Release Date(s)2015 (October 13, 2015)
Studio(s)Type 55 Films (MPI Home Video)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
For the past several years, writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait has quietly, steadily, been building one of the most interesting filmographies in the American independent cinema. Though he’s probably still best known to the public as the screaming “Zed” from the Police Academy sequels, Goldthwait’s true talent lies behind the camera and not in front of it, at least based on the evidence of Shakes the Clown (1991), Sleeping Dogs Lie (2006), World’s Greatest Dad (2009), God Bless America (2012) and now Call Me Lucky. Goldthwait’s best films are meditations on lies: the lies we tell ourselves and each other, and the lies we then try to live up to in order to be better people. His content is almost always provocative and shocking, yet at its core deeply sympathetic and humanistic – he’s a filmmaker with an unblinking view of hypocrisy and stupidity who can’t help but look for the best in people and society. He’s a cynic, but a deeply romantic one – his cynicism comes from the fact that the world hasn’t lived up to his lofty expectations of it.
This makes comedian and activist Barry Crimmins the perfect subject for Goldthwait’s first documentary, Call Me Lucky. Goldthwait got his start performing in Crimmins’s Boston comedy club and the two have been friends for decades, but Crimmins’s story is so suited to Goldthwait’s preoccupations as a director that it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have found each other eventually. A forerunner to Bill Maher and Jon Stewart – though possibly more trenchant and brutal than either – Crimmins was the great political comic of the 1980s, a man filled with rage over the betrayal of the American dream in the Reagan era and beyond. As Goldthwait’s documentary shows, however, here was more to Crimmins’s anger than politics – it came from a deep personal place, as he revealed in the early 1990s when he spoke about being raped as a child. That revelation led to a remarkable period for Crimmins during which he became a crusader against child pornography on the internet; he took on America Online, a company happy to profit from child porn until Crimmins publicly shamed them, and won.
Goldthwait’s documentary is more or less divided into three sections. The first traces Crimmins’s history as a comic and mentor to other comedians, the second his horrific past as an abused child, and the third his transformation into a Capraesque hero who stands before the nincompoops of both AOL and the United States Congress and wipes the floor with all of them. Each of these sections is strong enough to justify its own film, and with Call Me Lucky you basically get three movies for the price of one. The cumulative emotional effect is overwhelming, as Goldthwait and Crimmins provide a hilarious, tragic, inspiring, depressing, enraging, and poignant portrait of a man and an era. There is so much going on here, yet the movie never seems overstuffed or chaotic; Goldthwait’s clarity and concision as a filmmaker allow him to pack the film’s 105-minute running time with more ideas than some directors get across in their entire careers.
Goldthwait knows what he has in Crimmins and wisely opts for a straightforward, unadorned style designed to put his subject front and center. Nevertheless, Call Me Lucky is a handsomely photographed documentary that looks and sounds great on Blu-ray. The only extra feature is a commentary by Goldthwait and Crimmins that is most valuable for its additional evidence of Crimmins’s wit – his one-liners are laugh-out-loud hilarious, and his observations devastatingly wicked at times. Unfortunately, he can also get a little annoying in his tendency to interrupt Goldthwait when the director is trying to impart some technical information or production history, but this is a minor complaint. Both the film itself and the commentary track are highly recommended, like everything else Goldthwait has directed to date.
- Jim Hemphill