NOTE: There is a small spoiler in this review.
Sure, they had cameras, lights and even Ben Stiller and Jason Schwartzman, but the one thing they forgot was a story worth telling. Is The Marc Pease Experience supposed to be funny, endearing, tragic or just plain boring? I walked out of the theater with one fellow critic telling me they thought it was “terrible” and another saying they would have rather watched the film’s production of “The Wiz,” and even that wasn’t anything to brag about. Neither are flattering statements and while I won’t go as far as to say the film is terrible, because they did manage to point the camera in the right direction, this dud has nowhere to go but its opening day limited theaters where it will promptly die.
The film revolves around Marc Pease (Jason Schwartzman), whom we are first introduced to as he is about to step on stage as the Tin Man in his high school’s presentation of “The Wiz.” He has cold feet and is talked into believing in himself by his musical theater teacher Joe Gribble (Ben Stiller) through the use of backhanded compliments and promises he never intends to live up to. Of course, Marc’s new found courage only lasts seconds as we next see him bust out of the back door followed closely by Gribble carrying his character’s axe. Flash forward eight years later and Pease has lost his stage fright, works as a limo driver, is dating Meg (Anna Kendrick), a high school student, and is in the middle of trying to sell his late grandmother’s house to put together enough money to get his a cappella singing group, Meridian 8 (although the group is now down to only four members), into the studio in his continued search for fame while living a life stuck in high school. Suffice to say, he is a delusional loser without a firm grasp on reality, but is that what we are supposed to think?
There is no connecting to any of the characters in this film. Are you eight years removed from high school, dating a high schooler and still frequent said school to visit your musical theater teacher who once told you that you set the bar “so the other kids can go beyond it”? If so, this movie may be for you.
Are you a high schooler dating a 26-year-old and screwing your middle-aged musical theater teacher? Then maybe this is for you.
Or, are you a musical theater teacher screwing one of your students while scrounging dating websites to no avail? If so, this movie is for you.
There, those are your options. I can’t imagine any other human being that would be able to connect to this movie and find any reason to follow its storyline to completion. Like I said, it’s not that the production is terrible, it’s the fact it’s a script that never should have been greenlit for lack of overall worth.
Directed by Todd Louiso, whom you may remember as Chad the Nanny in Jerry Maguire, this film serves as his second feature film after Love Liza in 2002, which starred Philip Seymour Hoffman. He co-wrote the feature with first time writer Jacob Koskoff, and it’s a script that comes off as having no soul and what seems to be no idea as to what drives these characters and why we should care. If Louiso and Koskoff know, perhaps they should tell their actors whom appear lost in their own shoes. Or maybe tell the audience through the use of voice over or subtitles so we know exactly what frame of mind we are working with. Anything. Please. Give us reason to care.
Before publishing this review I asked someone if giving away the plot details above spoiled the film. The reply was, “No one will see that film, not even on accident. It will be in ten theaters this weekend and never heard from again.” That sounds about right considering there isn’t a trailer, official publicity stills were never sent out and even the official site showed “Forbidden” as of the posting of this review. It sounds to me like a cinematic death is exactly what the doctor ordered.