Review: ‘Punk Like Me’

Talk about life imitating art: Scriptwriter Rich Wilkes turns his life into a sitcom in "Punk Like Me," Zach Merck's richly amusing and often insightful docu about the 37-year-old scribe's fleeting attempt to fulfill long-deferred dreams of rock stardom. Pic has sufficient universal appeal to attract ticketbuyers who usually avoid nonfiction fare.

Talk about life imitating art: Scriptwriter Rich Wilkes (“Airheads,” “XXX”) turns his life into a sitcom in “Punk Like Me,” Zach Merck’s richly amusing and often insightful docu about the 37-year-old scribe’s fleeting attempt to fulfill long-deferred dreams of rock stardom. Pic has sufficient universal appeal to attract ticketbuyers who usually avoid nonfiction fare. But it likely will reach its largest aud as a DVD “extra” after someone — maybe Wilkes himself? — adapts the real-life comedy into a vehicle for Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider or some other hot property.

Wilkes does triple duty as scripter, narrator and protagonist in pic that details his summer vacation as lead singer for Carne Asada, a “punk rock mariachi band” that performs with mixed success to small crowds on smaller stages on the cross-country Vans Warped Tour. The misadventure begins as a whimsical lark, with Wilkes — performing under the alias Rico Suave — forming a punk combo with close buddies (some of whom, remarkably enough, actually have discernible talent as musicians).

As tour progresses, however, Wilkes finds himself taking the gigs more seriously than he expected. To be sure, it’s difficult for him to engage in “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” excess while his wife, infant daughter and in-laws are along for the ride (in the kind of luxury tour bus that few hard-core punk bands could afford). But Wilkes and his bandmates can’t help longing for that perfect moment in that perfect performance when they might impress an audience of much-younger festivalgoers.

Highlights include scenes in which Wilkes seeks pointers from vet rockers. Josh Todd of Buckcherry comes across as especially sage. But Brandon Schieppati of Bleeding Through gets the biggest laughs, inadvertently or otherwise, as he coaches Wilkes in punkish image enhancement: “It’s good to have, like, ‘hate’ somewhere on your body tattooed. And if you want to get the younger girls, you should have, like, a ‘love’ tattoo. You’re tough – but you’re sensitive as well.”

Punk Like Me

Production

A Carne Asada Film presentation of a Hein/Wilkes production. Produced by Amy Wilkes, Steven Hein. Executive producer, Rich Wilkes. Co-executive producer, Joe Escalante. Directed by Zach Merck. Screenplay, Rich Wilkes.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Darrin Roberts, Seth Gordon, Luis Lopez; editor, Meg Decker; sound, Greg Morgenstein. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, March 27, 2006. (In SXSW Film Festival -- 24 Beats Per Second.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Sean Donnelly, Joe Jauregui, Luis Lopez, Chad Sands, Rich Wilkes.

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