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Marshall Fine

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Movie Review: Mansome

Posted: 05/23/2012 7:09 am

I've got to hand it to Morgan Spurlock, a documentary maker who has enough curiosity -- and enough wherewithal -- to make the movies he wants to make, and lots of them. Mansome is his second this year (after his entertaining Comic-Con doc), a slight but entertaining piece that is enjoyable if weightless.

Spurlock's topic is masculinity, masculine vanity and the slice of the Venn diagram where they intersect. He breaks it down mostly by varieties of body hair: the hair on your head (or the hair that's NOT on your head), mustaches, beards, body hair and the notion of the metrosexual.

The approach is the same with each segment: Have a series of talking heads (celebrities and otherwise) offer observations on the topic, then home in on one particular person who offers an extreme or ultratypical example of the subject.

With mustaches, for example, he lets the commentators give their opinions, then shaves his own mustache, which he's had for eight years. (As someone who shaved off his own mustache of 30-plus-years duration a couple of years ago, I can testify that it's a startlingly personal moment.) When he points it out to his preschool-aged son, the boy bursts into tears.

For the beards segment, Spurlock finds his comfort zone of weirdness: a guy named Jack Passion, who is a world-champion beard grower. Passion explains his own vitamin regimen to promote and maintain beard growth and fullness and is shown traveling to a beard competition in Germany, which (spoiler alert) he wins.

There's the pro wrestler who has to shave his entire body almost daily in order to get into the ring; the guy who runs an old-school barber shop and despairs of the incursion of "hair stylists"; the fellow who makes hairpieces (or, to use the current terminology, hair systems) for bald men; and a metrosexual.

The latter is a young New York salesman who is a Sikh and wore a turban well into his high-school years. He cut his hair as a teen and now consults a variety of specialists (including an eyebrow-threading salon) to sculpt exactly the perfect look to give himself the kind of confidence he lacked as a teenager.

For expert witnesses, Spurlock brings in both social scientists and comedians (including Zach Galifianakis, Adam Carolla and Paul Rudd) to offer what amounts to easily deduced conclusions: Men do this stuff to feel good about themselves and, on a more genetic level, to attract partners to procreate and continue the species.

His framing device is a visit to a spa by Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, who banter aimlessly as they get facials, massages and the like. The pair are listed as executive producers, probably for exactly that participation. Spurlock doesn't need them.

Some have criticized this as being a glorified reality show that could just as easily have been on TV. But most reality TV lacks Spurlock's sly attitude or willingness to give the eccentric the chance to truly explain themselves, rather than simply letting them appear foolish.

Mansome isn't deep -- but then, it's about vanity, the definition of shallowness. It never bores, however, and frequently entertains.


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