In 10 Words or Less
A feature-length set from one of comedy's finest
Loves: Louis C.K.'s comedy, stand-up, Louie
Likes: Louis C.K.'s movies
Dislikes: Stand-up DVDs lacking in extras
Hates: How right he is most of the time
I view the stand-up concert film in the same way I view a comedy album. It's just a recording. There's nothing special about it that differentiates it from a half-hour on Comedy Central. It's really just a matter of packaging. That's why I'm a bit confused as to why such a big deal was made about Louis C.K.'s concert film Hilarious, the first stand-up concert film to be accepted as part of the Sundance Film Festival. I've watched the movie, which, at 84 minutes, is just 24 minutes longer than his last special, Chewed Up, and though very funny, I can't say that it's remarkably funnier than Chewed Up (or Shameless.) So I can definitely say, I don't get what the big deal is about Hilarious.
That said, the title is absolutely as true as you could get. This is classic Louis C.K., covering the usual bases for his act, including his aging and its negative effect on his body, his interactions with his daughters (a steady source of funny for his act) and his opinions on society in general. What's new this time out, at least on DVD, is his status as a divorced single guy, so he gets to talk about dating and women, and his inability to cope with the single scene after years as a married guy. Though he can admittedly come off as a cranky old man at times (like when he talks about rotary phones), no matter your age or relationship status, it's incredibly easy to get inside his skin and walk around, as he's so smooth at getting his point across with straightforward and occasionally blunt language, perfectly measured physicality and volume and a sense of bemused outrage at the world around him.
If anything can stand as symbolic of this set, it's the imitation he does of people talking, which casts the majority of the population as awful, mewling mutant creatures, and how they only use the extremes of language when describing things, demolishing their value and lowering the bar on what life experiences mean. It ties in perfectly to when he breaks down the problem between expectations of perfection, the miracles of technology and the reality of life, and his view of the treatment of children in America. The combination of these segments, which are truly social commentary disguised as stand-up, come as close to philosophical genius as anyone probably has come since Sartre. If Louis C.K. wasn't so funny, this stuff would be incredibly sad, especially when he talks about the way people view hitting children. Maybe we can get him on TV on Sunday mornings, and then perhaps we might raise our game as a society and start appreciating our lives a bit.
The special was directed and edited by C.K., and there are some things about it that could have been done a touch better. Nearly the entire film is presented in waist-up shots or closer, which gives it a somewhat static feel, cutting to a wide-shot once in a while during a physical moment in his act (though during an exaggerated hand motion, he doesn't cut to show the motion until a few moments after he starts.) In fact, the presentation is so consistently boxed-in that when some circling shots from behind him are inserted (when these were shot is unclear), it seems completely out of place and disorienting. Rarely do we get to see the crowd either, which is unfortunate, as it would be nice to see what kind of venue he's in, since it is a concert film. Instead, when you see the crowd, it's normally pitch black, like he's entertaining a void full of laughs. A lucky void, but still a void.
This DVD, which arrives in a standard keepcase, features a static, anamorphic widescreen menu offering options to watch the film, select chapters and adjust the set-up. Audio options include English PCM 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. There are no subtitles, though closed captioning is available.
It's become clear that Louis C.K.'s work has a definite look to it, a look that is simple and has a somewhat vintage style. The anamorphic widescreen transfer here is just fine, with a clean image that's slightly soft, though the color (what there is of it) is appropriate. The level of detail isn't great (due to the softness) but there are no issues with dirt, damage or digital artifacts, and the black levels are pretty solid, separating C.K.'s black t-shirt from the dark background of the stage clearly.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does a nice job of putting you in the moment, with C.K. heard in the center and side speakers, alongside the audience, while the crowd gets the rear speakers to itself. There's nothing all that exciting about the presentation (it's a guy talking on a stage after all) but it's good nonetheless.
The Bottom Line
There's nothing that really separates this "concert film" from Louis C.K.'s last stand-up special, aside from the added length, but can anyone actually complain about getting more comedy from Louis C.K.? The DVD looks and sounds fine, but lacks any bonus content, so you've got to be a big fan to plunk down the payment for this disc, when a rental should satisfy most viewers.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.