It’s still only January and here I am, pretty sure I already have a film that I can put on my best-of list for 2020, and that film is Jack Henry Robbins’ VHYES. It could be that I’m a sucker for nostalgia, especially from my early childhood. It could be that I love shows like Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, The State, and all the other alternative comedy greatest hits. Or it could be that VHYES is just a damn good movie with a great concept.
Ralph (Mason McNulty) is a kid in an inconspicuous suburban town in 1987. Near Christmas, he discovers a grand affinity for his parents’ VHS camcorder. He records all sorts of things, whether it be the rain, his mom sitting on a whoopie cushion, etc. He then discovers that you can record things straight from the television onto tape using the camcorder. Little does he know at the time that all of the things that are being recorded are erasing bits and pieces of his parents’ wedding tape.
“…all of the things that are being recorded are erasing bits and pieces of his parents’ wedding tape.”
The plot sounds deceptively simple, but the film is not. VHYES takes us on a trip through the late-night tv landscape of ’80s cable through a series of hilarious, irreverent parodies. We have an off-kilter female Bob Ross in The State and Reno 911 alum Kerri Kenney’s Joan, who has a series called Painting With Joan. At first, you think that it’s a pretty straightforward Bob Ross riff until the painting goes away from the happy mountains to a self-portrait of Joan dunking on Dennis Rodman with alien spaceships overhead. Then there are a series of infomercials starring one of Kenney’s frequent co-stars Thomas Lennon, in addition to Courtney Pauruso, as divorced couple Tony V and Cindy. While they’re not arguing about the reasons behind their split, they’re selling such dubious merchandise as a pen commemorating Confederate victories and tiny bags with different cartoonish inscriptions that are to be used for “baking”, which also comes with a “Pacific Ocean tested” briefcase in which to carry them. We also have What We Do in The Shadows’ Mark Proksch as the host of What You Think This Might Be? a darkly ridiculous spoof of Antiques Roadshow. There’s also a public access-ish show starring (fake) band the Phlegmbats and (real) singer Weyes Blood hosted by Charlyne Yi‘s Lou entitled Interludes With Lou which is kind of like Wayne’s World if Wayne and Garth’s parents were there with them.