Dir. Ari Sandel. US, 2006.110mins.
The odd thing about Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show is that itson-screen success has little to do with Vaughn himself. The US actor may be theimpresario behind the comedy show, which was inspired by Buffalo Bill'straveling festival and played in 30 cities across America over 30 nights duringSeptember 2005 - but despite the billing, he is not the star.
That distinction insteadgoes to the four comedians Vaughn had the smarts to handpick for the stageshow: Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo,Bret Ernst and Sebastian Maniscalco. The foursome not only give this laugh-out-loud, unexpectedlysweet documentary its humour - they also provide itsheart.
In fact, Vaughnis stilted for the most part onscreen, with a fewnotable exceptions (his on-stage reminiscences with best friend Peter Billingsleyare both funny and charming). But it's his name which sold the show to crowdsof 1,000-plus and which will sell this on-and-off stage documentary; it was hisinspiration to put it all together; and as a producer he'll deservedly reap thekudos.
A theatricalouting in the US is assured but VinceVaughn's Wild West Comedy Show is not a natural fit for doc audiences.Rather it will draw a wide male-skewed comedy crowd, helped by the fact it runsthrough 30 cities cross-country. Ancillary should be very solid, but stronglanguage may pose ratings issues, and an international crossover is lessassured. Some of the humour is very home-grown, andthe film could happily size down to 100 minutes.
Vaughn's fourcomedians outshine his guest stars en route (including Jon Favreau,Dwight Yokam and Buck Owens) and as their storiesbegin to emerge, they dominate the film. Egyptian-American Ahmed's riffs onairplane travel as an Arab hit the funny bone, but there's asadness behind his 12-hour detention in Las Vegas airport and hisfather's refusal to speak to him for seven years.
Likewise, Ernst'sfunny riffs on his gay older brother are made bittersweet by the revelationthat his beloved sibling died of AIDS in 2001.
Newcomer Maniscalco jokes about his day job - waiting tables - but it'sobvious how much he does not want to go back there, while toilet-mouthed Caparulo has a challenge in Birmingham, Alabama, to keep itclean. All have good nights, all have bad.
The tour shifts agear when Hurricane Rita starts to hit, and tour impresario Vaughn findshimself changing dates and performing benefits - at which point the reluctantcomedians are dispatched to a displaced peoples' campsite to hand out tickets,which ultimately becomes one of the more endearing moments.
The film runs outof steam somewhat as the tour hits its 23rd city and thereafter it feels like aflat travelogue-cum-countdown to the last night in Chicago (it opened in LA) asit becomes clear the highlights have now passed.
But for the mostpart, Vince Vaughn's Wild West ComedyShow works, and as we leave the gang onstage, we're reminded of Maniscalco's poignant gag: "One day your name is up inlights, the next day it's on a nametag."
Wild West Picture Show Productions