By Elias Savada.
Little did Elton John realize that the filmmakers behind Crazy Famous, a lame adventure comedy set in an Upstate New York asylum, might actually try to build a script reversing his quote, “Fame Attracts Lunatics,” into a torpid feature about to hit the VOD, Digital HD, and DVD markets where it might achieve the infamy it deserves. Yes, mark your calendars: January 9, 2018 – the day to do anything but watch this film.
As this lame entertainment about fame and its fleeting essence (for the average Joe, or in this case, the average Bob) opens, there’s a delusional male figure standing in his underpants, shoes, and socks just inside the fence at Camp David. Yeah, I can guess who you think this might be – and I wish it was – but, alas, Crazy Famous is not a documentary about the 45th President of the United States, although it focuses on someone whose hat might read “Make America Think I’m Great.” Heck, Mr. Trump is not even at his retreat in the Maryland mountains when Bob Marcus jumps the compound’s fence, which lands him in a sanitarium rather than jail.
So it is that Bob Marcus is au naturel-ly introduced to the world. He obsesses about getting his few minutes of fame, although his intrusion to the Presidential retreat brings no news interest. Yet, damn it all, he gets 78 minutes of attempted celebrity in this feature produced and written by Bob Farkas (his first script) and directed by Paul Jarrett, also along for his first feature credit. Jarrett has dozens of field producer-second unit director credits for many obscure films and less-than-remarkable television shows. Crazy Famous seems like the expected progression.
When under diagnosis from a doctor at the way-too-hang-loose Montgomery Mental Institution where Bob lands, he belligerently refuses to accept the reality that he is an average nobody doing average things. This energetic, misguided soul screams at anyone who refuses to believe in his life’s ambition. “I just want to be famous,” he tells any nearby lunatic, whether he’s a livid, bug-eyed anger management sufferer (Larry, played by Victor Cruz as a crazed, chubby version of Louis C.K.); the British-accented “Mr. Smith” (Richard Short), a Osama bin Laden-CIA conspiracy theorist/faux (possibly) James Bond spy; or another bald-headed inmate (David Neal Levin – the best actor in this middling effort) who makes comic lightness of his cellmates’ fears and deficiencies by speaking clinical observations into an imaginary audio recording device with the voice and tone that closely mimics Dr. Phil. If you’re expecting the rulers of the mad kingdom might be a little loose with outlandish medical therapy that definitely skirts the Geneva Convention and borders on war crime, you’d be right. Cue the smarmy dialogue and the stereotypes. Add in a dash of palace intrigue, as the government spooks are pulled into the mix, because, it seems, Mr. Smith does know a bit about a certain secret government intelligence projects surrounding the deceased founder of al-Qaeda. The joke that won’t make you laugh is that “Mr. Smith” keeps calling Bob “Felix,” apparently after Felix Leiter, the fictional James Bond character.
The plot meanders about, hopscotching from one character to the other, offering up weak genital and anal cavity jokes and ineffective pratfalls. It may be skit-worthy, but it shows how unfocused the script is. Toss in a lame escape (there’s a reason, albeit a silly one), a run in at a nearby gun shop, and a Q – as in the Ian Fleming character – lite equipped AMC Gremlin getaway car, a failed family reunion, a hike in the woods, a variety of insulting masquerades, and a government cover-up. A mixed stew that remains, in the end, undercooked and lacking any flavor.
Bob, a man on suicide watch while at the cuckoo’s nest, still is allowed to shave himself, as his face is too beautifully clean. His hair looks nicely trimmed, too. Hannah (Jessica Renee Russell), another resident in the asylum, takes a glow to the proverbial handsome hero. From the chemistry displayed, I suspect her reasons are derived from simple boredom, especially if she’s provided insipid dialogue that talks about being anally raped by Santa Claus. Ho, Ho, Not.
Of course, putting a funny slant of Bob’s ineffective suicide attempts won’t help him gain any fame. In fact, if he’s successful in killing himself, that really puts a damper on his greatness goal. What’s the use of celebrating if you’re not at the party?
Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He has helped program the Spooky Movie International Movie Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He served as an executive producer on the 2015 horror film German Angst, the new supernatural thriller Ayla, Penny Lane’s award-winning documentary Nuts!, and her new documentary-horror film The Pain of Others. He co-authored, with David J. Skal, Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning (an enlarged, revised edition will be published in 2018 by Centipede Press).