All Hail the Popcorn King focuses on one of the most popular modern-day writers whom you’ve probably never heard of: Joe Lansdale—many of his novels and short stories have been adapted into films. The Hansi Oppenheimer directed documentary, All Hail the Popcorn King, follows Lansdale’s life and journey toward becoming a successful writer. Through interviews with some big names in science fiction and horror, everyone’s love and admiration for Lansdale and his works quickly made evident.
It’s probably pretty hard to create a successful documentary about someone who, despite being successful, is relatively unknown to the general public. Joe Lansdale has written over 100 works, most of which have been well-received. But I’ve never heard of him, nor had my friends when I asked. Why create a documentary that focuses on him and not some other, more prominent individual? Simply put, Oppenheimer seeks to give Landsdale the recognition he deserves. While that is all well and good, I can’t say that All Hail the Popcorn King is particularly gripping. It moves slowly, Lansdale’s life is not very interesting, and most of the talking head segments are quite boring as, surprisingly, many of the interviewees have very little personality.
What makes the documentary fascinating are the celebrities Lansdale’s career orbits. Big names like James Purefoy, Mick Garris, Bruce Campbell, and Joe Hill come together to discuss the man who has had a profound and lasting effect on their lives. Again, they are not particularly vibrant or stimulating, but hearing how this man has played such a significant role in each of their lives is intriguing.
“What makes the documentary fascinating are the stars Lansdale’s career orbits.”
I’m not entirely sure that Lansdale’s life is all that interesting, mainly because it’s so basic. He enjoyed reading, going to the movies, and practicing karate. What kid doesn’t like those things? But his sincerity and honesty make him stand out. It is clear that Lansdale is happy with his success, but what appears to make him even happier is that he gets to share that success with his family. Plus, his stories’ adaptations have allowed numerous individuals to find success of their own. He seems to care more about the success of others than his own, and that is touching. Oppenheimer wisely mines this compelling aspect of All Hail the Popcorn King for all its worth. Lansdale appeals to everyone because he is so genuine and such a well-meaning person.
While can be All Hail the Popcorn King slightly uneventful from time to time, Lansdale is pleasant enough to keep viewers interested. Despite their lack of energy, the celebrity interviews are most informative, especially if one had no idea what Lansdale had done for their careers. That they have nothing but good things to say about the writer only solidifies how good-natured Lansdale is.
If Oppenheimer’s goal with All Hail the Popcorn King was to shed light on a renowned author who flew under the radar, mission accomplished. Now, excuse me while I go read a few of Joe Lansdale’s short stories and novels.
"…one of the most popular modern-day writers whom you've probably never heard of..."