Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ed Helms, Amanda Seyfried, Tracy Morgan, Brenda Vaccaro, PJ Byrne, Leah Remini, Mickey Gooch Jr., Adam Levine, Russell Peters, Alan Thicke, Greg Vrotsos, Todd Giebenhain, James Ransone, Vince Offer, Billy Blanks, Wendy Braun, Richard Tanner
Written by: Dito Montiel, based on his novel
Directed by: Dito Montiel
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual references
Running Time: 89
Date: 01/26/2018

The Clapper (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Wizard of Applause

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though it's not exactly brilliant, this indie rom-com is passably charming, and it finds offbeat atmosphere in an uncharted corner of Hollywood: scuzzy places where the glamorous would fear to tread.

In The Clapper, Eddie Krumble (Ed Helms) works as a professional audience member in Hollywood, alongside his best friend Chris (Tracy Morgan); together they cheer for dubious products and services on sleazy daytime shows. During his off hours, he buys a few dollars of gas every day, just to visit with the pretty clerk Judy (Amanda Seyfried). One day, talk show host Jayme Stillerman (Russell Peters) identifies Eddie — despite his various disguises — broadcasts his face on TV, and he loses his job.

He becomes a kind of mini-celebrity and because of this, and because of a misunderstanding, he loses Judy; he does not know her last name, her phone number, or where she lives. So he reluctantly agrees to go on the Stillerman show to try to find her and win her back, although this decision is fraught with its own, new kinds of peril.

Writer and director Dito Montiel usually makes clumsily heavy-handed dramas (Fighting, The Son of No One, Boulevard, Man Down, etc.), so it's a surprise to see him managing a comedy like The Clapper (based on his own 2007 novel Eddie Krumble Is the Clapper). He doesn't dig very deep into this world of "clapping," but for those that didn't even know it existed, it's at least a novelty.

He also doesn't pry very deep into his characters; Eddie is such a weirdo that it's hard to believe Judy could fall in love with him. However the two actors bring such a warm charm to their roles that they pull it off. Morgan is also more than a little wonderful as the slightly dim Chris, standing by his friend through thick and thin.

The movie is fairly wise about the world of marginal celebrity, and the whole thing is somewhat plausible. But the best thing in The Clapper is its entire world, a weird underbelly of Hollywood, consisting of cheap TV studios, gas stations, fast food joints ("nobody sits inside"), and streetcorner superheroes; it's hard to look away.

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