On the other hand, Spurlock’s "Mansome," which had its world premiere Saturday night at BMCC (and will distributed next month via Paladin), takes aim at the mainstreaming of pampering self-care in the male population. Waxing, spa treatments, ferocious narcissism, hair sculpting — Spurlock’s doc explores it all with the preemptive assumption that it’s all quite absurd. Along the way, executive producers Jason Bateman and Will Arnett serve as a Greek chorus cracking jokes about what it means to be a man in the 21st century while they endure facial treatments and massages at a day spa.
The movie is funny, no question. But it’s superficial piffle in terms of really saying anything about the actual dilemmas men face in the wake of feminism and political correctness. It’s certainly fun to hit up famous friends (Zach Galifianakis, Paul Rudd, Judd Apatow, Scott Ian, Cosmo editor in chief Kate White, John Waters, ZZ Top) to crack jokes about beards, hair pieces, virility, back shaving and ball maintenance.
But here Spurlock, who has proven himself a talented filmmaker and cultural commentator, for the first time skews into meanness. There’s a self-loathing to his treatment of men’s grooming follies and a mocking of certain subjects (the Indian metrosexual, the pro wrestler) built into the narrative and tone. Maybe the self-loathing is true to how men actually feel when addressing themselves in this space, but that’s not really discussed much in the movie.
Spurlock and co-writer Chilnick set out to make an entertaining film, and they certainly succeeded. But "Mansome" came across as the pulpy novella a famous author throws in between his bigger, more meaningful books because he hasn’t yet had the next great idea worthy of his full attention. And in contrast to the powerful "Sexy Baby," it feels like a missed opportunity.