'Mister America' film review: Heidecker fans: rejoice! Everyone else: pass.
"Wouldn't it be funny if there was a movie about an accused murderer running for district attorney?" No, apparently it would not be funny - submitted as evidence is the toothless, lazy satirical mockumentary "Mister America" (screens at the 2019 Tacoma Film Festival and plays in select theaters Oct. 9).
In short: After beating a murder charge, spiteful concert promoter Tim Heidecker (playing a hyperbolic version of himself) runs for the San Bernardino District Attorney's office against the prosecutor of his case.
Simply put, "Mister America" is a shallow satire and a shell of a mockumentary without dimension or depth. As a political spoof, "America" utterly falters - it provides no social commentary or criticism beyond "petty, unqualified suspected murders shouldn't run for public office." This proclamation is hardly a revelation on any scale, but even more frustrating is how underdeveloped "America" is as a mockumentary.
Heidecker plays a flippant, petty, exaggerated version of himself, a character who has also hosts the Adult Swim movie review series "On Cinema at the Cinema." And this is likely where "Mister America" loses everyone except the die-hard "On Cinema" fans. Long story short, this film is very much tied into the "On Cinema" series, which itself spun-off yet another web/Adult Swim series called "Decker." None of this means anything to any casual movie fan based on the trailer, which sells "America" is a ridiculous mockumentary take on political campaigns. Heidecker and company are trying to play four-dimensional chess - with him playing a character based on himself who appears in an entirely separate absurd movie review series of shorts that featured a b-plot where he allegedly killed dozens of kids ... and that much effort for this dud was just not worth it.
And it's not just that "America" has very little to say about anything, its runtime is also padded with inane moments that neither move the story forward nor say much about Heidecker's stupid character. Watching him repeatedly futz with his Apple Watch, complain about a pen, mess with a YouTube clip or forget his car keys are just a few of the brief moments that add little to nothing of value. The totality of these moments is the equivalent of death by a thousand paper cuts.
One particular interview with frequent "On Cinema" guest Gregg Turkington captures the misfires of "Mister America" as a whole. It's a meandering, toothless "interview" with more banal movie trivia than anything resembling comedy or narrative impulse. But even if the audience can disregard the scene's meager laughs, the content of the interview itself just serves as flat exposition: Turkington just says Heidecker is an ass. That's it. The film barely makes a minimal effort beyond that dialogue to expose or show that Heidecker is indeed a fool. It's really the perfect summation of this film: a character babbles some statement, and just leaves it there.
Heidecker's campaign is a waste of time. Watching his stagnant campaign is a waste of time. And all of that would still be tolerable if "Mister America" had any type of narrative or character trajectory. But rest assured, Heidecker's character is every bit as unrepentant and deluded in the film's opening moments as he is in the closing scene. There's no narrative tension because his campaign is obviously doomed from the opening scenes. The macro-level gag is just how funny it would be to waste everyone's time - and in this regard, and only this regard, is "Mister America" a success.
In its closing moments, "America" laments the public's love of style over substance, yet "Mister America" is all style and no substance. Its protagonist is a buffoon throwing himself into a totally normal political process. And aside from the very small, seemingly insignificant protagonist, little about this campaign is worth the time of any documentary filmmaker. Time and again, the film just shows how grossly unqualified the protagonist is for any job (much less district attorney), and with the exception of a single other supporting character, every agrees: Heidecker is an ass.
Final verdict: More thought went into the simple, absurd premise of "Mister America" than into the execution of this anemic anti-comedy misfire.
"Mister America" screens at the 2019 Tacoma Film Festival and plays in select theaters Oct. 9. This satire mockumentary has a running time of 91 minutes and is rated R for language and some drug use.