In the mouthful that is "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days and 30 Nights -- Hollywood to the Heartland," the actor, fresh off his career-redefining performance in "Wedding Crashers," rents a splacked-out bus so he and four of his stand-up buddies can go on a monthlong, breakneck tour through Middle America.
At first, you assume this is Vaughn shamelessly indulging in his brand-new, A-list, upper-deck fame, especially when the movie begins with Vaughn, "Dodgeball" co-star Justin Long and good friend/"Swingers" co-star Jon Favreau entertaining a sold-out, Los Angeles theater crowd by re-creating a live version of Favreau's cable vérité talk show "Dinner for Five" (which then, obviously, slides into revisiting a scene from "Swingers").
But, as the movie progresses and Vaughn surprisingly drifts out of the spotlight, "West" becomes less about him and more about the quartet of struggling comics who join him on this crazy journey. Much like when Favreau showed solidarity to his actor pals by writing roles in "Swingers" for them, Vaughn also rounds up his comic potnas and other road dogs (including producer Peter Billingsley, best known as Ralphie from "A Christmas Story") for "West" to share in his newfound notoriety.
And the comedians are:
- Ahmed Ahmed, a longtime buddy of Vaughn's whose humor mostly consists of being Egyptian in a post-9/11 America.
- Sebastian Maniscalco, a cool yet animated comic/waiter whose style of stand-up borders between the observational and the anal-retentive.
- Bret Ernst, the self-anointed "guido" of the group, always ready to break down the difference between guys and girls at a club.
- John "Cap" Caparulo, a mercilessly profane, white shirt-and-gimme-cap-wearing fella who can only be described as a funny Larry the Cable Guy.
Not to play favorites, but chances are Maniscalco and Caparulo will most likely be seen as the standouts of the foursome. After all, Maniscalco's sharp-dressed shtick even wins over the crowd at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium, who gives the boy a standing ovation. (However, in an awkward yet still hilarious moment, he gets booed in San Diego when he does a disapproving joke about flip-flops.) And Caparulo's foul-mouthed, working-class jokes practically knock 'em dead every place he goes, even when he tries his best to keep it clean at a show for Hurricane Katrina survivors.
But while "West" gets many shots of them onstage, doing their thing, it's mostly when they're offstage that the movie really wants you to catch them in their element. Director Ari Sandel finds a couple of them neurotically stewing after a set, even when most of the audience agrees they were funny. But Sandel also has the comics visit their parents, to show where they got the inspiration and drive to be comedians. The movie is more like Dane Cook's HBO's documentary series "Tourgasm," if Cook actually bothered to shift the focus to the other comedians he was touring with, instead on him all the time.
But for all those Vince Vaughn fans still wondering how prominent he is in this movie, Vaughn is, dare I say, quite money throughout this whole thing. Whether he's doing an onstage duet with guest star Dwight Yoakam or greeting a group of kids after a show, he becomes quite the admirable MC. Besides, he's already my hero for taking this movie away from the clutches of Harvey Weinstein, who originally bought the distribution rights after it played the Toronto Film Festival in 2006 and planned to release it as some sort of madcap, frat-boy doc.
Just as it is, "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show" is a stand-up revue that gets to the heart of comedy -- in more ways than one.