Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What's On Netflix?: INTERNET FAMOUS

Welcome to another installment of WHAT'S ON NETFLIX?, where we pick out a film currently playing on Netflix and review it for the fans. This week's selection is the new comedy...INTERNET FAMOUS.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. While it would be foolish to argue that YouTube isn't a legitimate platform for easily distributing content to a wide audience, there's still no denying that there are those who have won more fame via social media than reason, or even basic common sense, would allow. It's the kind of silliness that cries out for a satire.

Internet Famous is that satire. Director Michael J Gallagher (currently enjoying his own Internet-launched career) sends up this strange phenomenon with a documentary-style comedy about five fictional YouTube mega-stars who have been selected as finalists for the coveted "Web Star of the Year" award.

Each of the five finalists, objectively talentless hacks all, represents a basic YouTuber stereotype. Tomas Butterman (aka "Tomas the Parody Boss"), played by YouTube star Shane Dawson, rose to fame and ludicrous fortune making the lamest song parodies imaginable. What Tomas lacks in songwriting ability, he makes up for in ego, making no secret of the fact that he believes he deserves his fabulous success, and that his legions of fans (or "employees", as he calls them) exist to ensure his gravy train keeps rolling.

Dale Hand (Steve Greene) makes baby videos, specifically frightened baby videos for his YouTube series "That's One Scared Baby." There are no depths to which Dale will not sink -- even faking his own murder -- to terrify his infant daughter. The less said about him, the better.

Amber Day (Amanda Cerny) fancies herself a comedienne, and while she does have two exceptional talents, comedy isn't one of them. Neither is she "all this and brains, too", as she actually believes her vastly majority-male audience support her because they think she's funny.

Dennis Wasserman (Richard Ryan) makes cat videos -- you knew that was coming -- and considers himself the greatest of the great filmmakers. Picture someone baptized in the name of Kubrick, Scorsese and Wells and you're not even close to the self-delusion that grips this character.

And finally, we have Veronica Decker (Wendy McColm). Some time ago, Veronica was filmed doing a silly walk by her friend, who posted the video online and promptly forgot about it. The video languished in obscurity until another YouTuber set it to dance music. That version, through the whims of cruel and capricious chance, became insanely popular, and now Veronica bears the cross of unwanted fame as the "Wobbly-Walk Girl".

Perhaps if I was the kind of person who was likely to laugh at the average YouTube video, I would think Internet Famous was funny. There were points in the movie that made me laugh -- mostly toward the end, including an epilogue for Tomas -- but mostly Internet Famous holds the mirror up to social media fame a little too well. Parody gets funnier the more truth it contains, but only up to a point; after this equivalent of the Uncanny Valley, parody ceases to be comedy, and becomes an uncomfortably candid look at something we'd rather not think about.

For most of the movie, Tomas, Dale and Dennis, two egotistical jackasses and a monster of the foulest order, respectively, represent this problem for me. Tomas shows glimmers of potential humor, and eventually comes around, but Dale and Dennis remain repugnant from start to finish. Even at the very end, when Dale has his moment of redemption, the film manages to ruin the moment and keep Dale thoroughly unlikeable.

The two places the film gets it right are in the characters of Amber and Veronica. The stereotype of a woman who looks like Amber is that she knows exactly what she's got and uses the interwebs to milk it for all it's worth. Amber, in contrast, seems genuinely unaware of how she looks. This didn't make her scenes any funnier for me -- bad comedy isn't funny, it's just bad -- but it at least gave her a certain endearing quality that kept her from being boring.

Veronica, meanwhile, has become famous for the wrong reasons. Not everyone likes the idea of being famous no matter what, and Veronica's frustration with her persistent popularity makes her the character for the rest of us, the weirdos who don't dream of instant success for a moment of stupidity.

Internet Famous is clearly aimed at an audience to which I do not belong, so take my outsider's reaction as you will. As a comedy, you could do worse: Internet Famous is funny, if only sporadically, instead of being simply disgusting or moronically stupid. As a mockumentary, it's great: I had a better first-viewing experience with this than I did with This is Spinal Tap. But as a parody, it fails. Internet Famous sees its subject a little too clearly, and looks at it a little too directly. Truth is stranger than fiction, but I would have preferred a little more fiction in my truth this time.

Internet Famous is not rated.

Robert's Score: 5/10

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