1) This film is solely based on the premise that Bruce Vilanch is The Greatest Comedy Writer Ever And You Will Love Him. If you don't...and boy howdy, don't I...well....
2) And the weirdest part of all the schmoozing and slurping of Vilanch is how contradictory the main body of the film is with the clips used as proof. There seems to be a definite disconnect here, as everyone is praising him for being so timeless and eternal when every clip namedrops then current celebrities that are pretty much ciphers at this point (Linda Tripp? Paula Dean? huh?)
3) However, what is interesting is those moments that give us insight into the process of writing comedy. Especially fascinating is the way director Andrew J. Kuehn contrasts how Vilanch develops routines for two of the four major interviewees. Seeing how Billy Crystal has him come to his home and works over things meticulously as opposed to how Robin just has him feed concepts and idea he can rift on reveals what may be Vilanch's real talent of reflecting what is the comedian's strengths back at them. That being said...
4) Man, does Robin Williams come off as a stunted post-adolescent, cock-obsessed jackass in this film. Watching him doing these weird, borderline racist riffs on The X-Files and relying almost fully on impersonations, Williams is served the poorest.
(Although even I will admit that the whole 'what if Jack Benny was Mulder section of said rift is pretty funny.)
5) Crystal, however, shows a real intelligence and thoughtfulness about his craft, and hearing him reason out how he worked out specific gags with Vilanch actually improves his status in my eyes.
6) The other two main interviewees are Whoopi Goldberg and Bette Midler. Goldberg comes off a touch disingenuous, and seems to be defending herself and some of her choices (especially that Ted Danson Black Face thing) a little too much.
7) Midler's segment, on the other hand, is of note because it's mainly about how Vilanch exposed her to older comediennes, especially Sophie Tucker, that allowed her to discover and develop her own stage identity. It's cool not only because it gives us more of the process, but shows us Vilanch not as Comedy Writing Messiah, but as someone shaping and advising someone just starting out. I wish we saw more of that and less of the endless streams of celebs bowing down before him.
8) There are a couple of other interviewees I wish Kuehn has spent more time with--especially George Schlatter, who shows a lot of insight in the few moments we hear from here.
9) If the whole purpose of this film is to tell people How Wonderful Bruce Is, Kuehn should probably not have used as much footage of him performing on his own because, quite frankly, he sucks, and his lack of talent only emphasizes how baseline and without wit he is when he is on his own. Hell, the delight he takes on the concept of making a fart joke out of news of a gas leak pretty exemplifies everything that doesn't work about the flick.
10) That being said...the one moment where we see him on stage at a benefit, struggling with genuine emotions and the jokes he wrote for himself, is the single instance where we learn what he's like for real. For this film to work, we needed more of that and less of Bette Midler doing an insincere 'I love you, Bruce' and then scolding the filmmaker for not cutting afterwards.
Overall...a puff piece through and though that needed more of the process and genuine emotions and less kissing of the less-than-impressive Vilanch's too-wide ass.