Tucker Max is an asshole.
Tucker Max is also a god.
No matter what label you give, the 33-year-old cultural icon/pariah/author, Tucker Max is an intelligent guy. He knows how to market himself, even if it is as a pompous womanizer.
And the line that wrapped around Sundance Cinema last week Sunday served as a testament to his infectious arrogance, as the crowd of mostly guys and a peppering of girls in low-cut tops waited in anticipation to catch an advance peek of “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” the film based on Max’s book of the same title.
Co-written by Max and Nils Parker, the movie “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” — very loosely based on Max’s story titled “The Austin Road Trip” — finds Max (Matt Czuchry, TV’s “Gilmore Girls”) conning friends Dan (Geoff Stults, “The Express”) and Drew (Jesse Bradford, “Bring it On”) to go on a quest for the Holy Grail of strip clubs to celebrate Dan’s last remaining days of bachelorhood. Beers are thrown back, insults fly like machine gun fire, boobs are exposed, and Max (literally) shits all over a hotel lobby.
But there’s more to this film than boob and butt jokes, insisted Max during a sit-down interview after the film’s screening last Sunday.
“The movie’s about narcissism,” Max said. “About Tucker’s narcissism and how it impacts his friends.”
Certainly, and Max seems to be an expert on the subject.
Yet, ironically, portions of “IHTSBIH” play out similarly to the watered-down morality tales featured on ABC Family than the content of his books and blog. Drew — based on the book’s SlingBlade — somehow learns to cast his woman-hating nature by the wayside for a Halo-playing stripper Lara (Marika Domincyzk, TV’s “Brothers and Sisters”), and Dan — a composite of the book’s PWJ and El Bingeroso — dutifully returns to the arms of his fianc?e Kristy (Keri Lynn Pratt, TV’s “Brothers and Sisters”) after a night in jail.
Still, just like the book, Max never learns his lesson.
“Narcissists don’t become empathetic and compassionate over 10 days, so all he can do is learn how to model appropriate behavior,” Max explains. “It’s supposed to be a realistic movie. It’s supposed to feel raw and authentic. It’s supposed to feel like ‘I know those guys, or I’ve been with those guys.’ Almost every Hollywood comedy is slap-sticky or hi-jinky. … It’s ridiculous. Everything that happened in that movie happened in real life or was a facsimile of what happened in real life. So we wanted to make a movie that has a whole level of authenticity that Hollywood comedies don’t.”
Regrettably, certain deviations from the non-fiction book do a considerable amount of detriment to the film. Max’s first-person perspective is completely stripped from the movie, and even though Max’s stories may not be relatable to the reader, his narration still offered a more personal glimpse of his flounderings — no matter how revolting or depraved. The exclusion of this aspect forces audiences to observe rather than seemingly experience the antics of the three main characters, and it becomes even more distracting when characters disappear for 10 minutes at a time.
This aspect also slows down the pace of the film, which takes 20 minutes to really get off the ground — 20 minutes too long for a film based on a book that practically rockets by in its pace. The actors certainly don’t help this cause. Czuchry — at least at the film’s outset — is Satan in a Ferris Bueller costume, far too precocious than Max writes him in the book. And Bradford’s Drew is like Max’s Cameron, seemingly too ridiculous in his despair and militant in his hatred for women. It takes a considerable amount of time for both actors to achieve the level of believable humanity from both Stults or Domincyzk.
Max, however, is confident in the five lead actor’s portrayals, confirming they would return for the three sequels Max and Nils have next on the docket should this current film do well.
“Why would we switch them? That doesn’t even make sense,” Max said. “Listen, we could have cast Justin Timberlake or Dane Cook or Seth Rogen. But I’m tired of those idiots doing every fucking comedy. … We cast the best actors for those roles. We didn’t need stars. I don’t think you need stars to watch movies. That’s bullshit.”
“IHTSBIH” knows it has a niche — any Tucker Max fan will undoubtedly drool over the character parading his narcissism all over the silver screen — and the film will undoubtedly break Max’s projected $50 million goal at the box office because of it.
Max never learns his lesson in the film, and it’s unlikely he will in reality.
For Tucker Max, it seems, arrogance is bliss.
2 stars out of 5.