie suck. But not all critics are like that. There are those who know what they are doing and give good constructive criticisms.
But what I can't get over is how is seems that most of these comedians and other artists think that critics should not even exist. That is just petty and unprofessional. Shouldn't artist be glad that their are critics to point out flaws so that the artist can try better next time? Well not for our Mr. Kennedy apparently.
So in the end I thought is was a terrible documentary. I'll admit I like the first few minutes, but after that it becomes an indulgent, childish and just down right disgusting experience.
So if there are any inspiring artists of any kind, I'd implore you to swallow your pride and listen to your critics. But only the ones that have actual good constructive criticisms. And if you don't you'll become egotistical hacks like the people that made this movie.
As a 'Top Reviewer' on IMDb, I have written many film reviews in my
time; however, almost all of them are capsule reviews that include a
plot summary, brief pros/cons, and maybe a quick noteworthy piece of
trivia to add an eensy bit of fat. However, none have been more
personal than HECKLER. Here is a rare PERSONAL summary:
I first watched HECKLER a couple of years after its release. Nobody likes a heckler, so the generic title was really an eye-catcher for me. Also, being a horror movie fan, I have a soft-spot for Jamie Kennedy who played Randy Meeks in the first three SCREAM filmspossibly the horror genre's most underrated supporting character. My first viewing was at a buddy's studio apartment, and he and I both really enjoyed it.
What brought me to replay this movie a few years later:
I had recently discovered that one of my books had gotten a * out of ***** on Amazon.com by a reader. It included something along the lines of "the characters are as flat as the paper they're printed on" and some other harsh words that I don't wish to continue breathing life into. Deep down, I knew I shouldn't have cared; I get reviews and some of them are good, some are mixed and some are badthis person's review made it pretty clear that they either didn't understand important elements of the story and/or it simply wasn't their cup of tea. On the surface, however, it was difficult not to be hurt.
I actually decided to give HECKLER a replay and it really helped. Not only did it remind me that others receive this on a similar scale, but also that I created something that puts me in the spotlight to get heckled. In a way, whether my work was praised or criticized, I made an accomplishment that put me in a position to get reception from othersand just being able to have myself out there in front of the world like that is quite an achievement, and that fact is what I should be focused on.
Also, Perez Hilton made a commendable comment in a deleted scene, explaining that because he dishes criticism, he has to accept criticism from others in return. While it might be an obvious point, it's an easy one to forget when you're down-in-the-dumps due to a bad review. I have written hundreds of reviews; and, yes, on occasion, I am willing to be blunt. Therefore, I need to move on and not let such a First World problem affect me creatively or emotionally.
HECKLER is an excellent comfort film for anyone who is in a positioned to be heckled or negatively reviewed.
***½ (out of four)
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