[Like the "10 for 10" series but a little longer. It's my endeavor to clean the backlog slate (with some things watched well over a year ago now) this month with 20 reviews written in 20 minutes (each) over 20 days. Oops, I missed a day, so double dipping today. This one in 20 minutes for sure]
2017, d. Jake Szymanski - HBO
I wrote last year about the HBO Sports talking heads mockumentary 7 Days In Hell , quite enjoying the short, under-an-hour production which lays the gags on as thick as the stack of celebrities appearing in it. In fact, I've watched it at least three times since I first saw it, and likely will see it many more times in the future. Tour De Pharmacy is 7 Days In Hell's de facto sequel. It's not really a direct sequel, but the next entry in what is hopefully an annual series at HBO for some time.
Once again starring Andy Samberg (co-created with writer Murray Miller) these two short films are almost exactly the same as the Lonely Island feature-length Popstar: Never Stop Stopping which I literally just wrote about. They're using the exact same formula for producing, for cutaway gags, the exact same structure of storytelling, both admiring and razzing their subject, and, yes, numerous celebrity appearances (both as themselves and in character, both self deprecating and celebrated). I think Tour and 7 Days work better, if only because there's more characters in play, where the Lonely Island (Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Shaffer) were the primary leads of Popstar, what with it being their film and all.
The sheer diversity of goofy characters is what really drives Tour De Pharmacy. The film keys in on five cyclists in a spectacularly ridiculous (and fake, natch) Tour De France in 1984 where all banned substances were made legal. The riders are played by Samberg, Orlando Bloom (with a marvelous French accent), Daveed Diggs, Freddie Highmore and, best of all, John Cena (put him on a racin g bike and that alone is comedy) in 1984, but a completely different set of actors in their 30-years-later talking heads appearance, which is best left as discovery, but all utterly amazing.
A couple of stunt casts in Mike Tyson and Lance Armstrong, but at the same time they are used to tremendous effect. Armstrong is lampooning himself here but it's still taking the piss out of him. It while it may be distasteful that he gets to capitalize upon his own illicit deeds, but it's sometimes hard to argue with comedy.
I can't really say if Tour De Pharmacy is better than 7 Days In Hell. The surprise of 7 Days, the trailblazing path it took, the formula it sets up, it kind of wins out for that..and yet, I think that Tour is even more clever, a bit more audacious, and even funnier. What the hell, they're both winners. They both are goofy as fuck, but tell really hilarious, engaging stories (much better ones than Popstar, I should say). I'll be watching them both, probably back-to-back for some time to come.