Saturday, July 10, 2010

Winnebago Man

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Bio-Pic Updates Whereabouts of Foul-Mouthed Auto Pitchman

When Jack Rebney was shooting a Winnebago commercial back in the Eighties, he had no idea that the outtakes would one day turn him into a celebrity. Otherwise, he might not have unleashed a series of epithets every time he flubbed a line or whenever he found himself frustrated by his inept intern, Tony.
But that phenomenon is exactly what transpired in 2005, when a video of Jack’s expletive-laced tirades was first posted on Youtube. Since then, over 20 million people have watched the 4-minute meltdown, making the foul-mouthed pitchman as popular as such other internet sensations as Tay “Chocolate Rain” Zonday and that lady who fell through the trap door.
Personally, I’ve never had much interest in any Youtube curiosities beyond their 15 minutes of fame, but that wasn’t the case with director Ben Steinbauer who was compelled to track down Jack Rebney not only to learn the back story of the filming of the automobile ad, but to make a bio-pic chronicling his subject’s life both before and since.
The upshot of that endeavor is Winnebago Man, a documentary which serves to humanize a guy most would probably presume to be a bully with a very mean streak.
Found with the help of a private eye, 78 year-old Jack proves to be quite a sympathetic figure, between being legally blind and living alone in a modest cabin in the woods in Northern California. Intermittently exhibiting flashes of his trademark temper, he explains that he was actually fired by Winnebago soon after the taping, when someone sent the company clips of his outbursts which had been edited out.
Among other things, we learn that Jack is very opinionated politically, and that he has a few choice cuss words reserved for the Bush administration. The icing on the cinematic cake arrives when director Steinbauer coaxes the hermit out of hiding to meet some of his rabid fans at an internet convention in San Francisco where he will be billed as “The Angriest Man in the World.” They might have been a tad disappointed to discover that the Winnebago Man is now frail and in failing health, however just such sobering touches of reality are what make this tenderhearted movie worth its while.
What’s next, a full-length documentary about the life and times of Chris “Leave Britney Alone” Crocker?

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 85 Minutes
Studio: Kino International

To see a trailer for Winnebago Man, visit:

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