How To Be A Man: Sundance NEXT WEEKEND Review

A contentiously crude tone makes for sometimes awkward humor.

Comedian Gavin McInnes headlines writer-director Chadd Harbold’s low-budget comedy.

Serving as a reminder that gross-out male-centric comedies aren’t just the domain of better-pedigreed productions, How To Be A Man strips the genre down to its bare essentials, which primarily has the effect of emphasizing the careful tonal calibration required to effectively pull off a such a relentless raunch-fest. The college-humor crowd will no doubt take notice if Man finds release on digital platforms, which could help spur limited theatrical opportunities. The film world-premiered at the Sundance Institute’s Los Angeles “NEXT WEEKEND” event, a four-day festival for short films and low-budget features.

New York advertising exec and former stand-up comedian Mark (Gavin McInnes), convinced he has cancer after a self-exam reveals a lump in one of his “man-boobs,” decides to shoot a series of videos documenting a variety of life lessons for his unborn son. Concealing the plan from his pregnant wife, he guilt-trips the slacker, college-age son of an online acquaintance into being his camera operator and sidekick for creating the video segments. Bryan (Liam Aiken) doesn’t have much going on, so agrees to take the gig with only Mark’s promise of hard-won wisdom as his only compensation.

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Segments on dealing with bullying (and how to fight back), men’s fashion and male grooming quickly lead to discussions about dating, sex and drugs. In short order, Mark’s introducing Bryan to hard drugs and coaching him on the finer points of cunnilingus (in an extended, shamelessly descriptive barroom scene). Fed up with his inanely juvenile acting out, Mark’s boss fires him, then his wife kicks him out and even Bryan abandons him.

As much a coming of age for 40-something Mark as for newbie Bryan, Chadd Harbold’s second feature makes most midlife crises look like mild mood swings. With his extensive media background, Vice Magazine co-founder, comedian and ad-man McInnes would seem to be a savvy commentator on contemporary male foibles, but Man’s litany of life lessons turns out to have variable appeal when reduced to their lowest common denominators of sex, partying and bodily functions.

As both co-writer and star, McInnes fully indulges his raunchy tendencies, with intermittently comic results. Aiken really doesn’t have enough to do to flesh out Bryan’s character before the final half-hour finds him humorously attempting to implement Mark’s advice.

Harbold and co-writer Bryan Gaynor appear to have devoted most of the plot to indulging McInnes’ performance, which allows Harbold to direct the film by foregrounding the actors without obtrusive stylistic flourishes. How To Be A Man is the first feature film from Fox Digital Studio proffered for theatrical acquisition.

Venue: Sundance NEXT WEEKEND

Production company: Fox Digital Studio

Cast: Gavin McInnes, Liam Aiken, Megan Neuringer, Marisa Redanty

Director: Chadd Harbold

Screenwriters: Bryan Gaynor, Chadd Harbold, Gavin McInnes

Producer: Terry Leonard

Executive Producers: Gavin McInnes, Bryan Gaynor, Chadd Harbold

Director of photography:Ryan Samul

Production designer: Annie Simeone

Costume designer: Elisabeth Vastola

Editor: Bryan Gaynor

Sales: SubmarineEntertainment

No rating, 90 minutes