Mister America

2 out of 5

Directed by: Eric Nortanicola

While this is an enjoyable extension of the On Cinema universe, its need to juggle OCATC in-jokes with more welcoming material for new audiences – given that it’s an actual film, and not an Adult Swim televised “special” – ultimately waters down the experience. Doing this completely straight is on brand, of course, as the fictionalized Tim Heidecker decides to run for DA of San Bernardino, with a documentary crew capturing the failure of it all, but whereas the similarly toned “trial” that Tim and team put together succeeded because of the outlandishness at its core, Mister America can’t quite find that balance; the “real world” antics of Tim’s ignorance as he attempts to gain voters – or rather, just enough people to petition to put him on the ballot – is slightly off feeling for the series, as it tip-toes more into Sascha Baron Cohen-type territory, and Tim’s non-humor humor is better suited to a more “controlled” environment. Sections where it would’ve been insane to see him push things a little bit – making “innocently” racist comments in a barbershop, or during a debate – are held back, because Tim was undoubtedly going for real reactions from non-actors, but again, he’s not exactly the type of shock humorist that Cohen (or in a more anarchic sense, Eric Andre) is. Instead, the best moments are the more subtle ones, such as the ridiculousness of hanging up posters with his slogan – “We have a rat problem” – in restaurants, and the way he tries to coach the documentary team to show him as well-researched and read and, like, competent.

It becomes clear – to new and seasoned viewers – that team’s bid for DA is only because of his rivalry with current DA “Rossetti the Rat” (hence that slogan), which is a great gateway for the more unleashed, unsettled Tim, who rears his head as the film chugs along. Even this, though, feels a bit too reliant on Heidecker freaking out – it’s too much of a bit. However, the stuff with Gregg Turkington, who doesn’t understand why the documentary crew doesn’t want to know more film trivia, is golden; i.e. the bits and pieces that are more insular to ONATC-heads are worthwhile.

Which means, obviously, that you should be watching that show, and Decker, and then including Mister America as part of that marathon. Barring that, though, the movie can’t be said to offer that much as a standalone viewing experience.