Mockumentaries must seem a great deal easier to make than they really are, judging by how many are produced each year and how few truly succeed. A mere six years after This Is Spinal Tap, both producer Joel Silver and director Tim Burton found themselves the subjects of star-studded, horrendously awkward tribute films that must have seemed very cute at the time but that have aged like fine milk over the last quarter-century. For reasons that have gone unrecorded, a YouTube channel called olvidetango has collected these embarrassing films, the most ephemeral of ephemera, for the dubious benefit of modern viewers. Curiosity seekers are invited to watch at their own peril. These quasi-documentaries are just the thing for anyone who has just watched An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn and yearns for something in the same vein. If nothing else, these films provide numerous examples of very famous people trying and failing to portray themselves onscreen.
The Joel Silver tribute, at least, is comparatively brief. Way back in 1990, when he was raking in money hand over fist with testosterone-drenched offerings like Predator, Die Hard, and Lethal Weapon, Joel Silver was honored as Producer Of The Year by the National Association Of Theatre Owners. And why not? The man’s movies sure sold a lot of popcorn. But Silver, whose over-caffeinated mannerisms were memorably lampooned by Rick Moranis on SCTV, either volunteered or was corralled into appearing as a mad scientist in his own tribute video. Considering his shouted, halting delivery of dialogue, this might not have been the greatest idea in movie history. Jokey testimonials by such bona fide movie stars as Burt Reynolds, Eddie Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg, Mel Gibson, and Lily Tomlin similarly fail to right the ship. Maybe this thing went over better at the awards ceremony itself, particularly if drinks were served.
That same year, HBO unwisely decided to promote the release of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands with a half-hour mockumentary by director Roland Mesa, who went on to helm the third Revenge Of The Nerds movie but not a great deal else. In The Director’s Chair: The Man Who Invented Edward Scissorhands is a queasy concoction indeed: equal parts commercial and hyper-extended comedy sketch. The central conceit of Mesa’s film is that it’s a probing look at the entire life and career of Tim Burton, including interviews with actors pretending to be the director’s parents and even some mock “home movies” (à la The Wonder Years) supposedly depicting Burton’s 1960s childhood, when he was a dour little boy surrounded by perversely cheerful relatives. The oddest part of all this is that not everyone seems to be in on the joke. Winona Ryder, Johnny Depp, and especially Vincent Price give sweet, sincere interviews, while Alan Arkin, Danny Elfman, and Stan Winston give “wacky” interviews. And then Jim Brown and Heather Thomas do some sort of ill-advised Thing With Two Heads parody, and there’s a running joke about a John Wayne Gacy-style killer clown. It’s all certainly something. Just what, however, is opaque.