I began watching Danny Roane: First Time Director with the lowest expectations possible. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t suck quite as badly as you might expect, so that’s something. Andy Dick wrote, directed, and stars in this attempt at a Christopher Guest-ish mockumentary. Obviously drawing heavily from his own life, he plays Danny Roane, a former sitcom star who derails his career with a massive drinking problem. Four years sober and ready for a comeback, he decides to write and direct Dead Dream, a dark look at his own descent into alcoholism. Documentary cameras follow Danny around as he ineptly guides cast and crew into an endeavor where everyone is clearly in over their heads. Naturally, he begins drinking again and the film within a film, which never really had much of a chance, sinks even farther.
James Van Der Beek plays himself starring in Dead Dream and blindly follows Danny’s limited vision. Michael Hitchcock, a regular in Guest’s mockumentary company, is a set designer who is regularly abused and asked for the impossible. Paul Henderson plays Danny’s best friend and producer and gets unenviable jobs like picking Danny up naked off Maura Tierney’s lawn following a bender.
After the booze really begins to take hold, Danny changes the movie to a musical and brings in Anthony Rapp, or as he is credited in the documentary; “the guy from Rent,” to replace Van Der Beek. Kevin Farely, who looks so much like his brother it’s scary, is the first assistant director. His main job, which he loves, is shaving the hair off the male actor’s bodies for dubious reasons.
Both Dick’s pseudo-documentary and the movie Danny is making provide a few moments of humor. The musical aspects allow for some horribly cheesy songs and intentionally cheap special effects. For every funny moment or scene, though, there are two or three that either fail miserably or appeal only to the lowest common denominator. All of the really stupid vomit and poop jokes you would expect from this type of project show up in spades. Van Der Beek and Dick spend way too much time discussing anal bleeding. There are also requisite cameos from people like Ben Stiller, Jimmy Kimmel and Jack Black. They add very little to the movie and guys like Stiller are starting to annoy me by showing up in every movie made.
Danny Roane is shot on digital video and the feeling of the project vacillates between “authentic” and “cheap.” The sets for the movie within a movie are supposed to look crummy, obviously, but are the movie sets supposed to look crummy, too? It becomes distracting to watch the characters walk into a room with bare white walls as if they only had two rooms to shoot in and just changed the furniture every time but never bothered to put anything on the walls.
This effort was a direct to cable release that played on Comedy Central. Dick deserves some credit for poking fun at himself and his problems in recent years. A few laughs are buried amongst the muck. However, he can be a funny guy and this whole project smells of going for the easy joke. He doesn’t challenge himself or the audience at all. Unless you found it hilarious to watch him drunk and acting stupid in public and would also like to see him pretend to do the same, you can probably take a pass on this. Danny Roane: First Time Director, like a lot of low budget straight to cable or DVD movies, has a very limited set of extras. On the back of the DVD case, the subtitles, Dolby Audio, and widescreen presentations are all listed as “Special Features.” That’s clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel.
The only real extras included are outtakes and extended scenes. The outtakes last about ten minutes and mostly bring across the point that Andy Dick can’t keep a straight face. His laughter ruins more scenes than any of the other actors combined. It’s moderately amusing, sort of like the actual movie.
There are six extended scenes that last about 20 minutes. They aren’t any better or worse than the stuff in the movie, just longer. It’s very hit and miss. If you like Kate Flannery (Meredith on The Office) then she has a bit more screen time in the extended scenes. Mo Collins, who plays Danny’s leading lady, also gets an expanded look in the extended scenes.
That’s pretty much it. The quality of the picture and sound is good, but as noted in the movie section, the production values are pretty low, so the whole thing never looks anything but cheap. While not as bad as you might expect, the movie isn’t so great, the extras aren’t so great and there aren’t many of them. It’s just a mediocre effort all the way around.
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