Last night was one of the more surreal experiences of my life – I sat in an almost full movie theater and watched a movie in which I was featured. The movie, Heckler, is a documentary about hecklers and critics; it’s told from the point of view of Jamie Kennedy, who received unbelievably scathing reviews for Son of the Mask, as he travels the country confronting the people who wrote those reviews. Interspersed are stories and clips of comics dealing with hecklers and interviews with performers and critics – including the likes of yours truly. I think I come off about as well as can be expected, considering the fact that it’s me up there (they do have me calling Leonard Maltin a ‘twatmuffin’ after he slams, which I want on my tombstone), and I’m pretty thankful to director Michael Addis for not taking the thirty minutes of incoherent swearing I gave him and making me look like even less of a goon than usual. (Note to self: Don’t move around so much on camera. You twitch like Michael J Fox getting electroshock)

The movie, which is strutting its stuff for potential distributors at the Tribeca Film Festival, is actually pretty darn good, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. I don’t agree with everything in the film – for one thing, I don’t think it’s fair to bring critics into a movie about hecklers at all, no matter how rotten some critics can be – but I don’t have to, since this film presents a point of view and presents it well. This is the kind of movie that, when it’s released, will have every critic worth his or her word processing program writing up a smart and interesting rebuttal; Heckler is the opening salvo in an interesting dialogue. Plus it’s pretty damn funny.

I don’t know that the cut I saw last night will be the final one that sees theaters when the movie gets picked up (and the movie will get picked up, of that I have no doubt – it’s smart, funny and has plenty of great talking heads), since Addis is still tweaking it a bit, taking into account audience reactions at different screenings*. After the screening he told me he was worried that maybe the film didn’t say enough about valuable criticism, about the Pauline Kaels who have something smart and insightful to say, but I don’t think the movie needs to say that – this is a film from the point of view of people taking the heckling and criticism.

Heckler is playing a number of times over the course of the Tribeca Film Festival. If you’re in New York I really think this is a movie worth checking out, especially if you’re like me and you’re fascinated by the place and value of criticism in modern society. Or if you just want to laugh at great stories told by great comedians about handling terrible audiences. Here’s a list of the remaining screenings:

Thu, Apr 26, 10:30pm Clearview Chelsea West Theater 2
Fri, Apr 27, 4:00pm AMC 34th Street Theater 13
Sat, Apr 28, MidnightAMC 34th Street Theater 9
Mon, Apr 30, 11:00pm AMC Village VII Theater 2
Fri, May 4, Midnight AMC Kips Bay Theater 12

*If you do go to one of the screenings, please laugh and/or applaud me so that Addis keeps me in the film!