Morgan Spurlock has quite a few talented names in his address book. Good thing too, because without them to pad his latest vanity project, he might be exposed for the hack he’s starting to become. If anyone is going to like a documentary about facial hair, it’s me. I’m what you might call a beardthusiast. But Spurlock’s “Mansome” fails to expose any sort of substance behind the follicles.
Maybe it’s because there isn’t actually much to talk about. Some people like beards and some don’t. Some men can grow a beard and some can’t. There are many different ways a man can sculpt his facial hair. Some people embrace their hairiness and some people seek to debilitate their entire bodies. And sometimes someone who can grow a very long beard will end up with delusions of grandeur. That’s about all “Mansome” has to say on the subject. The only real insight it gives is into the waning career of a once celebrated documentarian.
The aforementioned famous names include producer/director Judd Apatow, congenial actor Paul Rudd, professional attractive person and Old Spice spokesman Isaiah Mustafa and manthority Adam Corolla. The ubiquitous Scott Ian, who is apparently an authority on every single aspect of pop culture, can barely mask his ambivalence about the subject. He clearly has not given his ever-present goatee nearly as much thought as Spurlock has his own self-professed “signature” handlebar mustache.
Spurlock just can’t help but make at least part of the film about himself. He decides to participate in a “Reverse Movember,” with the pledge to shave at the conclusion of Lance Armstrong’s mustache-themed national fundraiser. I couldn’t have been less entertained watching Spurlock transform his face from that of a hipster douchebag into that of a regular douchebag. Though it may have been worth it to hear his young son (who had yet to see his father clean-shaven) wail, “You don’t look any good.”
Zach Galifianakis and John Waters also appear to discuss their own iconic facial hair. Their vignettes serve as the shiny, warm center to an otherwise ice-cold piece of poo. Waters is gracious and charming as ever. While Galfianakis gets in some great lines, he carries the look of a man who would rather be elsewhere.
The film spends a woeful amount of screen time with a less humble lot, including a professional wrestler who shaves his entire body, a self-professed “Metrosexual” and “Worldclass Beardsman” Jack Passion, who erroneously insists that his trophies make him something other than a huge waste of conditioner and oxygen. About the only thing Spurlock does right in “Mansome” is to juxtapose Passion’s scenes with sound bites from Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd and John Waters asserting that a man would have to be a complete dillhole to create a “career” out of having a beard.
And just when you think the inanity has reached its peak, Spurlock introduces us to the creator of a product called “Fresh Balls,” the purpose of which is self-explanatory. If this were a Tim and Eric sketch, the concept might be worth pursuing. Sadly, Fresh Balls is a real product about which the inventor is dead serious.
Executive producers Gob and Michael Bluth (Will Arnett and Jason Bateman), bulk up the film with footage from their trip to a day spa. The men wax poetic about male grooming while they are unpoetically waxed. Though their banter remains light, you can see that both of them are thinking, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” At best, “Mansome” is an A&E special to be DVR’d and deleted. Commercials would have been a welcome break. It’s quite a slog through the 84-minute running time.
Early in his career, Morgan Spurlock seemed like an important documentarian. In retrospect, the premise of “Super Size Me” is somewhat of a no-brainer. But it went deeper than the hypothesis that fast food is bad for us. It evolved into a meditation on food addiction. It got people talking and paved the way for real introspection on what we consume. Similarly, his docu-series “30 Days” seemed to strive for real change by letting the audience walk a mile in another person’s shoes. Since then, he’s reverted to his vapid beginnings as an MTV host, filling our eye holes with tripe. Here’s hoping Mr. Spur-schlock takes a long look in the mirror and gives that ego a shave.