Dir. Morgan Spurlock
The argument that men are somehow only now becoming self-obsessed narcissists has never held much water -- what has the previous 10,000 years of human existence proven if not that the unchecked male ego is the most dangerous force on the planet? -- but if you want to go ahead and make the case that the last twenty years have seen a rise of a particular kind of meticulous grooming obsession for the north American male, be my guest. Morgan Spurlock's fluffy new documentary, which focuses on such significant subject matter as eyebrow shaping and professional beard competitions, attempts to cast a light on the new ways in which men are defining their physical beauty, but doesn't really end up saying very much at all.
One might call it a kind of pathetic fallacy -- a film about the vapidity of the male self-gaze ends up every bit as surface and superfluous as the subjects themselves -- but it's clear that Spurlock, one of our generation's best-known documentarians (he directed Super Size Me, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, and served as a host and producer for the 30 Days series), is tackling this subject with tongue inserted firmly in mustachioed cheek. To set the stage, the doc, which is broken up into subjects ("The Mustache," "The Face," and so on) uses Jason Bateman and Will Arnett going through a day of spa treatment and bantering back and forth about what it means to be a man as a kind of bridge to the individual segments, not unlike the kind of set-up you would find on "America's Funniest Home Videos."
Through the course of the film, we meet professional beardsmen; an entrepreneur who has created a grooming product called "Fresh Balls"; a young clothing buyer in New York who apparently spends every waking moment considering how he looks and concocting ways to improve himself, and various celebrities, including Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd and Anthrax' Scott Ian, among others, doing the VH-1-staple talking head bit, commenting more or less nonsensically about what it means to be a well-kept man in the 21st Century. You might call this experience amusing, but it's much more something you might discover late at night absently clicking through channels than appointment viewing.