The disappointing comedy lacks heart [Tribeca]

While there are moments that work and the cast has a lot of chemistry together, Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying never achieves his story or comedic potential.

Two years into the pandemic, COVID-19 movies are now in spades. Whereas Wes Schlagenhauf is dying aims to take a comedic approach to the set, the humor doesn’t always land, and the film falls flat in its overall execution. The film, directed by Parker Seaman from a script by him and Devin Das, is light-hearted and never takes itself too seriously – even in the meanest of situations – but it lacks heart. While there are definitely moments that work and the cast has a lot of chemistry together, Wes Schlagenhauf is dying never achieves its story or comedic potential.

Seaman and Das play fictionalized versions of themselves in this road trip comedy. The couple – who moved to Hollywood with their friend, the titular Wes Schlagenhauf (also playing a fictionalized version of himself), years before the film debuted – are well-known commercial directors. Their latest, a fun ad spoofing a shoe company capitalizing on the pandemic, has worn them out and they want to try something different. After Wes, who left Los Angeles a few years prior, calls them and tells them he has contracted COVID-19, Parker and Devin decide to go see him. However, it’s not just a social call as the duo begin shooting a documentary-style movie on the way to Wes’ house, much to the chagrin of their agent (D’Arcy Carden). What they soon discover is that there are many unrequited emotions and secrets the trio must confront if they are to remain friends and achieve their dreams.

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The story includes a variety of interesting elements, but they never quite come together. The banter between Seaman and Das can be funny on occasion, and they certainly know how to use their working relationship to bring out the comedic scenes. After a while, however, even the humor begins to get on your nerves. Wes Schlagenhauf is dying includes a bit of commentary on the film industry, its absurdity, and what it takes to make a good movie, but it feels half-hearted and disappointing. The passion is obviously there, but the various plot points, including growing tension and eventual conflict between characters, don’t culminate in anything particularly good or worthwhile.

The film toes the line in its comedy surrounding the pandemic; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. There’s also a thin line between the film’s humor and cruelty. But perhaps the most frustrating aspect is that there is no meaningful reward. There is a distinct lack of heart which, if used, would have made Wes Schlagenhauf is dying much better. The meaningful moments between Parker, Devin, and Wes aren’t amplified or reflected, and having a heartfelt scene wouldn’t have taken away from the film’s lighthearted tone at all. It would have at least made the audience care a lot more about the characters and their friendship and it’s a missed opportunity for the film to gloss over such things, which would have added a layer of depth.

Wes Schlagenhauf is dying has genuine comedy moments, but the story is largely overshadowed by its clumsy execution. It’s a collection of interesting ideas that ultimately don’t come together cohesively or seamlessly. There are hints of great potential, but the script needed to be much more refined.

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Wes Schlagenhauf is dying had its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 9. The film is 78 minutes long and is unrated.

Our assessment:

2 out of 5 (OK)

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