Queued Up – The Movie Hero

Looking for a movie to watch but there’s nothing good on television and you don’t want to drive to your local Redbox or video store? This column takes a peak at some of the curiosities to be found on Netflix Instant Streaming. Today: The Movie Hero

“Thou movie, which art on screen, hallowed be they name. The time has come. Thou will be shown in theaters as well as home. Give us this day our daily film and forgive our bad choices, as we forgive those whose movies were so bad to choose. And lead us not into television, but deliver us from that evil, for movies are the picture and the sound, and the greatest thing in the whole wide world, forever and ever.”

—   Blake Gardner

Every one of us has, at some time or another, imagined we were the heroes of our own movie. Whether it’s while venturing out into the darkened basement to check the fuse box and imagining what evil horror movie-spawned monstrosity was waiting for us under the staircase or the swelling of music we hear in our heads every time we kiss a loved one and imagine a future spent happily ever after, we’ve been conditioned by film to structure our lives into a solid, plot-driven stories — with trailer-made heroes and villains.

In Brad T. Gottfred’s The Movie Hero, Jeremy Sisto stars as Blake Gardner, a charismatic movie buff who may or may not be completely insane. Blake doesn’t seem to hold a real job, lives in a tiny apartment and can’t maintain a solid relationship. He leads a completely blissful life, though — wandering around the streets of Hollywood and narrating his life’s adventure to an unseen audience he believes is watching his every move play out on the big screen.

Like many self-absorbed Americans, Blake believes he is the star of his own movie. The difference, though, is that Blake literally believes his life is a film. He frequently looks into the camera and addresses viewers as if they were old friends — fellow travelers in his life’s journey.

Gottfred’s movie valiantly rises above a plot whose preciousness often threatens to overwhelm the film as a whole — becoming a cute, glossy comedy that, upon further inspection, has quite a bit to say about the nature of being a movie fan.

After his latest girlfriend dumps him, Blake quickly sets out to find a new distraction — something that will maintain his audience’s attention. He settles upon a sinister-looking character played by Peter Stormare. Dressed like an ‘80s era punk who shops at a ‘90s era TJ Max, Stormare’s unnamed villain turns out to have quite a few screws loose in his own head — making him the perfect foil for Blake.

Blake’s newfound quest — to discover just what, exactly makes the suspicious character he’s trailing so suspicious so he can put an end to whatever evils Blake is convinced the character is committing — sends him on a fast-paced journey that will introduce him to a sidekick (Brian J. White as a young black comedian who’s determined not to be the stereotypical young black comedian sidekick) and put Blake in the company of his love interest, a sympathetic psychiatrist played by Dina Meyer.

Meyer plays Elizabeth Orlando, a movie-hating doctor who at first resists Blake’s admittedly creepy instances that she is his love interest but quickly succumbs to the young man’s charming intensity. In other words, the relationship is just as unbelievable as most action movie love stories — either a wise metatextual choice by writer/director Gottfred or a small bump in the road of an otherwise charming film.

The Movie Hero is a film built squarely on a gimmick. Much of the movie consists of Jeremy Sisto narrating and pontificating while looking straight into the camera. Every frame choice and camera movement is cleverly designed to facilitate and enhance the film’s gimmick. While it comes close to doing so, though, The Movie Hero‘s gimmick never quite overwhelms the movie’s strongest feature — its script. Gottfred has written a clever film that, through strong metatextual overtones, examines both movies and the relationship between a movie and its audience.

At one point in the film, Blake laments the fact that his love interest is currently engaged to a complete asshole. It’s not the fact that Blake has competition that bothers him — it’s the fact that his competition is such a loser. What does it say about Blake that he is attracted to a woman who is attracted to a loser? The very presence of Elizabeth’s fiancé in Blake’s life story casts a pallid light on the film that is playing out in his head.

It’s this tongue-in-cheek self-examination of the film medium that helps make The Movie Hero such an engaging film. Between Jeremy Sisto’s enthusiastic charm and his wide-eyed, earnest delivery of the script, The Movie Hero nicely walks the fine line between groan-worthy second-rate film school psychobabble and the true-to-life musings of somebody who is genuinely in love with film.

That somebody is clearly Gottfred — since much of The Movie Hero is autobiographical. Gofffred, who admits to believing he has an audience much like his character’s, puts a lot of his own passions and feelings into his movie — their presence cleanly and vibrantly poking out through the veneer of the film’s too-cute-for-its-own-good fantasy storyline about a villain intent on stealing the audiences from those he meets. This extended metaphor-cum-super villain plot threatens to derail the film’s top-notch self-reflection — sending the movie caravanning towards low-rent Phillip Kaufman material.

Thankfully, The Movie Hero has a strong enough skeleton for its script that even the clumsy way the movie handles its fantastical elements isn’t enough to drown out the passionate musings Gottfred throws in about the power of film to inspire and enhance a dreamer’s life.

It’s when Gottfred concentrates on Sisto and his zealous attempt to vocalize his views on the power of cinema to his psychiatrist that the film becomes meaningful and flirts with greatness.

Watch The Movie Hero on Netflix:

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