Ungainly titled, overlong, intermittently funny docu laffer "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show" does just what it says on the tin. More than a vanity project for the currently hot actor but less than gripping cinema, either as a performance film or as a life-on-the-road tell-all, pic's market life is assured via high-profile Weinstein Co. buy at the Toronto fest.
Ungainly titled, overlong, intermittently funny docu laffer “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights — Hollywood to the Heartland Tour” does just what it says on the tin. More than a vanity project for the currently hot actor but less than gripping cinema, either as a performance film or as a life-on-the-road tell-all, pic’s market life is assured via high-profile Weinstein Co. buy at the Toronto fest. Thesp’s name ensures theatrical tour, with real muscle coming from ancillary.
Between thesping projects, Vaughn decided in September 2005 to mount and front a modestly scaled variety show and tour it for a solid month in various cities between Hollywood and his hometown of Chicago. Per Vaughn, his twin inspirations were the lack of such an in-person event for modern auds, and an urge to see more of the country.
He enlisted the aid of up-and-coming comedian pals Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst and Sebastian Mansicalco for the backbone of the act. From the clips glimpsed, it appears the individual standup routines were punctuated by improvs featuring various guest stars: For the opening night in Hollywood, Vaughn’s “Swingers” co-star Jon Favreau and Justin Long improve a strained sketch, while Dwight Yoakam shows up in Bakersfield, Calif., to teach the headliner how to sing.
On the tour itself, producer Peter Billingsley, child star of “A Christmas Story” and, per Vaughn, “my best friend,” joins him to re-create a scene from the steroid-themed “After School Special” on which they met, while “Wedding Crashers” co-star Keir O’Donnell does an ongoing gag revolving around his artist character in that film.
Each of the four featured comics works blue: Ahmed’s comedy, which from his Egyptian background and contempo racial stereotypes, is counterbalanced by Caparulo’s gravelly delivery and backstage insecurities that paint him as a live-wire loner.
Ernst brings a commanding physicality to a bit set in a roller rink, while Mansicalco’s pungent observations on the modern male, coupled with his fastidiousness on the road and genuine amazement at being included, flag him as pic’s most interesting and fully formed figure.
Various episodes illustrate vagaries of life on the road. A broken toilet at the San Diego venue creates problems; Caparulo melts down over the midnight theft of a sandwich; the boys are glimpsed hosing each other off in a car wash.
Though pic as a whole mirrors the genial mischief of Vaughn’s immensely popular onscreen persona, what’s sorely lacking is any creative tension. Everyone seems to get along fine, and, when a minor clash erupts over a hastily arranged benefit show for flood victims, their mixture of resentment and apprehension over having to hand out tickets at an Alabama trailer park comes across more as petulant than ominous. In short order they’re back to a life that Ernst describes as “spring break for 30-year-olds.”
First-time helmer Ari Sandel’s wisest decision was to allow the comics a chance to relate backstories and interact with their families during the trek. To a man, they come across as nice guys, committed to a mercurial craft in an uncertain business full of guys just like them.
Tech package is admirably seamless given the peripatetic nature of the project, with special credit due editor Dan Lebental for maintaining the energy level as best he could over a daunting two-hour running time. Blasts of geographically relevant rock songs, including “Streets of Bakersfield” and “Georgia,” keep things moving along between stops.