Release date: November 4, 2007 Director: Michael Addis
Heckler begins as an intriguing documentary on the world of comedians, and the hecklers who hurl insults at them from the back of the crowd. We see live footage of some of these disturbing encounters, and we are treated to interviews from well known comics, including Kathy Griffin, Louie Anderson, Patton Oswalt, and last but not least, Jamie Kennedy.
The first eighteen minutes of the film attempt to explore the effect that heckling has on these comics, as their performances are rudely interrupted by ignorant – and at times inebriated – audience members who set out to destroy the man or woman on stage. Some of the comics have small meltdowns. In one clip, we see a comedian bust his guitar over a man’s head for yelling, “You suck”. Another man goes on a profanity-riddled tirade after a drunken woman yells at him during his set. In many scenes, Jamie Kennedy goes so far as to interview some of his hecklers, and some of them are just as brutal and unrelenting in person.
A comedian’s job isn’t easy. Fair enough.
However, during the last half of the film, the focus shifts. What began as a riveting examination of the emotional and mental consequences of heckling quickly becomes an indictment of all forms of criticism, and at this point, Jamie Kennedy takes center stage. Kennedy has made two commercial and critical flops in his film career, including Malibu’s Most Wanted and Son of the Mask. Throughout the remainder of Heckler, he tracks down the harshest critics of these films in an attempt to make them apologize. Yes, some of the critics are pretty vitriolic in their critiques, attacking Kennedy as a person. This is not constructive criticism. The point is that these “reviews” are a form of heckling. The problem is that Kennedy makes no attempt to differentiate between positive criticism and all-out bullying. In his mind, a negative review of Son of the Mask is a direct insult to him. You have hurt his feelings, and you should be sorry. No matter that the film is a terrible waste of celluloid. In one scene, he confronts Richard Roeper, and demands that he give an explanation for his negative review of Son of the Mask. “I’ll bet if it was directed by Ang Lee, you’d be all over it,” says Kennedy, sarcastically. Roeper simply responds, “It was a terrible film”.
And Roeper is correct. Films such as Malibu’s Most Wanted and Son of the Mask are created by and for the lowest common denominator. There is nothing of value to be taken from these films. You can’t tell that to the group of interviewees that Jamie has recruited to speak on his behalf, from Jon Lovitz to Peter Guber, and Rob Zombie – the latter of whom is very negative, stating that critics “are losers who live in their basements, telling Steven Spielberg that his films suck.” In short, the interviewees in this documentary begin to seem like hecklers themselves, tossing out rude and ill-informed blanket statements concerning all critics and bloggers.
Everyone has an opinion, yet some of us have studied film and stage performances for years. We know what makes a good film. We know what is funny and what is not. Many of us offer fair and constructive critiques, taking great care not to dish out cheap insults. By this documentary alone, you’d never know that. This makes Heckler a biased and unfair vanity project for Kennedy and everyone else involved.
Adam is a hardcore film fanatic. Some would call him a film snob. They’re probably right. He's been writing film reviews for as long as he can remember, and it is truly one of his passions. Aside from writing film reviews, he is also a screenwriter. He's written two shorts in the last year, one of which he plans to shoot in the spring of 2013. His favorite filmmakers are Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, Ingmar Bergman, Michael Haneke, and David Lynch – simply too many to list here.