Punching Henry [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Well Go USA
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (28th May 2017).
The Film

Here we go again with another comedy effort, this time a meta comedy that is a sort of a box within a box of a film: Henry Phillips, in real life, is a comedian-musician that hasn’t quite struck the big time yet (well maybe that isn’t true, he has had many Comedy Channel specials that highlight his talents, it’s just that I had never heard of him); in the film "Punching Henry", he portrays himself or an alter version of himself: a self-depreciating comedian-musician that is occasionally funny, but very often finds himself the punch line of fate’s twisted sense of humor. Okay, do you follow that? Mr. Phillips plays himself, but this is a filmed episodic movie about the life and times of a self-depreciating comedian-musician. You see how that works, like a shadow of himself, but certainly not dark and gloomy, just a reflection of himself, plus or minus a few degrees. As I watched this film, I wondered what the real Henry Phillips was like and how would we recognize the real thing when we finally met him. Then I just gave up because it wasn’t worth my efforts to get to the bottom of that metaphysical riddle. And I encourage you too to just relax and let Phillips sense of humor wash over you like a relaxing bath.

After researching this film a bit, I learned that this was actually a sequel to a 2009 prize winning film entitled "Punching the Clown" starring Henry Phillips, a self-deprecating comedian-musician that first established the character of Henry Phillips, lower rung comedian-musician who strikes it big only to have it all snatched away again due to a hard to believe incident regarding bagels that leaves him labelled as a racist. Are you laughing yet? No, neither was I. This current film apparently mirrors the earlier effort and has Phillips returning yet again to the scene of the crime, glamorous Los Angeles, where a big deal producer (J.K. Simmons) wants him to portray essentially himself in a television series about, wait for it now, “Sisyphus meets Charlie Brown;” “a loser’s loser with no friends, no money and no love life,.” Yeah, I know; funny as a crutch. However at the urging of his manager (Ellen Ratner), poor Henry takes the bait and makes the sojourn to LA; he just has to make it, right? Well, if you have seen "Punching the Clown", there’s really no reason to proceed, because this sequel ploughs the same soil as before, only this time there’s plenty of comedic talent to supply back up including Tig Notaro, Jim Jefferies, Doug Stanhope, and Sarah Silverman, except the problem is that Phillips’ comedian companions are never really given enough material to work with, and so they remain as guest stars, and not as characters.

The plot is essentially snippets of Phillips on stage playing his guitar and singing his humorous songs about finding a “dog like girl” and other gems and intercut with this is scenes of our “rambling troubadour extraordinaire,” doing an interview segment with an overtly fascinated Sarah Silverman for a podcast. Phillips travels to L.A. at his manager’s insistence, even though we are never really convinced that his heart is in it, where he stays over at old friend Jillian’s (Tig Notaro) house with her wife, Zoe (Stephanie Allynne). Immediately after arriving his car is stolen, but that is only the set up for the first part of a long running gag that involves a confrontation with a caustic cab dispatcher, a lost wallet, and we are to presume that these ordeals are just part of the ordinary duress of being a struggling comedian-musician. I was puzzled by Phillips’ nice guy persona at times: he endures nasty heckling during several gigs, he seems to be a human door mat for insults from both friends and strangers, and through it all he perseveres onward, just doing what he loves. Viewers are all too familiar with the story of the hardships of breaking into and surviving it in show business, and thanks to other films that have told the same story and Louie C.K.’s television show, we are very aware that the road to comic stardom is fraught with peril, but I was left wondering why do this if the end results is sleeping on friends couches and playing gigs to sparse crowds in third rate joints. I guess Phillips should be commended for his positive attitude and the fact that he is indeed doing it his way, but I wanted more development on the creative process (we never see Phillips working on new material or trying to refine a gag), but perhaps that wasn’t the point.

High points of the film are the hilarious results of Phillips volunteering to be an able bodied sperm donor the old fashioned way when Jillian and Zoe ask him to assist them with their urge to have a child, and there are funny moments spread throughout the film, but so much is dependent upon Phillip’s laid back attitude that the humor is either too inside for casual viewer’s to get or possibly it was simply the manner in which the jokes were presented that left me feeling more on the outside looking in than actually being in on the joke.

Video

The 1.85:1 HD 1080p 24/fps mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression, the presentation looks fine and the film appears to be clean and sharp in its final product. Shot on digital camera, this film looks pretty good, especially the close ups of the actor's faces, but seems a tad dark when the scenes are indoors at the various comedy venues.

Audio

A single English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio allows for clear unobstructed dialogue and the scenes where Phillips plays guitar and sings are excellent. There's also an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track, subtitles are included in English.

Extras

The disc includes a small selection of extras, deleted scenes, outtakes, and some theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

Deleted scenes include:

- "Threesome Song" (3:32) which is the song that Phillips performs, he is attempting to play at the start of the film while a group of young ladies text, talk loudly, and dance until they are forcibly ejected by management and the other scene is where Jay Warren (J.K. Simmons) learns from a bartender about Phillips problems with protesters outside of his act.

- "The Folksinger" (1:29) another deleted sequence, easy to see why it was omitted.

Two outtakes are included:

- "Brendon Walsh Suffers for His Art" (1:31) Multiple takes of the actor hitting his head off a parking meter which is humorous at first, but quickly becomes embarrassing.

- "Stupid Joe" (1:45) which showcases Mark Cohen as the club owner doing comical introductions to made up acts. Mildly amusing.

The original theatrical trailer (2:21) presents the film's trailer and features some of the funnier moments from the film.

Three bonus trailers are presented for:

- "Buster Mal's Heart"
- "Mine"
- "Baked in Brooklyn"

Overall

The film tries hard to deliver the goods but ultimately falls short because there just isn't enough plot to hang a feature film on. For diehard fans of Henry Phillips and a few masochists that delight in other's failure. Definitely a rental only film, some fans of stand up may dig this for its dark sarcastic humor.

The Film: B- Video: A Audio: A Extras: C Overall: B-

 


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