Thank God for the internet and reality television. Before these blessed creations, you had to slave away applying hard work to natural talent in order to get any recognition. Now you don’t necessarily need either to become famous. An attention seeking stunt of some kind is enough to do the trick. It’s this brave new world that acclaimed writer/comedian/actor David Cross has zeroed in on in Hits, his directorial debut. By creating a cyclone of vapidity in a small upstate New York town, Cross launches a sustained assault on those that pursue fame and those that profit from manipulating them. The mix of comedy and drama doesn’t quite come off but it’s still an entertaining and mostly successful effort.
The central storyline focusses on Dave (Matt Walsh), an incensed local resident in the town of Liberty. He’s so furious at the way his tax dollars are wasted that he turns up at every open town council meeting to berate elected representatives for an endless series of crimes that range from not filling in pot holes to ignoring his plan to solve unemployment. When a rant goes viral on the internet, he becomes the eye of a media storm as New York community action groups descend to make a name for themselves by furthering his cause.
Cross isn’t content to stop there though. He fills Liberty with a host of other characters, each with their own problems. These include Dave’s daughter Katelyn (Meredith Hagner) who is determined to make a demo to win a place on reality TV show The Voice and Cory (Jake Cherry), a terrible teenage rapper in love with Katelyn who ends up a YouTube hit after a rap goes embarrassingly wrong. Juggling a number of sub-plots, Cross does a good job of weaving them all together into a coherent story.
There’s also a steady stream of laughs to be found along the way. The Think Tank, the first community action group to turn up on the scene prove to be particularly rich ground as their muddled liberal values and general incompetence lead to a number of amusing situations. Cross remains a dab hand with witty dialogue elsewhere, finding plenty of opportunity for his characters to stumble into funny discussions and odd digressions.
The effectiveness of the comedy actually proves a weakness to the wider film though. It doesn’t quite marry up with the dramatic arcs in play, distracting from the overall plot. In his determination to fully skewer delusions of fame, Cross adds in too many stories with a couple of the sub-plots running out of space to develop properly. Cory and his desperate crush on Katelyn suffer particularly from this. The overburdening of the plot creates a sag in the pace as the film moves into the final third.
Dave’s finale, coming off the back of this sag, ends up rushing to catch up. His fiery speech cheered on by a band of fickle followers descends into a hilarious farce as some unfortunate comments slip out revealing the danger of herding crackpots onto a bandwagon. Funny as it is, it’s all a little too neat, concluding an otherwise well-built story in double quick time.
Hits doesn’t always manage to find the target. It’s a thoughtful and amusing attack on fame that can’t quite bring all the disparate elements together. Room for improvement then but it’s still a good effort that adds yet another string to Cross’ bow.