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When it comes to Andy Dick, most of my recent memory of him has been dominated by his work on MTV, not his glory days as a cast member of News Radio. Lets just say, given his TV Reality show antics, as well is some of the more scandalous gossip page column behavior with drugs and alcohol, I always thought it would be best to avoid the guy completely. Sure, I don’t know him personally, but if his on-screen presence has been unbearably obnoxious for many years, it’s certainly not to my taste.

That perception has changed, slightly. Recently, I caught Danny Roane, First Time Director on Comedy Central. My impulse was to change the channel, but before I could find the remote, I found myself wanting to give the movie a couple of minutes of leeway. I saw something I never expected: Andy Dick was actually “acting” — and not in a hyperactive comedic (read, wannabe Robin Williams or Jim Carrey) way. He was subdued, conveying emotion with his face. In short, he’d toned himself down for a role. That had me intrigued.

The concept of the movie looks simple at first. It’s a “mockumentary” in the vein of Reiner and Guest, but sadly, it doesn’t reach the masterwork level that “This is Spinal Tap” or “Best in Show” achieve. Basically, it tells the story of a director trying to make his first feature length film. Cameras are following him around so that there can be a “The Making Of…” documentary. The really intriguing part of the film comes in the character Dick is playing. Danny Roane is a recovering alcoholic, one that has had many public meltdowns on television. As an actor, he’s blackballed, and to save his career, he thought he’d try his hand at a different part of the entertainment industry — directing and producing.

The parallel here is obvious. Dick himself has rather struggled with alcohol and drugs. The parallel is further reinforced by one more: Danny Roane was once a bumbling character on a very popular sitcom. So was Dick (News Radio, starring the late, tragic Phil Hartman). Even more, Andy Dick directs, produces, and acts in this film. The levels of irony are astounding. As such, this movie comes off as an personal act of self perody, even as the Danny Roane character becomes unhinged and relapses into a crazed, insane alcoholic stupor. This is admirable for one reason: Andy Dick has learned to laugh at himself. That really takes a learned sense of humility and self awareness.

In that regard, it’s made me look at him with a less toxic vehemence. Still, as mentioned earlier, for a mockumentary as a genre or type of cinema, the question is always “Does it live up to Spinal Tap.” No, it doesn’t. There’s a lot that doesn’t work in this movie, and the humor can be hit or miss at times. Sometimes, it has that Reno 911! vibe of being over-improvised. And honestly, there’s still a strong sense of Dick’s outrageous behavior at work. It just seems a bit more channeled. Hopefully, Danny Roane, First Time Director speaks of new direction in Dick’s career: one of a thoughtful, sincere filmmaker who knows how to channel his demons, and not the reality-show-driven, drug-addicted asshole many have seen on TV.

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