A movie review of “Hits”: Comedian-actor David Cross wrote and directed this ambitious but underwhelming satire about a populist hero and his celebrity-seeking daughter in a corrupt town. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
In a recent interview, author Martin Amis (“London Fields”) said satire is most effective when it focuses on the past. Satire about current events is risky, he said, because the real world can get far worse at any moment, rendering an ambitious satire irrelevant.
Actor David Cross is a sketch-comedy master (HBO’s “Mr. Show with Bob and David”) and a fine satirist as a performer (TV’s “Arrested Development,” Todd Berger’s funny movie “It’s a Disaster”). “Hits,” Cross’ first feature film as a writer-director, is a broad satire certain of its timely relevance about modern America.
Yet it’s hard not to see Amis’ cautionary maxim at work in Cross’ comedy about our media culture of superficial celebrity and viral videos. While the film is well-intended and scores points for skewering disposable idolatry, it seems off the mark, murky, about its acerbic message.
Movie Review ★★½
‘Hits,’ with Matt Walsh, Meredith Hagner, Michael Cera. Written and directed by David Cross. 100 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Sundance Cinemas (21+).
Dave (Matt Walsh) is a lonely crusader for justice in a small burg, where the town council dismisses him as an annoying crank who complains at every public hearing. Sputtering mad, Dave is often hauled off to jail for refusing to be quiet.
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When a video of one such hearing is uploaded on YouTube, Dave becomes a populist symbol, championed by half-baked activists everywhere. Meanwhile, Dave’s delusional daughter, Katelyn (Meredith Hagner), goes to humiliating lengths to audition for TV’s “The Voice.” She tries, but fails, to use the national attention on her dad to achieve her own overnight fame.
Dave and Katelyn’s intersecting journeys come to an explosive climax with a slight echo of Robert Altman’s 1975 “Nashville.” Altman’s epic rang true about the lure and danger of stardom in assassination-era America, and “Hits” is right about our thoughtless, 21st-century fixation with media-driven notoriety.
But when Cross twists Katelyn’s hunger for fame into gun-toting, headline-seeking infamy, he misrepresents this country’s enormous problem with random violence perpetrated by isolated, deranged souls.
That makes “Hits” something less than germane.