×

Sundance Film Review: ‘Hits’

Actor-turned-filmmaker David Cross misses the mark more often than not in this scattershot debut.

With:

Meredith Hagner, Matt Walsh, James Adomian, Jake Cherry, Derek Waters, Wyatt Cenac, Amy Sedaris, David Koechner, Jason Ritter, Amy Carlson, Jessie Ennis, Erinn Hayes, Michael Cera, Kurt Braunohler, Julia Stiles.

Missing its comedic targets more often than not, writer-director David Cross’s scattershot “Hits” resembles early Alexander Payne in its playful (or hateful?) skewering of local yokels and their purportedly dim dreams. Some will see smug misanthropy in the low-budget pic’s broad swipe at small-town activist and celebrity wannabes given false hope by vaguely viral YouTube vids, but Cross’ slight affection for an upstate New York municipal worker and his would-be American idol daughter shines through — arguably. In the end, though, the effort of sussing out this satire’s attitude seems silly for the fact that its jokes just aren’t funny enough.

Cross, creator and co-star of HBO’s short-lived but justly legendary sketch comedy “Mr. Show” (and its underrated feature-length spinoff, “Run Ronnie Run!”), has an evident bone to pick with celebrity culture and, particularly, its poor worshippers, although “Hits” itself enlists the likes of Amy Sedaris, Michael Cera, Jason Ritter and Julia Stiles for small roles and walk-ons. The leads are lesser-knowns: Meredith Hagner plays 19-year-old Katelyn Stubin, who’ll do anything to get on “The Voice”; and Matt Walsh plays Katelyn’s balding dad, Dave, a fortysomething hoarder of antiquated goods who lives to rant about potholes at city council meetings in working-class Liberty.

Meanwhile, down in hippest Brooklyn, a young pot dealer (Cera) discovers Dave’s latest outburst on YouTube and shows it to Donovan (James Adomian), a mustachioed people’s advocate who sees in Dave’s petty woes a chance to promote not the cause of a “simple man” so much as his own pseudo-activist think tank. By far the film’s liveliest minute (out of 100) reveals Donovan’s own uploaded vid, “A Dave That Will Live in Infamy,” whose hilariously garish montage mashes up images of ’60s civil rights marches, Frank Capra’s filibustering Mr. Smith, a screaming eagle and the words, “Free Dave Stubin!”

The resulting hubbub in Liberty merely annoys barmaid Katelyn, whose pathetic quest for fame has her paying $300 — plus a special favor — to sleazy Julian (Ritter) for a “professional” demo recording of her unlistenable vocals. Most of the comedy’s screwballs unite at another city council meeting, where all hell breaks loose but witlessly, as when a string of unprintably nasty epithets reflects not small-town bigotry or a parody thereof so much as the film’s desperate bid to shock in the final reel.

None of the film’s stars leaves an impression, although Hagner and Walsh embody their crudely stereotypical characters capably enough. Tech package is passable.

Popular on Variety

Sundance Film Review: ‘Hits’

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 21, 2014. Running time: 100 MIN.

Production:

An Honora production. (International sales: Honora, Santa Monica, Calif.) Produced by Giles Andrew, David Cross, Charles James Denton, Jessica Latham, Ryan A. Brooks. Executive producers, Ben Altarescu, Brian Gross, Abe Schwartz.

Crew:

Directed, written by David Cross. Camera (color, HD), Paul Koestner; editor, Patrick B. Coleman; music, Zoe Keating; music supervisor, Joel C. High; production designer, Sam Lisenco; costume designer, Keri Lee Doris; set decorator, Dylan Pettengill; sound, Diana Sagrista; supervising sound editor, Louis Bertini; re-recording mixer, Dan Brennan; associate producers, Thomas Agosto, Bobby Buka, William Graves, Marianna Kulukundis, Elliott Watson, Michael Zievers, Jr.; line producer, Traci Carlson; assistant director, Michael S. Chandler; casting, Jeanne McCarthy, Rori Bergman.

With:

Meredith Hagner, Matt Walsh, James Adomian, Jake Cherry, Derek Waters, Wyatt Cenac, Amy Sedaris, David Koechner, Jason Ritter, Amy Carlson, Jessie Ennis, Erinn Hayes, Michael Cera, Kurt Braunohler, Julia Stiles.

More Film

  • Joker

    Why 'Joker' Is About All of Us (Column)

    Take a look at the photo above. It’s the most poetic image to have emerged from Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” and the reason I say “poetic” isn’t just because the shot has that caught-in-action indelible vibe of a quintessential movie poster: graphic, hauntingly composed, a bit shocking (at least, the first time you see it). It’s [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Rules International Box Office With $117 Million

    Though Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” stumbled at the domestic box office, the Angelina Jolie-led sequel enjoyed a far stronger start overseas. The follow-up to 2014’s fantasy adventure inspired by the “Sleeping Beauty” villain took off with $117 million from 56 international markets. In North America, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” debuted with a meager $36 [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    Box Office: 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Dominates With Soft $36 Million

    Five years after Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” cast a spell over the box office, the villainous enchantress has returned to the top of domestic charts. Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a sequel to 2014’s fantasy adventure based on the “Sleeping Beauty” sorceress, flew lower than the original and debuted to a disappointing $36 million from 2,790 [...]

  • MIA Wrap

    Rome MIA Market Wraps With Stronger U.S. Presence, Boosts Italy's Industry Standing

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries wrapped positively Sunday with organizers boasting a bump in attendance just as some 2,500 executives departed in an upbeat mood after four days of dealmaking and presentations of mostly European fresh product, which elevated Italy’s global standing in the industry, especially within the TV sector. [...]

  • Film Republic Adds Further Sales for

    Film Republic Inks Further Deals for 'God of the Piano' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sales agent Film Republic has closed further territory sales on “God of the Piano.” Film Movement previously picked up North American rights to the film, as reported exclusively by Variety. Mont Blanc Cinema has taken the rights for Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. Limelight Distribution is looking after the Australian and New Zealand releases, Hualu [...]

  • ‘Bears Famous Invasion’s Lorenzo Mattotti Brings

    Lorenzo Mattotti on MIA Title ‘Bears Famous Invasion of Sicily’

    Illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti is no stranger to film festivals. The artist – a long-time New Yorker cover artist and onetime Lou Reed and Michelangelo Antonioni collaborator – has designed posters for past editions of Venice and Cannes, and has contributed to films that played in Toronto and Rome. This year, however, he experienced the festival [...]

  • Dreamworks Abominable

    'Abominable' Release in Malaysia Abandoned

    Plans to release the increasingly controversial Chinese-U.S. co-produced animation film “Abominable” in Malaysia have been dropped after the distributor said that it would not be cut to cater to political sensitivities. The film includes a scene which depicts a map showing the South China Sea and the so called “nine-dash line” that China uses to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content