Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Fluffy Movie: Unity Through Laughter - 2014

"The Fluffy Movie: Unity Through Laughter" - 2014
Dir. by Manny Rodriguez, Jay Lavender - 1 hr. 41 min.

Official Trailer #1

by Clayton Hollifield

I feel like there are a whole checklist of caveats I need to get to before I can really start discussing "The Fluffy Movie: Unity Through Laughter."  The main reason for that is that I was surprised by the second half of the film, and I feel like I need to explain where I'm coming from in order for that to make sense.  So, we'll get to the caveats in a minute here, and why I was surprised, but first let's have a light, refreshing recap to get us all up to speed?

"The Fluffy Movie" is a theatrical stand-up comedy concert film, starring Gabriel Iglesias, which is a rare beast these days.  The film starts off not with the comedy, but what you could probably explain as a short film that goes into how Iglesias' parents met, and how he stumbled across Eddie Murphy's "Raw" as a kid.  This segment feels longer than you'd expect; it's less of a framing device that comedy films usually employ, and more of a necessary foundation for what's to come.  Then, the concert itself, which was filmed in the Bay Area.

So let's get into why I wasn't expecting a lot out of "The Fluffy Movie."  First off, and this might sound awful, but I've never rated Iglesias highly as a comedian.  That's not to say that he's not funny (because he is), and that's not to say that I haven't watched some of his TV specials (because I have), but I usually don't change the channel when he's on because he's good at what he does, but what he does doesn't always require a lot of attention be paid in order to get it.  Put it this way, if it's Saturday night and I'm surfing the internet and maybe have had a drink or two, AND a Bill Hicks special came on Comedy Central, I've got to shut everything down and pay full attention.  Same with Richard Pryor.  Or any of a number of comedians.  But Gabriel Iglesias does work that I can keep on in the background and is broad enough where I'm not going to have to pay attention to catch the nuances of what he's doing.  This is the guy who got out of speeding ticket by offering the policeman fresh donuts, for crying out loud.  His material is not usually pointed social commentary.

Also, frankly, I hadn't intended to sit all the way through the movie.  I figured I'd probably watch about half an hour, shut it off, and finish it the next night.  I do that frequently enough with stand-up specials; a lot of times I'm just looking for something to kill a little time before I can go to bed.  I ended up watching "The Fluffy Movie" wire-to-wire, and I'm really glad I did.  The material in the first chunk of the concert is pretty broad - he talks about how people have pushed back on his attempts to get in better health, and he tells some good stories about exactly what that's like, and not to worry that he's going to change.

The second half of the concert, on the other hand, gets very, very real.  I had listened to Iglesias on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, so I knew a bit of the story, but when the short film at the beginning of the movie becomes the basis of Iglesias' material, his performance is absolutely spellbinding.  Long story short, Gabriel's father shows up at one of his shows, a man he's never met.  And to say that he's conflicted about this is a minor understatement.  It helps that he's such a likable character, because there is real anger present, and he doesn't handle things ideally.  But he reacts honestly, and tells the story honestly (with all of it's complications and angles), and for me, Iglesias goes from a cartoon of a performer (which isn't an insult when you're talking about a comedian) to a man, a real flesh-and-blood man.  Granted, maybe I felt this one a little more deeply because of my own background, but real recognizes real.

So maybe "The Fluffy Movie" is a little uneven, maybe it gets off to a slow start.  But the second half of the movie is worth all of it.  That extended segment, from where his father shows up at one of his shows, is one of the best, realest, most masterful pieces of comedy I've ever seen.  His ability to juggle heavy emotional content with the need to keep things palatable and the need to come across honestly (and stay likable) is something that I frankly never expected to see out of him.  Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention over my laptop, or maybe it really is the breakthrough that I didn't see coming.  It's easy to lash out at other people in comedy, but only the greats like Richard Pryor get to that same level with themselves and their own actions, with the perfect balance of honesty and humor.  Now, no one is as good as Richard Pryor, but for half an hour Gabriel Iglesias came to visit that level, which is half an hour longer than 99% of other comedians have.

4 / 5 - Streaming

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