The proliferation of fame culture is overflowing with the opportunities for satire. “Famous for what?” is the term often heard, and these days even those not on the hunt for self-worth find themselves the unwitting stars of viral videos, reedited by those seeking congratulatory feedback. It’s a vicious circle, condemned by elitists, branded as such by people with no concept of the meaning. David Cross is a brilliant comedic presence going back to HBO’s Mr. Show and it’s a real downer that his feature directorial debut feels like an overcooked sketch when there is so much material to fill an entire season.
While the movie flounders in and out of multiple subplots and seemingly unrelated characters, the source who eventually drives nearly all of them together is Matt Walsh’s Dave Stuben. He’s a single dad who is tired of running over the pothole in front of his house and frustrated that no one at the city council will do anything about it. His daughter, Katelyn (Meredith Hagner), keeps dodging his requests for company except when she needs to borrow some money so she can make the demo tape necessary to secure her spot on TV’s The Voice.
When Dave goes off on a tirade fighting for his tax-paying rights, he winds up a viral video that then begins to attract one slacktivist group after another. There’s Donovan McCaffrey (James Adomian) and his wife, Maddy (Erinn Hayes), selling green materials at home and trying to have a baby while chatting up their young weed dealer (Michael Cera) as parental practice. The town council chairwoman (Amy Carlson) is too self-involved to care about any of her citizens. Plus there’s Cory (Jake Cherry), the white rapper wannabe who harbors a crush on Katelyn.
None of these supporting characters register even a blip on the laugh meter, often proving to be plot distractions more than essential pieces to the targeted satire. Most out of place of all may actually be Jason Ritter’s demo maker, but his individual choices are so amusing that he gets the most consistent laughs anytime he’s on screen. When Katelyn’s demo is finally heard on the soundtrack, the laughs are even greater having known the idiot responsible. David Cross called on a lot of friends to fill out the corners but their proven talents only make the rest of the cast look even more amateur. Cera goes from a cameo to an extended cameo to never being seen again. David Koechner and Amy Sedaris have roles too slim for their own purpose and at some point during the movie you are liable to ask “didn’t I see Julia Stiles in this movie? What was that about?”
South Park already did an exceptional job skewering the hits counters of YouTube and within its 22 minutes hit the nail right on the head without the need for all the “B” and “C” stories. Cross’ script does build its way to a climax that is so exceptionally funny that it once again calls into question all the lulls leading up to it. The festival audience I saw it with whiffed on the first gag so badly that either they were subliminally shocked or were possibly a little more tuned into the idiotic language being offered. It’s a brilliant final scene and Cross had his audience right where he should have, but, ultimately, Hits feels like a long Aristocrats joke where the punchline turns out to be the best and most vile part.