Growing up at his mother’s legendary comedy club The Comedy Store in Los Angeles California, Pauly Shore was bred into the life of being a comedic party animal. The ex MTV V.J. made the leap to the silver screen in 1992 with the film Encino Man; co-starring with a then unknown Brendan Fraser and ex-Goonie/future guardian of “Mr. Frodo” Sean Astin. For five straight years, Pauly played the role of a cinematic goofball. In the aftermath of 1996's Bio-Dome, which featured direct to video hall of famer Stephen Baldwin, “The Weiz...al” dropped off the Hollywood radar like Wylie Coyote falling off a desert cliff. Well now Shore is back, and he’s called in a few favors as he makes his writing, producing, and directing debut with Pauly Shore is Dead.
In the spring of 1997 when the debut of his Fox sitcom entitled “Pauly” is cancelled after only its first episode airs, actor Pauly Shore begins to realize that his career is rapidly becoming a joke. As the work stops coming in, ridicule from Hollywood begins to take form, he loses his house to Carrot Top, and his girlfriend leaves him for some guy who knows a guy who knows Hugh Hefner. The final blow is landed when his best friend Kirk (Kirk Fox) turns his back on him, ruining a potential second chance when Sean Penn casually asks Kirk who the actor was in “that Dome movie with a Baldwin brother”. Evidently Penn wanted him for his next project. For Pauly, bitterness and depression sets in, until just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse his guardian angel, Sam Kinison (voiced by Craig Gass), advises Pauly to kill himself so he can be revered as a “comic legend who died before his time” and live on forever. The dim-witted Shore then fakes his death just to see if it will work. As Kinison’s prophecy is fulfilled, slowly the truth surrounding his “death” begins to come out. A media shit storm lets loose on Pauly like a Florida hurricane leaving him imprisoned and seeking redemption from the unlikeliest of places; his born again cellmate...Todd Bridges.
Pauly shows a lot of cleverness, however the execution of... his execution is a slight let down. Still, I have to give credit where credit is due. Pauly Shore is Dead’s premise is ingenious. Pauly did a great job coming up with this concept and made it work. He nearly had a great little nuance filled comedy that could have been a real breakthrough. But the film’s look and feel fails him. The movie is shot on digital video. It’s not that same gritty DV look that Michael Mann’s Collateral had, it’s that bright and cheap DV look that makes it seem like an epic porn. This is indeed a low budget movie, but maybe with a big studio on board and some more money to play with - and maybe even someone other than Shore directing - it could have been so much better.
Most of the flick’s high points come from celebrity cameos ripping Pauly a new one. He’s an easy target, and watching Chris Rock, Bill Maher, and Ben Stiller just tear into him is hysterical. Even Pauly had me in stitches, just once, as he tried to fit in with a gang in prison, but beyond that the rest of the film’s laughs come from Pauly as the punchline. One of the funniest running gags in the film involves Michael Madsen and Tom Sizemore, and the ditzy bimbos who easily confuse the two while they party with Shore. For the most part though, all of the film’s funniest moments require the viewer to have prior knowledge on the subjects entertained. Paul Shore is Dead is in-joke after in-joke. I get it so I laugh, but there are people out there that won’t really get it and will either hate it for it not really being a “Pauly Shore movie” or just hate it out of sheer confusion.
Pauly Shore is Dead could have been a really cool dark comedy a la Danny DeVito and Terry Gilliam. It had all the right elements in place. While it is indeed pretty funny, the darkness got lost somewhere in the shuffle. I applaud Pauly for putting his ass on the line to make this flick, after all it is the best thing he has done to date, I just think it had so much more promise. It is wasted potential, but at the same time remains decent. Think of Pauly Shore is Dead like that really weird Christmas present your grandmother gave you. It’s the thought that counts, but you can’t help wishing you could trade it in for what you really wanted.