I’d never heard of Jack Rebney, a.k.a. “The Angriest Man in the World” or as he’s now known, the “Winnebago Man.” I’d never seen his foul-mouthed outtakes recorded while making a sales video for the Winnebago company back in 1989. The outtakes eluded me as they became a VHS phenomenon in the ’90s and have since racked up millions of views on YouTube as the age of the Internet rolled around. However, I’ve now met Rebney in documentary filmmaker Ben Steinbauer’s Winnebago Man, as he took it upon himself to find the man and see what’s come of him. After all, he’s an Internet phenomenon and it seems Steinbauer’s hoping it’s affected him greatly.
Winnebago Man has earned some notoriety on the festival circuit, but I have a hard time figuring out why. Rebney appears to be no different than anyone else looking for a bit of seclusion; yet Steinbauer’s excitement as “the man who found him” isn’t willing to accept this. Determined to turn Rebney into a story, he drums up some fake sincerity and urges him to speak out on something he seems to care little for.
Sure, Rebney does have concerns such as in interest in discussing Dick Cheney, but Steinbauer’s not interested in that and seems dumbfounded as to why Rebney would even want to talk about anything other than an outtake video from over 20 years ago. On top of all this, Steinbauer seems just as interested in making himself a part of the story as he does his best to force Rebney into the spotlight.
This isn’t to say Steinbauer didn’t have a decent idea to being with. The film starts off with a very legitimate look at the viral video phenomenon and most poignantly discusses Ghyslain Raza, otherwise known as the Star Wars Kid. Raza made this video pretending to be a Star Wars Jedi of some sort and the video leaked online and the resulting embarrassment caused him to drop out of high school. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with depression and became an in-patient at a psychiatric ward for kids. Just over a month ago it was reported he’s doing fine and is now a law student at McGill University.
Now that is a story and one we don’t need to hear about the documentarian’s anguish in trying to figure out just how he’s going to pull off the telling of it for 30 minutes of its runtime.
You can tell Steinbauer had hopes Rebney’s story would be just as interesting, but as he pokes and prods in search of the slightest emotional angle, time and again he comes up empty. Instead it’s just a look at a lonely disgruntled man. Rebney does find some joy in having someone to talk to, but it’s a story meant for maybe 15 minutes of film at best, or none for that matter if Steinbauer had any sense. Yet, he has somehow managed to fill 85 minutes of screen time.
Rebney lives alone on a mountain top with his dog Buddha, and based on what I saw he wouldn’t have it any other way. He has since found some enjoyment in the notoriety and will kick off Winnebago Man‘s premiere in New York City alongside Michael Moore who’s quoted in the advertising as calling this “one of the funniest documentaries ever made!” If it’s funny I missed the comedy. Sad and relatively dull is more like it if you ask me.