'Mister America': Film Review

Magnolia Pictures
Can't compete with real life.
10/9/2019

Comedian Tim Heidecker runs for political office in this feature mockumentary offshoot of his Adult Swim series 'On Cinema at the Cinema.'

Based on my very limited experiences of comedian/actor Tim Heidecker, I can say with confidence that he's an acquired taste. And after having seen the latest cinematic effort from the co-creator of such television shows as Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories and others too numerous to mention (as well as the big-screen outing Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie), I can also safely say it's a taste I won't be acquiring anytime soon. Strictly for rabid fans of Heidecker and his current Adult Swim series On Cinema at the Cinema, of which this film is a sort of offshoot, Mister America proves a witless, one-note political satire whose deficiencies are even more glaring when such humor feels entirely redundant to our current state of affairs.

The mockumentary, directed by Eric Notarnicola, chronicles Heidecker's supposed political campaign running for district attorney in San Bernardino, California. His efforts are complicated by the fact that he's not a lawyer and that he doesn't even live in the area, not to mention that he's a clueless dolt. Oh, and he's just narrowly escaped conviction on multiple murder charges relating to his involvement in marketing drug-laced electronic cigarettes that caused 18 deaths at an electronic dance music festival. (It's a joke that lands particularly flat now, in the aftermath of the real-life outbreak of fatalities and lung injuries caused by vaping.)

Heidecker, who was set free due to a mistrial, is running against the incumbent D.A. (Don Pecchia) who prosecuted him and lost the case thanks to one holdout juror (Terri Parks) who's now ineptly serving as Heidecker's campaign manager. Throughout his misbegotten political run which he's embarked upon strictly for revenge, Heidecker is plagued by the constant criticisms of his On Cinema at the Cinema co-host Gregg Turkington, who disparagingly describes his campaign as an "unofficial remake" of the 1976 Disney comedy The Shaggy D.A. starring Dean Jones (the lame joke is repeated ad nauseum). At one point, Turkington shows up at a town hall meeting, specifically to heckle Heidecker over his lack of credibility as a movie critic. We also hear unfunny recurring commentary from the judge (Curtis Webster) at the trial where Heidecker served as his own inept defense attorney.

Another lame running gag revolves around Heidecker's inartful campaign slogan, "We Have a Rat Problem!" which not surprisingly leads to refusals when he asks to post the signs outside of restaurants.

As is the case with so many mockumentaries, Mister America is almost entirely improvised (the screenplay is credited to Heidecker, Turkington and director Notarnicola). Suffice it to say that the performers here won't cause Christopher Guest and his many collaborators to lose any sleep. Feeling much, much longer than its 86-minute running time, the film features nary a single genuinely funny moment. That is, unless you find Heidecker's relentlessly boorish, ignorant persona, here mainly characterized by his constant scarfing down of McDonald's French fries, vaguely amusing.  

Production companies: Abso Lutely Productions, Williams Street
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Cast: Tim Heidecker, Gregg Turkington, Terri Parks, Don Pecchia, Curtis Webster
Director: Eric Notarnicola
Screenwriters: Tim Heidecker, Gregg Turkington, Eric Notarnicola
Producer: Andrew Porter
Executive producers: Dave Kneebone, Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim
Director of photography: Gabriel Patay
Production designer: Ayaka Ohwaki
Editor: Sascha Stanton-Craven
Costume designer: Abigail Keever

Rated R, 86 minutes