American: The Bill Hicks Story
Sometimes it’s up to Europe to tell America what’s the best thing in America. They are the ones who adore “The Wire,” and it turns out they also love comedian Bill Hicks. This BBC-funded documentary claims he is the best comedian America has ever produced. The reason why he isn’t as well known today is that he died at the age of 32 in 1994.
The documentary is vibrant as it uses animation to recreate moments in his childhood and career by blending still photographs and AfterEffects. Sometimes it works to recreate the atmosphere of the early clubs, but when the film tries to show drug trips, it’s a bit ridiculous. It does this to avoid the typical shots of “talking heads” throughout the documentary. The problem then comes from what is being said in those interviews.
I love comedians talking about comedy. That’s the reason why there are so many successful podcasts like “The Nerdist.” It was really surprising that the interviews were composed by those who knew Hicks instead of the ones who appreciated him.
That means the content isn’t as strong as it could have been. There are too many stories of him as a child that don’t add up to much. It doesn’t really paint a picture of Hicks as a person because it just feels like filler anecdotes. Then his friends and family handle his rise and fall, so it’s more sympathetic than enlightening.
As in most documentaries like this, what succeeds is the footage of the subject. Hicks is very funny and clever. He has a distinct style that is slower than a lot of the stand-up comedians working today. He’s vicious as he attacks religion and patriotism but is able to back it up by just being funny.
If you’re a big Bill Hicks fan, this documentary will be very entertaining, but to newcomers, it will be preferable just to watch one of his concert films.
That said, if you are a Hicks fan, this Blu-ray is for you. There are two discs worth of material. The extended interviews aren’t that great, but there are plenty of clips of Hicks and his audio journals. There’s also a ton of featurettes, deleted scenes and alternate animated sequences.
Film: 3 Yaps
Extras: 4 Yaps