6 April 2009 | houlihanb
Good, but could have been great.
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.