Saturday, February 2, 2008

Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Introspective Comics Crisscross Country for Standup Concert Flick

In the Summer of 2005, Vince Vaughn came up with the novel idea of assembling an ensemble of entertainers in order to put on some old-fashioned variety shows mixing standup, improv and musical routines. The idea was that the troupe would barnstorm across the country by tour bus, pausing to perform in 30 cities in 30 days as they made their way from Hollywood into America’s heartland and back.
So, with the help of his best friend, child star-turned-producer Peter Billingsley (who you may remember as Ralphie in A Christmas Story), Vince found four aspiring comics to serve as his headliners: Bret Ernst, John “Cap” Caparulo, Sebastian Maniscalco and Ahmed Ahmed. And then he invited a few of his showbiz pals to participate, including Jon Favreau, Justin Long, Dwight Yoakam and Keir O’Donnell. The upshot of their efforts is Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show, a surprisingly cerebral concert flick which divides its time evenly between the highlights of irreverent onstage acts and more sobering moments of introspection captured during downtime.
For instance, Sebastian, who was waiting tables when discovered, comes to tears while expressing his gratitude to Vince about being given this big break.
Bret, by contrast, is almost as emotional when reflecting upon the death of his gay elder brother from AIDS, while Ahmed Ahmed talks earnestly about how 9/11 has forced him to build his act around racial profiling and his being Arab-American.
And we get to see Cap wrestle with being a malcontent whose foul mouth and bad attitude probably prevents him from having a girlfriend. Yet, when he says, “It’s really cool to have a job that’s cathartic,” it’s clear that he enjoys exploring his existential angst in front of an audience.
It’s these self-searching asides which make the Wild West Comedy Show worthwhile. Consequently, this is a movie which reveals standup to be an exercise far deeper than just going for a joke. I almost forgot to mention that the film is funny, too, being fueled by some rather hilarious observational humor. Just remember, these guys generate laughs by genuinely relating their life experiences in a way which tends to resonate with an audience as authentic.
Still, emcee Vince Vaughn comes off the best, here, as an altruistic icon willing to offer a helping hand to up-and-coming comics because he has never forgotten what it was like to be a struggling actor. He even altered their tight schedule in order to visit with victims of Katrina and to do a benefit, when the hurricane hit during the middle of the tour.
Comedy with a social conscious. How refreshing!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexual humor and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 115 minutes
Studio: Picturehouse

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