The great thing about social observer-documentarian Morgan Spurlock is that he works — a lot. He’s constantly got films or TV shows in pre-production, post-production or in theaters, films that have a take on this or that corner of the American zeitgeist. He’s done “Super Size Me” and “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” and “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden.” So it doesn’t mater when he misses the mark. There’s always something else coming right after it that could connect.
Spurlock follows his amusing and perceptive “Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope,” with “Mansome,” a weak , myopic and generally unamusing look at a legitimate social phenomenon — the rise of the metrosexuals, aka men “who think too much about their appearance.”
It’s a mockumentary, of sorts, about American manhood and the growing obsession with grooming and preening male self-image. Assorted guys — and Spurlock samples a tiny pool of “experts,” and comic actors who have either worked with Judd Apatow, or should work with him — talk about facial hair, narcissism and the changing image of manliness.
Not so much about the last one, which may be where this film should live. Spurlock, who started his career making a movie about himself and his health after taking on an all-
McDonald’s diet, hijacks his own movie in the first ten minutes. A balding fortysomething who has sported a Fu Manchu moustache for years, he wanders into the land of facial hair and wonders whether or not he should shave it. Since he opens the film with over ten indulgent minutes of this, with John Waters discussing his pencil-thin moustache and others identifying the various shapes, from the “chevron” to the “toothbrush” to everybody’s favorite, the “porn-stache,” “Mansome” struggles to finds its tone, its voice and its message.
Funnymen Jason Bateman and Will Arnett provide the connecting tissue, followed as they have a day-long chat about manliness and being “mansome” as they get every spa treatment under the sun. The Old Spice Guy (actor Isaiah Mustafa) weighs in on the broader subjects, and the bearded Zach Galifianakis declares “Real men don’t hang out with models, and don’t tweet.”
You get a feeling of haste from this film, as if Spurlock, as usual, is onto something, but maybe doesn’t have the time or patience to stick with it to widen his approach and find sharper people to sharpen his material. Yes, it’s ironic that Galifianakis, who has built his career or lumpy, fey characters, should be lecturing American men on manliness. Not that funny, though. And posing comic Adam Carolla in a garage in front of a couple of vintage Ford Mustangs while he makes his points about the narrowing differences between men and women in career terms (bartenders, pilots, plumbers) seemed like a better idea than it turns out to be.
When one expert suggests that “women today want men to man up,” we’ve gotten to the heart of the argument. Showing us another 45 minutes of men getting fitted for wigs (“systems”) and kvetching over removing four stray hairs in their eyebrows doesn’t settle it.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some crude material
Cast: Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Paul Rudd, Judd Apatow, Morgan Spurlock
Credits: Directed by Morgan Spurlock. A Paladin release.
Running time: 1:24