While he may have made his name with culture changing films like Supersize Me, director Morgan Spurlock has taken a decidedly more comedic and, some would say, slight, tone with pieces like his Comic-Con documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. Toss in middling efforts like the rather lackluster Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden, it has seemed to be diminishing returns for fans of the modern day documentary icon.
And now, with his return to the film world, in the form of his documentary Mansome, Spurlock has not only gone into what may be his most broadly reaching and charming feature, but also his most slight and uninformative.
Playing like a feature adaptation of a one hour show you’d find on VH1, Mansome finds the pair of Will Arnett and Jason Bateman musing on what, in today’s world, truly makes a man. In a world seemingly run by metrosexual hipsters with a penchant for wearing their wafer thin girlfriend’s jeans, the ever changing world of manhood has seen what may very well be its most singular era. Featuring interviews with what seems like a billion men ranging from the mind gratingly unfunny Adam Carolla to the ever charming Paul Rudd, the film touches on everything from beards to the idea that men’s infatuation with their bodies doesn’t come from vanity, but instead the lack of vanity, the same thing that has seen women do crazy things to abide by the image put out by modern mass culture. However, none of this is truly given the weight that the topic justifies, there in lying the film’s biggest issue.
While charming and really quite engaging to watch, Mansome is easily Spurlock’s slightest release. Lacking the provocation found in the heart of Supersize Me, or the self-reference based yuks found in the underrated Greatest Movie Ever Sold, the film instead finds at its heart a sense of confusion. Unsure of what truly makes a man a man in these modern times, the film’s thesis is inherently uninteresting. From the very outset, one finds that no one involved here has a strict definition. At least from the face of it. Instead, we become privy to the idea that instead of personal choice, each man is solely exuding masculine principles to attract a mate, male or female. However, with this discussed lack of free will, it becomes difficult to truly see the reason for a film this comedic to truly exist. Yes, the topic is inherently comedic. Set piece after set piece give us a handful of chuckles, but fails to enlighten in any distinctive way. Save for a few moments when the film truly finds its emotional center, the film simple settles for laughing at the bipolar nature of masculinity, and the infatuation with the said topic.
Spurlock as a director, has also seemingly lost some of his voice with this film. Holding no true DNA with his early work, you barely get a sense of Spurlock existing here, save for the opening set piece, something that may be welcome for his detractors, but also loses his auteurish touch that he’s had over his previous filmography. Usually giving his work a sense of vitality, the sense of urgency is not at all felt here, instead finding a sense of air below the surface.
Overall, Mansome may lack the energy or ‘importance’ of Spurlock’s debut feature or his TV work like 30 Days, but while it may be a slight look at manhood, it’s also one that is imminently watchable and has charm off the charts. Spurlock’s most digestible documentary to date, it may be his weakest, but it also may be the one that ushers in a new stage in the ever evolving career of one of today’s greatest and most influential documentarians.