Paul DeSimone, the XXL director and star of the subversively funny bodybuilding documentary “The Underground Lifting Video,” is back for more iron-pumping/bicep-flexing shenanigans with “The Gym Warrior Video.” While not as polished or off-beat as the first film, this new effort nonetheless reconfirms DeSimone’s ability to find fun in this distinctly off-beat athletic subculture.
At first, “The Gym Warrior Video” plays like a mix of “Pumping Iron” and “Laugh-In,” with the oversized gym rats behaving in a wildly comic manner. As one bodybuilder rubs chalk on his hands to approach a powerlift, another inserts himself into the corner of the frame to tell the camera: “Chalk makes you big! Watch!” This wise-guy interloper later ad-libs a commercial for a popular supplement drink by offering to shower a rude part of his anatomy with the muscle-growing liquid. Another character walks in and begins to bother the cameraman, asking if he’d like to see something funny and then thrusting his tricep into the lens with the demand that the cameraman feel its strength.
DeSimone takes the gargantuan goofballs outside for an exercise in bending iron bars. Seeing these huge men wrap solid iron rods as if they were straws will make anyone feel like a 98 pound weakling.
Much of “The Gym Warrior Video,” however, is devoted to the killer workout regimen which earned DeSimone a slew of bodybuilding championships. He doesn’t make it look easy – the star visibly sweats and exhales strongly after gruelings sets of mega-pound reps. Yet DeSimone (who could be mistaken for Matt LeBlanc’s very big brother) knows how to play to the camera. Either goofing to let off steam via impromptu dances or air guitar strumming, or even fretting that the camera is out of foucs, he clearly doesn’t take himself seriously. And his good-natured, Riddler-style laugh and million-dollar-smile (which is inevitably flashed after a particularly difficult workout routine) allows the viewer to share the fun without sharing the physical pain.