Teddy Bears’ Picnic (review)
They’re the richest, the whitest, the most powerful men in the world, and once a year they gather at Zambesi Glen in Northern California to cut loose and plan their continued domination of the planet. Inspired by the exclusive men’s retreat Bohemian Grove, where Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger have frolicked, writer/director Harry Shearer (EDtv) turned out this partly improvised semi-mockumentary in which the satire is just too easy to be genuinely satisfying. Sure, it’s always a joy to see guys like Fred Willard and Michael McKean and David Rasche having fun onscreen, but how hard is it to ridicule rich white men and their masters-of-the-universe attitude? It’s like a Saturday Night Live skit stretched to 80 minutes — granted, it’s an SNL skit from the days when SNL was still funny, but it’s obviousness keeps getting more and more, well, obvious as the film unspools. It can’t hope to be as biting as the similar work Shearer’s fellow Spinal Tap alum Christopher Guest has given us — this is no Waiting for Guffman or Best in Show — because we have no sympathy whatsoever for these characters. We can only laugh at them, and not feel for them at all. And without pathos, humor is only cheap gags.