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2007 Picturehouse TRAVELING CIRCUS: Vince Vaughn (center) poses with the comics and musicians in his 'Wild West Comedy Show.'

On the Bus

Vince Vaughn takes his friends on a 'Wild West Comedy Show' with neo–Rat Pack results

By Richard von Busack

SOMEWHERE between redneck and urban comedy lies the terrain of Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show, a middling, home-movieish documentary by Ari Sandel. Vaughn is probably the idol of young comedic actors in America; the bull-calf physique and the slightly jaded, sullen face make him the man they would like to drink a 12-pack with. Sandel doesn't get to the man under the actor, though, and what we see here is probably what Vaughn would like us to see: a buddyish guy in a shiny suit, helping out his less-famous comedian pals. The bus tour, scored to trad Americana (Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard), includes the usual practical jokes during the long haul of a 30-day, 30-city grind. The "but seriously, folks" sequence is a trip to visit Katrina survivors camped out at Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama. I also liked the chance to see the facades of some ornate vintage theaters in grain-belt cities that I'll probably only be passing at 35,000 feet. The wild Easterner among the Westerners is the double-named Ahmed Ahmed, the son of an Egyptian mechanic from Riverside, Calif. Sandel films him outside the Clark County Sheriff's headquarters in Las Vegas, discussing how he was rounded up as part of a nationwide dragnet of Arabs right before the 2004 election. We are rooting for Ahmed, but watching him is like watching the self-deprecating jokes black comedians used to tell in the early 1960s. Is he going to make a step past audience-calming humor? Ahmed is apparently devout, or at least devout enough to have gone on pilgrimage to Mecca.

By contrast, Chicago's Sebastian Maniscalco's clean-freak routines are ready for prime time. He jokes about the fussy coffee drinker and the metrosexual; there is an emotional moment at the end, where we see how hard Sebastian struggled to get to the stage. Bret Ernst does the "You know you're Italian when ..." end of comedy. Like Maniscalco, he is down on the weakness of modern men compared to the old school. Thus I only really had eyes for the comic who went deliberately weak and weird, John Caparulo, this movie's best performer. A rattier Norm MacDonald or a doughier Bobcat Goldwaith, "Cap" gives his quiet recessive descriptions of the beta-male life—the bummer job that still requires mandatory staff meetings and the dog who looks down his nose at him ("Hey, I may lick my balls, but you're a real loser").

Actors Justin Long and Keir O'Donnell come along for the ride. O'Donnell cheers the refugees just by being "the gay guy from The Wedding Crashers." I guess even a fake gay guy trumps real-life women, who only get into this film to show off how well they fill their tank tops. This tour wouldn't have been less wild if Vaughn could have gotten a good woman comic to take part. We see the neo–Rat Pack, Vince, where's the neo–Shirley MacLaine?

Appropriately, this comedy tour screens for the reopening of the venerable Camera 3 in San Jose to regular screenings. In addition to films, the theater will also continue to be the home of the improv favorite ComedySportz. The lobby has been upgraded by Catered Too and is now known as Café Too!.

Movie Times VINCE VAUGHN'S WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW (R; 100 min.), a documentary by Ari Sandel, opens Feb. 8 at selected theaters.

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