‘Reality Queen!’: Film Review

Fame is easy but comedy comes very, very hard in this feeble spoof of Kardashian-style modern celebrity.

Steven Jay Bernheim
Julia Faye West, Denise Richards, John Witherspoon, Mike Tyson
Release Date:
Jan 10, 2020

Running time: 84 MIN.

Official Site: http://realityqueenmovie.com/

It’s very hard to satirize things that are already inherently ridiculous, and mockumentary “Reality Queen!” has the misfortune of being even more vacuous — not to mention less funny — than the empty-calorie celebrities it parodies. An enterprise beneath even the combined dignities of cast members Denise Richards and Mike Tyson, this spoof from first-time feature director Steven Jay Bernheim stars his wife Julia Faye West as “London Logo,” a fame-obsessed Paris Hilton type whose spotlight has lately been stolen by some Kardashian-esque rivals.

The only fame hazarded by “Reality Queen!” is that it might win notoriety as a comedy worth of comparison to “The Hottie and the Nottie,” “Disaster Movie,” and other particularly wince-inducing assaults on the genre. It opens on about 20 U.S. screens Jan. 10, simultaneous with DVD and on-demand release.

Blonde, puff-lipped, chesty London is the spoiled child of a mogul couple (Jill Jacobson, Cliff De Young), raised in palatially tacky splendor. She rocketed to infamy with an “accidentally” leaked sex tape, though in his brief appearance here, Tyson claims her lookalike bed partner must be an impersonator, as he’s never met her.

The film’s conceit is that a BBC interviewer (Kate Orsini) has come to Beverly Hills to make a documentary about London, and American celebrity culture in general. Thus we meet the aging celebutante’s BFF, actress Angelina Streisand (Richards), plus her publicist/crisis manager (Loren Lester), former reality-show costar (Shelli Boone), designated stalker (Steve Brock), and so forth. We go on outings to a club where London ineptly deejays, and a book signing where she’s mortified to find her table is less patronized than that of Kristy Kim (Candace Kita), who along with her sisters have usurped our heroine’s status as America’s Most Overexposed Non-Talent.

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There is not much to be said about a movie that can’t even make it to the five-minute mark without stooping to the ersatz hilarity of its star unconscious on a sidewalk, being peed on by a passing dog. Not much further along, we discover that London’s “miniature Chihuahua” (actually a gerbil) is named Peepee, and another lowlight involves its being rescued from a toilet bowl. The movie makes fun of political correctitude, but as one major character is a flaming gay stereotype (John R. Colley as fashion designer Simon Debris) and there’s a scene that tries to eke laughs from a women’s sexual-assault-survivor support group, that effort tends to fall a bit flat.

There actually is the odd funny line or idea to be found here. But they’re never exploited very adeptly, and in any case get overwhelmed by the tonnage of clunkers. “Reality Queen!” is so scattershot it can’t even settle on a perspective towards its fictitious subject, painting her as both famous and a has-been, an airhead who nonetheless occasionally comes up with pseudo-profundities like “America doesn’t know what it wants, until it’s told.”

Eight writers share screenplay credit here, which itself may be the sole truly inspired (if unintentional) joke. Also good for a chuckle, however, are the rare attempts at “seriousness.” At one late point a Larry King-type TV personality informs the BBC woman that London is like Donald Trump, in that they’re both all about “ratings,” and the movie seems awed by the searing profundity of that insight.

All this might have flown better if West brought some comic chops to the table. But there’s not much going on in that department, and stuck with equally poor material, the supporting players run a narrow gamut from good-sportdom to shrill caricature.

While budgetary limitations sometimes show, the best aspects of “Reality Queen!” lie in its basic technical competence and access to some tony locations, as well as decent contributions from Ryan Henneman and Jordan Law’s respective production and costume designs. As one might expect, the soundtrack is cluttered with disposable club dance tracks.

'Reality Queen!': Film Review

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Dec. 29, 2019. Running time: 84 MIN.

Production: A High Octane Pictures release of a London Film production. Producers: Greg Lindsay, Nicolas Hurt, Tanner Gordon. Executive producers: Steven Jay Bernheim, Julia Faye West.

Crew: Director: Steven Jay Bernheim. Screenplay: Bernheim, Chandler Patton, Greg Lindsay, John-Paul Panelli, Schuyler Brumley, Gabby Gruen, Allan Murray, Chris Cobb. Camera: Cody Stauffer. Editors: Bryan Bigler, Sherwood Jones.

With: Julia Faye West, Denise Richards, John Witherspoon, Mike Tyson, Charles Fleischer, Kate Orsini, Loren Lester, Candace Kita, John R. Colley, Shelli Boone, Greg Lindsay, Ben Begley, Steve Brock, Yves Bright, Jill Jacobson, Cliff De Young, Travis Eberhard, Mackenzie Parker, Ralph Rieckermann.

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