At the end of 2017, Tim Heidecker’s On Cinema—a web series lampooning film criticism that the comedian co-hosts with Gregg Turkington—apexed with a five-hour long, fictitious murder trial. Despite overwhelming evidence that Tim Heidecker’s character was guilty of several counts of murder (several attendees at a fake music festival he funded overdosed on vape pens, which these days hits a little too close to home), Heidecker was found innocent—and promptly launched a garish social media campaign around his implausible candidacy for San Bernardino district attorney.
This is where the feature-length film Mister America—which screens in Portland on Wednesday—comes in. It's a spin-off of a spin-off of a goofy web-series, and will likely only entertain those who have fully immersed themselves in the On Cinema universe—which, when taking into account the show’s 10 seasons, its annual Oscar specials, and its self-contained offshoot Decker, clocks in at an agonizing 20 hours of content.
If you are one of those people, Mister America is frequently funny. At best, it plays like a bizarro version of The War Room—just sub George Stephanopoulos with a woefully incompetent publicist-turned-campaign advisor named Toni (Terry Parks) and Bill Clinton for Heidecker’s On Cinema persona, a mix of O.J. Simpson and Trump. But just as often, Mister America's comedy is imperceptible: Take one early scene, when Heidecker and Toni discuss immigration. It doesn’t seem like a parody, and there’s no punchline. It just feels like a legitimately racist conversation, and it speaks to the dangers of ineffective satire. By the end of the film, when Heidecker breaks down and apologizes to his constituents after a violent outburst at a town hall debate, you don’t even feel sorry for the guy. You just want him out of your sight.