Let’s start the new year with a few low-budget laughs at the expense of the zeitgeist, shall we?
“Crazy Famous” is another “wacky gang from the mental hospital” fish out of water comedy in the “Dream Team” mold. And even though the plot is rendered less believable than it should be and the violence is both off-putting and unconvincing, there’s a chuckle, here and there, in the Bob Farkas and the way a couple of actors play it.
Gregory Lay stars as Bob Marcus, a young man hell-bent on getting famous in the American way. No, he doesn’t plan and carry out a mass shooting. No, he doesn’t grow his beard out and fake being colorful and eccentric enough to get his own reality TV show.
Bob makes his way to Camp David, strips in front of those guarding the presidential retreat, and uses a portable trampoline to bounce over the fence.
That doesn’t get him the headlines he craves. It just lands him in a mental institution, where he tries to explain his lifelong mania to not be “an average nobody.” He frustrated his stage mom and basketball coach dad back in childhood. And he never got over that.
“People would seek me out,” he thinks, if he was famous. “I’d have value.”
One half-hearted suicide attempt later, he meets his ticket out of there. It’s not Larry, the bug-eyed ranter with anger management issues (Victor Cruz). It’s not even the balding drawler who thinks he’s Dr. Phil (David Neal Levin).
Richard Short plays the mysterious British accented fellow with a few screws loose. He’s convinced he’s a secret agent. He’s sure he knows where Osama bin Laden is. As if that’s proof that he belongs in a mental hospital.
The movie’s first huge hole is the fact that we never come close to buying that this guy is crazy. We’re shown just the opposite, that the staff is medicating him and participating in interrogations of him at the behest of this government glory hog (Bob Jaffe) whom the world credits as the fellow who tracked down and killed “Jackpot,” aka Bin Laden.
Nevertheless, Bob helps Smith and Dr. Phil and Larry make a break for it. His gamble that Smith might be who he says he is pays off in an instant — martial arts expert, able to dodge the cops behind the wheel at a souped up AMC Gremlin, adept at making the most of a misunderstanding gun seller’s confusion.
And they’re off, to confront Bob’s past and hunt down Osama bin Laden.
None of which is the least it interesting, though Lay is manic enough to make at least some of the set-ups pay off.
The laughs come from the periphery, in Bob’s hapless child-actor flashbacks, in Larry’s melt-downs, and in Dr. Phil’s endless supply of quack-pot acronyms to diagnose Larry and the others. Levin’s impersonation of Oprah’s TV shrink is sort of Nick Offerman doing Dr. Phil. Every word out of his mouth is funny. He’s in the habit of walking around with no pants.
“So that mah GEN-itals may BREATHE when Ah’m SLEEPIN.'”
If only the REAL Dr. Phil was this funny.
Still, “Crazy Famous” too often reminds us of its tight budget and its screenplay, basically a collection of stereotype-crutches which don’t add up to much. The flashacks, the connection to our collective zeal for “fame” and the players — especially David Neal Levin’s spot-on take down of TV’s Texan talking-cure king — give it what little life it has.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, profanity
Cast: Gregory Lay, Richard Short, Victor Cruz, Jessica Renee Russell, David Neal Levin, Bob Jaffe
Credits:Directed by Paul Jarrett, script by Bob Farkas. A Gravitas release.
Running time: 1:18