Comedies are the most difficult genre to get right. While the formula for success is impossible to nail down, failure is easy to spot. Did I laugh? Yes? Ah, success.
From Joel and Stephen Levinson comes Boy Band about of the Throb Boyz—a 90s boy band that struck gold with their first album and for their follow-up album, they vowed to stay inside the recording studio until it is complete. Twenty-something years later, the record is not complete.
The Throb Boyz is comprised of Lance, the cute one (Seth Herzog); Henry, the bad boy (Jordan Carlos); The New Guy (Dave Hill); and Johnny Throbstein (Steve Agee), the heartthrob and musical mastermind of the group. It’s now present day, and the Boyz are still working on that album. The group’s accountant is a muppet-like creature voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, and he notifies them that they are broke and they need to complete the record for their bonus money and they only have twelve hours of studio time left.
The delays in finishing the album have to do with the group’s lack of inspiration and the inner turmoil within the group. First, consider the ironic roles of the band. While Henry is the bad boy, he’s really a soft vegan teddy bear. He’s responsible for the band’s rap segments because he’s black even though rap is not his gift. He rhymes about hardcore subjects like seat belt safety. Then there’s The New Guy, who has no name in the film. He was the last member of the band to join. Thus his name and the dismissive treatment by the others, only because he’s “the new guy.”
“…they vowed to stay inside the recording studio until it is complete. Twenty-something years later, the record is not complete.”
The band’s first success relied on the lyrical genius and brilliant musicianship of Johnny, but he struggles with inspiration. The last song he wrote is called “Fuck Party, U.S.A.” based on Johhny’s worst day, when he arrived at a fuck party, and there was nobody to fuck. To make matters worse, Johnny dies midway through the film, and his girlfriend Tina (Esther Ku) is brought in to fix the situation. That’s right, the Esther Ku, co-host of Film Threat’s Award This broadcast.
Boy Band suffers from a problem that many indie comedies fall into. It’s just not funny. Before you jump down my throat about comedy being subjective, hold your horses. The reason it’s not funny is that the story loaded with humorous ideas that never translate into real laughs. Here are just a few examples:
The New Guy is new, but he’s been with the band since its beginning decade ago. Funny idea, but no laughs. Lance and Henry discuss the use of the number two in place of the word “to” or “too.” Interesting thought, but again no laugh.
“…akin to setting up a joke and never delivering a punchline.”
The music is also problematic, especially with the bar set so high by films like This Is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind. Songs from those films were honest attempts at writing real hit songs. Big Bottom is a real hit song with ironic lyrics, and A Kiss At The End of The Rainbow is an actual attempt to write a folk song. The songs in Boy Band are cheesy, electronic parodies of an era gone by with no attempt to replicate a Back Street Boys or N’sync pop hit. It’s not all bad. Fuck Party, U.S.A. was the best song in the film and the best moment for that matter.
Presenting a humorous idea to your audience is only part of the formula and many films, like Boy Band, stops there at the joke’s setup. After twenty years, The New Guy is still treated like “the new guy.” That’s funny, right? Not quite. This is akin to setting up a joke and never delivering a punchline.
Boy Band has a great deal of talent within its cast particularly from Steve Agee, Dave “Gruber” Allen, and a nice cameo by Jerry O’Connell. The electronics-heavy songs are not that bad either. The problem entirely lies in a story, so wacky you can’t relate to it and jokes that have no payoff. Boy Band is a wasted opportunity.
Boy Band (2019) Directed by Joel Levinson. Written by Joel Levinson, Stephen J. Levinson. Starring Steve Agee, Seth Herzog, Jordan Carlos, Dave Hill, Dave “Gruber” Allen, Esther Ku, Jerry O’Connell.
2.5 out of 10 stars