A solid comedic documentary, for me, is more effective than your typically dry, factual documentaries, though one of my top five movies of last year was a dry, factual documentary. Whether you’re talking about a Borat style mockumentary-but-also-kinda-real movie or one of Michael Moore’s less odious films, the power of laughter does more to educate me than ninety minutes of gloom and doom. That’s why I was interested in Al Shearer: The Other Black Guy Running for President in 2012. There was a chance for this film to have something really interesting to say about the political process, especially in a year where the large part of America has basically no faith in the political process, whether it’s run by Democrats or Republicans.
Unfortunately, this movie is terrible, so none of that really happens, even a little bit.
Al Shearer: The Other Black Guy Running for President in 2012
Director: John Drumm
Release Date: June 15th (iTunes)
Al Shearer, once seen on BET and Punk’d, is pissed at the state of our country. He hits the streets, staging little acts that I hesitate to call “performance art” or some sort of protest, since it’s usually just him with a megaphone and maybe an extra helper he’s grabbed off the street. You can give the man one thing: he’s more than willing to grab random-ass people off the streets to help him in his travails. Eventually, after a few overly-long, poorly thought-out events, he decides the only way to fix anything is to run for president himself. He hits the streets, collecting signatures to get himself on the ballot in California, and even “campaigns” in Iowa in the lead up to the big straw poll of Republican candidates.
It’s so hard to talk about this movie, mostly because not a whole hell of a lot actually happens. He has his few protest things in front of places like Citibank and other banks that benefited from the government bailouts, he presses some flesh at the boardwalk in Venice Beach with the help of some hot girls, he enlists a hot girl as his official spokesperson, and he generally tries to get people to write in his name at the Iowa straw poll, despite not being remotely interested in the Republican party. Every one of these segments, to a tee, goes on for far far far too long. The film isn’t even an hour and twenty minutes, and I still think it could have lost a solid half hour of Shearer speaking to random people on the streets and awkwardly “hilariously” trying to get their attention for something. Maybe there’s a statement here about the public’s apathy towards grassroots political movement. Good effort, but it’s still not funny.
I can think of a handful of legitimately funny moments in the movie, but they’re unfortunately too few and far between. There’s a particularly inspired awkward situation where Shearer, in an attempt to learn more about China and its role in America’s future, orders delivery from Chinese place after Chinese place, grilling the hapless delivery guys about how to react to potential Chinese human rights abuses. At one point, he tries to court the Hispanic vote by handing out Taco Bell tacos in a sombrero while wearing a shirt that says, “I hate Arizona too.” There’s some good comedy here, and Shearer is clearly a very charismatic, intelligent guy, but the situations he gets himself into are in dire need of an editor.
With a picture like this, editing is key. You need to know just the right moment to cut away from a shot for maximum comedic effect. You need to know when to cut out the fluff in a moment to get right to the meaty parts. This film either has a non-existent or simply bad editor, as much of the film spends a surprising amount of time with each person or group Shearer or his co-horts approaches. We spend an absurd amount of time campaigning in Venice Beach, when the entire sequence could have been much funnier and much tighter cut down to a couple of the primo reactions from people. I get that a lot of people won’t sign your petition, man. I don’t need to see it more than ten times.
I could go on about the litany of technical issues plaguing the film as well, all the sort that wouldn’t be out of place in an amateur video or an intro college course. Cameras change jarringly from scene to scene, and the audio work is a joke. All that’s a bit immaterial, though. I can see past technical problems if there’s something heartfelt and enjoyable behind them. This film has its heart in the right place, attempting to reject and ridicule the American political system, but when it winds up failing in almost every attempt to do so, there’s no possible way I can recommend this.