Blake Gardner loves movies. He's obsessed with them. He even prays to them. But more than that, he is a movie. Or, at least, he thinks he is. He spends his every waking hour narrating his life to an audience he's convinced is out there, looking in. As such, he's determined to make his life as interesting, as original, as cliché-free a movie as he can possibly offer. As leading men go, he's nice enough to consider the viewer.
Naturally, Blake is plum crazy. He can't see his audience - nobody can - but, hey, wait a sec, we can see him, right?
Rookie filmmaker Brad T. Gottfred's "The Movie Hero" played the festival circuit in 2003 and 2004 but then disappeared into cinema limbo, only now resurfacing as a direct-to-video release from Anchor Bay. The low budget work (the total cost was under half a million) deserves a wider audience (no pun intended), as the film is overflowing with charm and a genuine love for the connection a movie can have with its viewers.
Jeremy Sisto stars as Blake, aka the Movie Hero, and he carries the picture with great ease. It becomes easy to get wrapped up in Blake's delusions because Sisto truly, completely believes, and such conviction is infectious. When Blake meets his court-ordered psychiatrist (Dina Meyer) and instantly realizes she's his Love Interest, we want nothing but to cheer him on. Blake lives his life in a fever pitch, and Sisto's charisma makes his character an instantly lovable sort.
Gottfred's script, then, builds on this charm by delivering not only a quirky, high concept comedy, but also a tender story about a man falling in love and, more importantly, finding the kind of life he'd like to live (for himself and for his audience). The Movie Hero's wooing of the Love Interest (who, of course, has a Doomed Fiancé, played wonderfully by Carlos Jacott; the movie was made before the term "Baxter" was coined but otherwise has the role down pat) is sweet and involving; even without the central gimmick, the romance still clicks - a sure sign of a well-written story. The "audience" layer on top of this love story then adds an extra kick. Watch as Blake gently requests that we follow the Love Interest around for a while; he wants his movie to be her movie, too.
In addition to a knack for engaging, delightful storytelling, Gottfred also has a deep knowledge of movie language and movie formula, which he reveals through Blake. Tiring of having to be entertaining all the time, Blake aims to hire a Sidekick, but initially balks at hiring a black guy (Brian J. White), because the idea of a wisecracking black sidekick is trite and potentially racist. When the Sidekick insists on driving during what promises to be a car chase, our Movie Hero asserts, "You better drive fast and weave dangerously in and out of traffic."
Yes, a car chase. You see, Blake, looking to make his movie quite exciting, takes a look around, spots a Suspicious Character (Peter Stormare, in a deliriously pitch-perfect appearance), and instantly decides that he's got to be a villain. Problem is, Suspicious Character is all too willing to play the part, becoming entangled in Blake's movie in the most sinister of ways.
As Blake's movie grows, it becomes more and more magical, until we're swept into a finale bursting with wonder. "The Movie Hero" has slight comparisons to everything from "The Truman Show" to "The Purple Rose of Cairo," but it's assuredly a work all its own, fresh and inspired and simply brilliant. Gottfred and his cast and crew have created something truly special here. You need to join Blake's audience right away.
Considering its budget, "The Movie Hero" looks pretty darn solid. The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) presentation has its softness, but this is kept to a minimum. It's rare to see a cheapie look this good.
The soundtrack's just as nice, the Dolby stereo coming off rich and full. And Stormare's Lennon-esque song over the closing credits? Sounds great. No subtitles are offered.
Gottfred's commentary track is chatty and informative, if a bit dry at times. The only other extra is a still gallery.
Despite the shortage of bonus material, this one's most certainly Highly Recommended. It's big fun and big charm delivered with a wink, and Anchor Bay's transfer is top notch. Don't let this one slip you by.