Comedy hits the road, but the jokes fall flat

Posted: February 08, 2008

The idea behind Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show (subtitle: 30 Days and 30 Nights - Hollywood to the Heartland) is, at the least, logistically ambitious: take four comedians, put them on a bus, and have them do a show a night for a whole month, starting in L.A. and finishing in Chicago. And get a film crew to tag along.

Vaughn, with his retro Rat Pack vibe, hosts the gigs, and guest notables - country warbler Dwight Yoakam, Swingers cast-mate Jon Favreau - pop up here and there. And the comedians? Ahh, therein lies the flaw in the Wedding Crashers' star's plan.

Ahmed Ahmed, an Egyptian born California comic who riffs on ethnic stereotypes, seems like a nice guy, and his jokes about profiling have a sardonic sting to them (when airline reservationists see his name, they tell him he should arrive at check-in "a month and a half early"). But his post-9/11 jabs are limited, at best.

John Caparulo, from Cleveland, wears T-shirts and baseball caps and deploys the F-word so often that his act would be half as long if he cleaned it up. His mom, interviewed when the tour hits Ohio, says that "Cap" would have been in a cult, or a felon, if he hadn't found stand-up. Good for him, I guess.

Bret Ernst is the alpha male dude, talking about dating and sex, and offering lacerating self-critiques following shows where he thinks he's flopped. And Sebastian Maniscalco, from the Chicago suburbs, serves up the kind of observational comedy (shopping, dating) that Jerry Seinfeld does in his sleep. But minus Seinfeld's precision and deadpan charm.

And so, with unplanned detours in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (yes, this movie has been sitting on a shelf for a long time), and motel-room gabber with the guys, Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show trucks on. Intermittent moments of mild amusement ensue.


Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show ** (out of four stars)

Directed by Ari Sandel. With Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst, Sebastian Maniscalco and Vince Vaughn. Distributed by Picturehouse Entertainment.

Running time: 1 hour, 40 mins.

Parent's guide: R (profanity, adult themes)

Playing at: area theaters


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://go.philly.com/onmovies.

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