Movies You Should Be Watching: Comic Book the Movie – I Am Impervious To Pain!
When I watch a film, it is primarily for the entertainment value, pure and simple. A lot of film connoissuers are all about the drama, subtext, and emotional weight of the movies that they love, and that is specifically what they look for in the motion pictures that they tend to watch. Those “heavy” type of flicks just aren’t for me. There’s enough drama in everyday life, well acted out by the people all around us that are suffering from their own brand of drama as well, that I don’t feel the need to spend my free time watching depressing films about people living miserable lives. I like comedy, over-the-top action, monsters, magic, the unexplained, the absurd, and slice of life type films that are designed to entertain me. I like films that make me feel better after they have ended, than I did before I started watching them. This week, I present to you a solid case for why you should be watching this tiny little oddity of cinema titled: Comic Book the Movie!
What is Comic Book the Movie: Comic Book the Movie is a mockumentary style film following the exploits of Don Swan, an old school comic book enthusiast and comic shop owner, as he films a documentary that is designed to be a DVD extra for an upcoming comics-to-film adaption for the faux classic hero, Commander Courage. When originally created, Commander Courage was a classic all-American style hero that fought off the the evil Nazi threat with his trusty sidekick, Liberty Lad. Now, in a post 9/11 world, Commander Courage is rebooted as a cynical “Punisher” style vigilante that kills his enemies with copious amounts of violence and cheesy one liners, and now has a gender swapped, super voluptuous sidekick, Liberty Lass. Swan is a brought in by the studio because he is an expert on the lore and the history of Commander Courage, and they hope his documentary will add enough value to the DVD that they can jack the price up a couple bucks which will in turn net them millions in profits… at least that was the plan. What the studio doesn’t know, is that Swan is starting a grassroots effort to bring the original Commander Courage back. Both Swan and the studio effectively go to war with each other at San Diego Comic-Con and hilarity ensues. Produced, directed and starring Mark Hamill (Star Wars, Batman the Animated Series), Comic Book the Movie also features: Billy West (Futurama, The Ren & Stimpy Show), Jess Harnell (The Animaniacs, Drawn Together), Lori Alan (SpongeBob Squarepants, Family Guy), Roger Rose (Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Super Hero Squad Show), Jim Cummings (CatDog, Winnie the Pooh), Daran Norris (The Fairly OddParents, Team America: World Police), Tom Kenny (SpongeBob Squarepants, Adventure Time), and Donna D’errico (Baywatch, Reno 911!). The film also has a healthy smattering of guest cameos, including: Stan Lee, Bruce Campbell, Hugh Hefner, Kevin Smith, Peter David, Ray Harryhausen, Matt Groening, Phil Morris, Chase Masterson, Edd Hall, Gary Owens, J.J. Abrams, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Ron Pearlman, Mike Mignola, and a whole lot of other great genre/comic icons.
Why You Should Be Watching Comic Book the Movie: Firstly, this is one tremendously entertaining flick from beginning to the end. Frankly speaking, you should be watching because Comic Book the Movie is nothing short of being This is Spinal Tap for comic book films. It is a lightening in a bottle like experience that puts a group of extraordinary (largely unseen) talent, and places them in a narrative that allows their creativity and comedic flair take center stage. This is, as they say, the good stuff folks, and it’s all off the cuff. The plot was loosely outlined, but for it to feel authentically like a documentary, they filmed the scenes and interviews without a script. Effectively, everything you see in Comic Book the Movie is an elaborate ad-lib that keeps getting played out over the course of the entire movie. It’s simply genius!
Mark Hamill, already well respected within the Comic-Con community, treats the subjects of comic books, comics-to-film, fandom, and the convention experience with a deft hand that knows exactly how to ride the fine line between parody and passion for pop culture. He understands the rows that comic book fans can get into, and just how deep the rabbit hole can go when we nerd-types start to get overly passionate about our beloved comic book characters and the worlds that encompass. Comic Book the Movie should be required viewing for the uninitiated, as it is the perfect window for them to peer into the universe of nerd culture. True fans of comic books should give this film a watch as well, as it speaks their language with both respect and a tongue planted firmly in cheek.
The cast for Comic Book the Movie is a gold star for the film and proof positive that voice actors should be used in front of the camera every bit as much as they are behind it. Jess Harnell hilariously nails it as the trippy camera man Ricky (and also member of the Warrant cover band, Subpoena). Lori Alan portrays the neurotically manic studio executive Anita with a comedic fury that would have been perfect for a reoccurring spot on Seinfeld. Billy West has fun as the long lost relative to the creator of Commander Courage, who slowly comes out of his shell at Comic-Con to ultimately become a whole ‘nother beast than who he was when we first met him. Roger Rose gets to chew the heck out of the scenery with a fantastic turn as the swarmy Taylor, who just wants to look at women and get away from all of these nerds! Tom Kenny is a blast to watch as Swan’s nerdy and awkward best friend, Derek. And Jim Cummings gets to explore his inner-drunken philosopher (and utilize his ample beat boxing skills) with expertly timed bits, which you can sample here:
On top of all of this already amazing package, you also have a ton of great cameos from industry professionals. Stan Lee and Kevin Smith in particular put in some fantastically funny interviews about their personal experience with the Commander Courage legacy. Much like the film Tapeheads (which I have reviewed, and you can read that here), it is fun to watch Comic Book the Movie just to see all the cameos! You could almost make it a drinking game. Every time somebody famous is on screen as themselves, take a drink! Every time you see someone in cosplay, take a drink! Every time somebody does a silly voice impression, take a drink! The possibilities are endless…
Bottom Line: Any way you slice it, Comic Book the Movie thrills and entertains. It is uproariously hilarious, fantastically paced, masterfully ad-libbed by the cast, and littered with a ton of content to absorb (cameos, cosplay, merchandise, etc.). This is the kind of movie that is truly rewarding to the viewer, especially upon multiple viewings. There is just so much going on in this film, that there is literally no way that you could see it all, and at the same time catch all of the references in one sitting. As a lover of pure entertainment flicks, this is the kind of movie that I like to watch over and over again. The dialogue pops really well and is fascinating and funny. The situations that Swan and company find themselves in are always great to watch play out. Truly, I can’t recommend this movie enough. Comic Book the Movie may be one of the most unsung low-budget comedy masterpieces of our time.
How You Can Support The Movie: Buy it! Comic Book the Movie is available on DVD and through multiple digital venues: Ultraviolet, iTunes, Amazon, and YouTube. Do yourself a huge favor, support this film and the wonderful individuals that made it possible. Much like Free Enterprise (another great film that I have reviewed, which you can read here), this is a love letter to the fine people around the world that love comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, and nerd culture. It is worthy of your love, and more than that, it deserves it. Please swing by the IMDB page for Comic Book the Movie and take a look at all of the fine human beings that were involved with this terrific film.
Check out the trailer for Comic Book the Movie and see if you’d like to watch Ben Affleck tear an airplane in half and dump the Japanese into the ocean: