Unlikely to draw new fans but destined to please followers who couldn’t catch the live act, “Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie” preserves the four-years-running show featuring the red-necky quartet of comics Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy. Like “The Original Kings of Comedy,” which it closely mimics and seems like a cultural counter-response to, new showcase is buoyed by the lesser known performers, while the headliners ride on past laurels and jokes. (Shtick, given the ultra-Anglo, Dixie-leaning context, just isn’t the right term.) Despite Foxworthy’s and Engvall’s long-proven popularity, the theatrical window would appear to be rather narrow, with living rooms the ideal, long-term venue.
The show starts with the four in a fishing boat on a small lake, sitting around with lines in the water casually trading quips. African American comic David Alan Grier arrives in a limo to take the quartet to their gig at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix, and then, in the green room, provides the group with loud colorful suits that have no connection with the rest of the evening.
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After this flubbed prelude, the real business proceeds with a too-brief 10-minute clip from White’s superb opening stand-up, which is unsurpassed for acerbic wit and precision timing. White, with a beverage perpetually in one hand and a smoke in the other, makes extended hay out of a flight on a tiny plane from Flagstaff to Phoenix (“we’re traveling at the speed of smell”). White’s inspired comic mind finds a dozen sources of humor where the average comic would find only one or two, while making a fine art of the deadpan style.
The tour’s poster boy could be Larry the Cable Guy, who comes off as the most blue collar of the four despite being the only one not born in the South. Though he doesn’t craft his act as cleverly as White, his smarts belie his appearance as the guy who you’d imagine driving a beat-up truck with shotgun and six-pack in tow. He follows Foxworthy’s usual theme of personal domestic experiences, which include drinking too many margaritas and dealing with crotchless and edible panties.
Engvall pushes the home front comedy to the hilt, teasing about his wife’s habit of collecting twist ties, his daughter’s Goth friends and the travails of driving the family cross-country (“R.V. stands for Ruined Vacation”). His act never really builds, but amiably floats along on a series of observations — many about being married 20 years — which connect with the responsive Phoenix audience but seldom challenge them.
Foxworthy, who receives the longest (20-plus minutes) segment, is disappointing as he falls back on mostly familiar material. The general tone of his act elicits chuckles, but rarely does he push things into the laugh zone of unexpected ideas. He touches on a myriad of topics without ever mining them — the NASCAR culture, the sober safety of today’s toys vs. the insane danger of toys from his youth and the spectacle of watching your kids in the cereal section of the supermarket.
A better writer than performer, Foxworthy is best at defining things (“Being a red-neck means a glorious absence of sophistication”) and identifying red-neck culture as a distinct minority by claiming that “you can’t talk about red-necks without being one.”
Foxworthy also leads the quartet in a relaxed group finale, but runs his own best-known bit, “You might be a red-neck,” into the ground. Engvall hilariously dishes out his own beloved bit on rampant stupidity, “Here’s your sign” (a crack on this theme directed at the California Highway Patrol is as funny as pic gets), but it’s up to White and Larry to lift the show’s closer to a funnier level.
Short off-stage interludes, mostly featuring Larry pulling classless pranks, break up the concert film routine. But it seems strange that such self-proclaimed blue-collar guys would be shopping at the swankiest mall in mega-upscale Scottsdale, Ariz., rather than at the local Wal-Mart.
Director CB Harding, with good assistance from editor Tony Hayman, fluidly covers the stage action with over a half-dozen hi-def cameras, but there’s notably less filmmaking energy here than the sort applied by Spike Lee to “Original Kings of Comedy.”