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Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show
New Line Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 6/3/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/31/2008
Of all of the sub-genres of comedy movies, the concert film may be the most obscure. Other then Richard Pryor, with his hits Live on the Sunset Strip and Here and Now, there haven't been many theatrically released stand-up comedy performance films which got much notice. (DysFunktional Family, anyone?) In contrast, documentaries, once a financial wasteland, have become increasingly popular as of late. Thus, it's not surprising that Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show, a movie which could have easily been a concert film, is presented as more of a documentary. But, does this mixing of genres work?
In Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show we learn that Vince Vaughn, known for his roles in films like Wedding Crashers and Swingers, decides to take four up & coming, but relatively unknown, stand-up comics on the road. The plan is to play 30 performances in 30 days. Along with friend and producer Peter Billingsley (yes, that Peter Billingsley), Vaughn arranges the tour. He selects comics Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst, and Sebastian Maniscalco for the journey. Some shows also feature appearance by Jon Favreau, Justin Long, and Keir O'Donnell, who appeared with Vaughn in Wedding Crashers. The film combines footages from the live shows with behind-the-scenes moments showing the pressure on the group to travel cross-county in a short amount of time. We see life on the tour bus, and the historic spots which the comedians visit along the way.
I hate to get so specific so soon, but Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show is an oddly edited movie. Editors Jim Kelly and Dan Lebental have tried too hard to make this movie feel like other documentaries. The problems arise from the outset, where footage of Vaughn discussing his plans for the tour are intercut with footage of the comedians on-stage. This doesn't sound so bad, but the issue is with the material from the comics. Apparently, for some reason, they chose the absolute worst stuff from the comics to feature at the beginning of the film. So, the first time that we see Ahmed, Caparulo, Ernst, and Maniscalco they are delivering brutally unfunny performances. This will be an immediate turn-off to many viewers. From there, the movie settles down into a fairly standard travelogue which documents the tour. Throughout the movie, the film sets aside time to focus on each comic, allowing them to tell their own personal story. However, we are given any indication that this will be the format and it suddenly appears that Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show is only going to focus on one guy. But, we soon learn that all four comics will get their private time on camera.
Once we get past the awkward style of the film, there is some surprisingly good stuff here. Vaughn is the host of the show, and he's also the host of the film, as he's on-camera quite a bit. And love him or hate him, Vaughn comes across as a truly fun and generous person. (Of course, this could all be an act for the camera.) Following that dismal start, the movie begins to feature more footage of the comics, and while I haven't felt inspired to run out and see any of them live, there are some funny moments here. Ernst has a great routine about roller skating rinks, and despite the fact that I've been telling similar jokes for years, Maniscaclo's observations on Ross Dress For Less stores are funny because they are true. One of the moments with O'Donnell, who is essentially recreating his character from Wedding Crashers, is very funny.
The most startling thing about Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show is how dramatic it gets at times. I'm not referring to the bizarre prima donna antics of the men on the bus, but the moments where the comics get to tell their own stories. All four have struggled in their careers, and learning their back-stories puts a different spin on the film. The movie was shot in 2005 and the tour has to re-schedule some shows due to Hurricane Katrina. When Vaughn learns that Katrina refugees are staying near one of the tour stops, he arranges for the comedians to visit them and provide tickets and transportation to the show. This very human moment, in the midst of sex jokes and other shenanigans, is sobering and touching. There is also a moving moment at the end where one of the comedians breaks down because he's some overwhelmed by the entire experience.
The problem that many are going to have with Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show is that it bears a remarkable resemblance to Dane Cook's Tourgasm which aired on HBO in the summer of 2006. Maybe that's why it took so long for Vaughn's film to be released -- they wanted to avoid comparisons. (Although, this doesn't have the mean-spirited tone which often permeated Tourgasm.) At best, Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show is a mixed bag. Some of the stand-up routines are funny, but most are no better than what you'd find on Comedy Central on any given night. The behind-the-scenes footage from the tour is far more interesting, as it documents the pressures of putting something like this together. By the end, we've grown to like everyone on the tour (save for Billingsley, who never seems happy), and we've learned that Vince Vaughn takes care of his friends.
Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show travels to DVD courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. According to IMDB.com, the movie was shot on HD, but I can't confirm this. The image does vary in quality from scene-to-scene. Overall, the image is fairly sharp and clear. Some scenes show some video noise and some shimmering around the figures on screen. The colors are fine, but white's (like Justin Long's shirt in one of the first scenes) can be overly bright. The image isn't necessarily grainy, but it does degrade during moments with low-light. Fleshtones look waxy in some shots. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The dialogue during the interviews and behind-the-scenes footage sounds good, as do the comedian's performances. The bulk of the audio comes from the front and center channel, but the audience noise often fills the surround speakers.
The Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show DVD contains a surprising amount of extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Producer Vince Vaughn and Executive Producer Peter Billingsley. The two old friends speak at length and give scene-specific commentary. Some of their comments echo information from the movie, but they discuss the logistics of the tour and add personal reflections of working on the show and their impressions of the participants of the show. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY by Director Ari Sandel and comedians Bret Ernst, Sebastian Maniscalco, and Ahmed Ahmed. This talk is very scene-specific as well, and the speakers share recollections for each scene. When the comics aren't on-screen, Sandel talks about the experience of shooting in so many different places. "Bonus Material" is essentially ten deleted scenes and runs about 54 minutes. Here we get more interviews with the comics as well as additional stand-up material. There are also some extra skits, including Vince Vaughn and Justin Long doing a song from Grease. "The Tour" (6 minutes) has those involved with the film discussing the logistics of planning a 30 shows in 30 days tour. "The Making of Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show" (6 minutes) contains comments from the filmmakers and the cast, where they talk about their approach to the project and what the goal for it was. "Wild West Comedy Show (Behind the Scenes)" (10 minutes) is more like additional footage as we get more candid moments with Vaughn and the comedians. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film, which is letterboxed at 1.78:1.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long