Reviewing a movie like "Heckler" feels like a set-up.
I am a legitimate critic reviewing a pre-release DVD screener provided by the film's producers. But what makes me legitimate? I wouldn't be writing this if they hadn't sent me the disc.
What does this have to do with heckling, anyway? Nothing. The first half-or-so of the movie is dedicated to brief clips of comics discussing memorable instances of hecklers interrupting their sets interspersed with footage of hecklers in action. This part of the film is sporadically amusing, featuring a broad variety of talented stand-up comics such as Nick Swardson, David Cross, Andy Kindler, Eugene Mirman and Paul F. Tompkins (see the "Heckler" IMDB page for a full listing), and concludes that hecklers are usually drunk and losing a difficult battle with the very strong impulse (as Maria Bamford confirms) to join in and shout things out.
"Please don't do it anymore" say the comics.
I'd have appreciated more in-depth interviews and more investigation into the psychology of heckling, including more discussion about what it is about stand-up comedy that attracts this kind of behavior. I fully admit I am spoiled by the treatment these topics receive on the "Comedy and Everything Else" podcast (co-hosted by "Heckler" commentator Todd Glass). But to be fair, the movie is called "Heckler".
Following a few clips of Kennedy bombing with hacky material about the negativity of country music he invites a couple of very ballsy disgruntled "fans" to come backstage and critique his set. What this proves I have no idea, except that maybe when you invite people to be rude to you while appearing in a movie, they'll do it.
Unfortunately the "heckle" portion of the film ends about a half hour in and is followed the "critic" portion, which largely features critically maligned filmmakers like Joel Schumacher offering clichéd attacks on film critics. At least Kevin Smith had the good sense to bash unqualified internet critics through his misguided, dopey film duo Jay and Silent Bob.
'You're a frustrated failure.' 'What have you ever done?' 'Until you do what I do you can't criticize.' 'You're a fat kid in a basement.' 'You're just a guy on the internet.'
Well, I am just a guy on the internet. I have written some pretty mean things about bad movies. But nowhere in "Heckler" does Jamie Kennedy mention that reviews are not written for the people who made the work. If you are a filmmaker or performer and you go on the record bitching about critics, you do yourself a disservice. People aren't even very sympathetic about the paparazzi, and those people actually invade privacy and take naked pictures. Don't even start with critics—it all sounds like the teacher's pet griping about an A-minus.
Despite numerous attempts, Jaime Kennedy fails to bait Carrot Top, who comes off as a total class act. The last half of the film, however, is full of major entertainers embarrassing themselves in this way. Also, Arsenio Hall does it. There is a segment that shows straight-to-DVD video game adaptation king Uwe Boll challenging his critics to a boxing match. I applaud this ultimate escalation of the dreaded argument "oh yeah??" to the final word on art, "I punch you!"
Insanely successful film producer Peter Guber says it best: "If you're making 'Earthquake 7' ... you don't care- when they say they give you two thumbs up, way up, way way up or down at all, because you know what the kids are saying? I want to see those CGI effects. I want to hear that noise."
For what it's worth, that's actually pretty close to the truth of the matter. You can't read your own reviews. You can't let it invade your own art. Publicizing your work is supposed to be for the common entertainment, not some kind of self-indulgent circle-jerk of criticism and self-loathing. If you've made "Earthquake VII" then you already don't care, anyway.
Maybe Kennedy could have offered some solution for entertainers trying to wean themselves from reading their own press. A movie about the psychology of internet commentators might be interesting. But this movie is just taking the bait. It's exactly what hecklers and juvenile internet critics want—acknowledgement. The toothless, wounded whining is the exact opposite of a comic's withering takedown, which the movie really needed to be.
Oh, and hi, Jaime. Best of luck to you, guy.