Satirizing reality TV is problematic in part because truths about the genre, and the Hollywood machine responsible for it, are already painfully plain to anyone who even cursorily watches the programs. Greg Pritikin’s mockumentary Surviving Eden provides a veritable checklist of these obvious facts, depicting shows like Survivor—and the celebrity culture that surrounds them—as alternately phony, cutthroat, and corrupting, and its “ordinary people” contestants as either blissful idiots, fame-seeking cretins, or a combination of the two. That it has nothing novel to say about the subject matter it’s skewering is the film’s largest failing, though running a close second is Pritikin’s faux-documentary conceit, which after a somewhat amusing and convincing opening critically falters thanks to unmistakably scripted conversations as well as scenes photographed with inventive multi-angle camera setups unlikely to be found in an off-the-cuff nonfiction film. Unlike the work of Christopher Guest, Pritikin manages neither sustained flights of fancy nor shrewd visual cutaways to environmental or background details that might enliven or amplify his film’s themes (or, at least, provide a chuckle), and his cast (including former SNL star Cheri Oteri, Guest regular Jane Lynch, and director John Landis) often strains to manufacture humor from situations either hackneyed or half-baked. As the shy, overweight, socially maladjusted Dennis who becomes a flash-in-the-pan celeb thanks to his winning Surviving Eden, Michael Panes does his best to first channel Being There‘s Chauncey Gardener (in a post-show press conference where his blandly straightforward answers are taken for high comedy) and then Peter Sellers himself via a pair of black-rimmed glasses, a neat haircut, and a series of outlandish outfits straight out of the ‘60s. The film’s sole gut-busting laugh, however, turns out to also be its most random—a hilariously spontaneous moment in which Peter Dinklage, as Dennis’s karate-loving best friend, has an interview interrupted by an impromptu pig attack.
- Good Films Releasing
- 89 min
- Greg Pritikin
- Greg Pritikin
- Michael Panes, Cheri Oteri, Jane Lynch, Sam Robards, Savannah Haske, Peter Dinklage, John Landis
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