“Fame” doesn’t mean what it used to.
And that’s just hard for a “talented, really pretty” small-town girl named Katelyn (Meredith Hagner) to accept. I mean, she’s already got her conversation with “Ellen” worked out, the “recording” she has set up with Kanye, the love she has for her boyfriend, Ryan Gosling.
Her ticket out of tiny, backward Liberty, New York is “The Voice.” But she can’t get the cash together to record a demo and get an audition. And every time she turns around, a “Teen Mom” is riding homemade sex videos or her tantrum-tossing Dad (Matt Walsh) is becoming a semi-accidental viral video sensation and stealing the fame that is rightfully hers.
Comic actor and stand-up David Cross wrote-and-directed “Hits,” a hit-or-miss “Call in favors” comic commentary on the viral age, small town provincialism and the delusions the culture is feeding us in an era when “talent” won’t get you anywhere, but “attention,” any kind, will.
Katelyn is absolutely convinced of her due. But Dad’s endless Liberty Town Council tirades have given him what she can’t buy — even when she furiously trades sex for recording studio time with a stoner creep (Jason Ritter, perfect) who makes records out of the non-soundproof living room of his dump of a row house.
If you’ve never been to a small town government meeting, you have little idea what you’re missing. Movies and TV, and even closed circuit TV recordings just don’t do them justice. There is always a local crank, a self-appointed gadfly, and Dave Stuben (Walsh) fills that bill, when he isn’t working for Liberty’s local recycling center.
“That pain in the ass,” is how one and all describe him.
Snow removal, potholes or changes to the local restaurant menu set him off, burning up his three allotted minutes speaking time before the council in weekly tirades.
“TIME, Mr. Stuben,” Council President Casserta (Amy Carlson) always barks. When he detours into threats and profanities, he gets arrested. That gets the attention of Casserta’s son (Michael Cera), making his way as a craft-weed dope dealer in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
That’s how the DIY home business activist and hipster doofus Donovan (James Adomian) sees the council videos of Stuben, edits them into a hit montage — comparing him to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and drawing a Hitler mustache onto Casserta in “A Dave that Will Live in History.”
“The town of Liberty, New York, has become Berlin under Hitler!”
Even the nerdy would-be rapper Cory “C-to-the-Y” (Jake Cherry) who lusts after Katelyn has gone viral, picking a rap fight at a high school beer bust, losing and having a video mocking him posted. And “blowing up.”
“Hits,” as you might have gathered, is a comically cluttered mess of a movie. Donovan rounds up his “Think Tank” acolytes (Derek Waters of “Drunk History” and Wyatt Cenac of “The Daily Show”) to take Dave’s “story” to the world — only to be pre-empted by every other viral video marketing/advocacy organization, including CNN.
Erinn Hayes plays Donovan’s baby-obsessed and frustrated wife. We also get tastes of Julia Stiles, Russ Tamblyn and David Koechner, playing a redneck’s redneck, all about guns and talking guns and bitching about city idiots — “Cidiots.”
“We got ourselves a real Rosa Parks, here!”
Amy Sedaris plays Katelyn’s jaded bar manager boss, the one who asks the tough but slow-to-be-answered question — “Does she have any talent?”
Walsh, a veteran character actor (“Veep”) makes the most of his rare leading man turn, wholly embodying the screamers among us who have deep, dark beliefs of the Alex Jones “Infowars” variety, bigotry that rural echo chambers tolerate and foster.
Random bits are hilarious — the competition between viral “push” organizations, all based in Brooklyn (“Greenpoint?” “Bushwick.”), the inane euphemisms hipsters use for simple works like “toilet,””coffee” etc.
But the problem with rounding up every comic friend you can think of to make a movie is that virtually none of them see their characters properly served. Everybody — everybody funny anyway — gets short shrift.
Still, Cross made this 2014 movie, “A true story…that hasn’t happened yet.” And looking at the America of 2018, one year into the reality star presidency, you’d have to call the man a prophet. “Hits” isn’t a great comedy, but given all that’s come after it, it’s worth a second look.
MPAA Rating: unrated, sexual situations, smoking, profanity
Cast: Meredith Hagner, Matt Walsh, Amy Sedaris, Michael Cera, David Koechner, Julia Stiles, Derek Waters, Russ Tamblyn
Credits: Written and directed by David Cross. An Honora release.
Running time: 1:36