Get Bruce!

1999, Movie, R, 82 mins


Bruce who? Director Andrew Kuehn's often entertaining documentary looks at comedy guru Bruce Vilanch, who's written "from ABBA to Zadora" and scripted the last several Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy telecasts. Vilanch (now a regular on the new Hollywood Squares) is a big, gay, Jewish bear of a man with a Mason Reese haircut and what appears to be the world's largest collection of captioned t-shirts. He's also a gifted craftsman who's put words into the mouths of many famous friends and clients who turn up here to pay tribute, A-list types including Roseanne, Rosie O'Donnell, Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, Paul Reiser, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. Kuehn includes some brief how-he-got-so-funny biographical stuff: It comes as no surprise that Vilanch's mother sounds like she's just lost a gravel-eating contest with Harvey Fierstein. And Goldberg outs him as the author (at her request) of Ted Danson's controversial blackface Friars roast routine. Mostly, though, Kuehn's approach is to show a bunch of amusing folks either assuring us that Vilanch is a laugh riot and all around swell guy, or shooting off hyperkinetic comic riffs. This isn't without its pleasures; Crystal, for example, expounds hilariously on the hitherto-unsuspected homoerotic subtext of the Siskel/Ebert schtick: "They went to the movies together too many times. And what's with that thumbs up?" Not to be outdone, Williams improvs a convulsively funny fantasy about Jack Benny and Rochester on The X-Files. Still, the aroma of hagiography is unavoidable; unless Vilanch is utterly unlike everybody else in show-biz, chances are he's got some kind of dark side. But you'd be hard pressed to find it here; of all the celebrities Kuehn interviews, only Goldberg allows, in passing, that Vilanch might be "difficult" upon first meeting. Hey — who needs comedy writers when you've got living saints? leave a comment --Steve Simels

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