Saturday, October 10, 2015

In CALL ME LUCKY, Bobcat Goldthwait honors (a little too heavily) mentor Barry Crimmins

If you've never heard of stand-up comic and social activist Barry Crimmins (TrustMovies hadn't, prior to viewing this new documentary), don't worry. You'll know a lot about this man and his life and career by the time you've finished watching CALL ME LUCKY. This is a life and career filled with event and comedy (angry though much of it is) and not a little surprise, as well. The film's director is Bobcat Goldthwait (shown below), whose movies over recent years -- in quite disparate genres -- I have come to think represent some of the best and most original creations of modern American cinema.

So far as I know, this film marks Gold-thwait's entry into the field of documentary filmmaking, and for the most part he has does a commendable job. His movie melds talking-head interviews with his subject, Mr. Crimmins, as well as with a number of well-known comics who have known and/or worked with Crimmins (from David Cross (shown at bottom) to Margaret Cho, Kevin Meaney to Patton Oswalt). We get a kind of history of both the man and his time: what America was going through in the days when this comic was so funny, so angry, and -- it turns out -- so very helpful to many up-and-coming new stand-up comics. He was a "good guy," even if he seemed to have a kind of half-buried chip on his shoulder.

Where that chip came from and why is something we learn in the course of the film, and since the filmmaker chooses to keep it under wraps for quite a time, so will I. It becomes the major surprise of the movie, and changes the course of the documentary, just as the event itself changed the course of Crimmins' own life. Suddenly we're in the midst of Congressional hearings and testimony that will surprise viewers who may not have paid a lot of attention to AOL at the time, nearly two decades back, during which the Internet was evolving into a major part of our lives and our world.

All this proves unusual and most interesting, even as it explains -- partially, at least -- why Barry Crimmins (shown at left in his younger days and below in current times) never broke through to become the kind of household name that other, perhaps less talented but more mainstream, comics managed to do. And then, about 90 minutes in, give or take a few, at just about the time most documentaries would be ending, the director does something that I found almost shocking, given the kind of movies he has handed us thus far. He suddenly turns the film into a non-stop laudation of Crimmins from his contemporaries that is repetitive and needless -- given all we've already seen and heard about this man.  After a few minutes of this, you're ready to scream "Enough already: We get it!"

This kind of overkill adulation befits neither Goldthwait -- whose previous work may have seemed like overkill to some (not to me), but at least was dripping with irony and satire -- nor Crimmins, who, given what we see of him, must have been embarrassed to view these final minutes. This is a shame because the final section of the film left both me and my spouse in a foul mood, when only a quarter hour before, we'd been with the movie, heart and soul.

So, if you find yourself blanching at the sudden swell of overkill praise, maybe stop right there, eject the disc from your player, and simply recall what has come before. That much, at least, is definitely worth seeing and hearing. Call Me Lucky, from MPI Media Group, arrives on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download this coming Tuesday, October 13 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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