If we've learned anything from the Judd Apatow era of 21st century raunchy comedies, it's that there are few things funnier than an unexpected penis. When comedian Gavin McInnes's flaccid member shows up among the first few frames of Chadd Harbold's sophomore feature How to Be a Man, it's pretty obvious which way things are headed. Thus begins a cavalcade of dick and fart jokes that would make Eddie Murphy blush. But a funny thing happens on the way to the potty humor aisle; the jokes never wear thin. Whereas many contemporary raunch-coms get real old (and real long) real quick, Harbold is able to keep things moving with his ability to up the ante as the film dips its toe just slightly into screwball territory, all the while staying grounded in a heartfelt and hilarious story.
McInnes stars as Mark, a retired comedian who now makes his living in creative advertising (think of a foul-mouthed and slightly hairier Peggy Olson). Having just learned he has terminal cancer, Mark hires 22-year old slacker Bryan (Liam Aiken) to follow him around with a camera and document all the man-tips he'll never be able to teach his unborn son. As Bryan starts scooping up Mark's not-so golden nuggets, Mark's mission soon becomes more about showing the antisocial Bryan what he's been missing out on -- which gives Mark a far more entertaining way to spend his last days on earth than just yapping at the camera.
If this reminds you of the plot of that one Michael Keaton movie (that would be Ghost writer Bruce Joel Rubin's lone directorial outing My Life from 1993), then you are a douche. You're also not alone as the joke is repeated on multiple occasions throughout the film. It's this kind of self-referential humor that the film nails so well. Mark isn't just making fart jokes, he's commenting on the effectiveness of fart jokes. Without ever crossing the fourth wall, Harbold is able to use the movie within the movie to create his own little putrid petri dish of sour smelling but seriously funny commentary on the stupid shit that makes guys laugh -- and thus defines our very manhood.
If there is one thing to be learned from How to Be a Man, it's that no dude should ever know the first thing about astrology. If there is a second thing, it's that Gavin McInnes is one seriously funny guy. If you need a third thing, Chadd Harbold has plenty to teach you about how to make a great film on a modest indie budget. As it turns out, there is a whole lot to take away from How to Be a Man, not the least of which is an aching gut from all the belly laughing you're bound to be doing. And if the person sitting next to you lets one slip while they are giggling away, hey, it's okay to laugh at that one too.
How to Be a Man recently made its world premiere at Sundance's NEXT Weekend festival in Los Angeles, CA.