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Wednesday, August 6, 1997

Hijacking Hollywood

Posted By on Wed, Aug 6, 1997 at 12:00 AM

First-time filmmaker (and Detroiter) Neil Mandt's Hijacking Hollywood is a lot like TV.

That's the good news and the bad news. The film is ingratiating, paced for prime time and funny. Just like TV. Hijacking is trying hard to be likable, beginning with its scale, which is small. The shoestring production values show, along with a level of technical sophistication only slightly greater than the videos on "America's Funniest." You can't help but like something this obviously unslick. Right? And remember sweet little Eliot, from ET ? He's grown up now, at least Henry Thomas the actor has, and he's got the lead in Hijacking.

The plot is TV-driven and user-friendly, already paced for commercials and bathroom breaks.

In fact, a little channel surfing and a couple of trips to the BR would be helpful, to cover the inconsistencies in the shtick story. (Wannabe director leaves Detroit for Hollywood, falls in with fast-talking roommate, scams money for first film, gets seduced by evil boss' porn-star wife. ... Pratfall, pratfall, etc.) Just like TV.

Which is not to say that Hijacking isn't funny, because it is some of the time -- the same kind of funny as a midseason sitcom replacement, with occasional moments that almost achieve something higher, like the bit where the cops kill the already dead dog Noodles. It's not Chuckles the Clown, but then how often do we get a Mary Richards? Problem is, there seems to be a missing element. This film needs a laugh track to take up the slack when the ingratiating ineptitude and the sitcom pacing begin to get irritating, after the first half hour or so.

Not that there isn't a reason to see Hijacking, because there is, maybe a couple of reasons.

Mandt, the filmmaker, is a hometown guy; he deserves support. (What this movie has to do with Detroit, though, except for the T-shirts Henry Thomas all-too-obviously wears, is about zip.) But Mandt's real hometown is television; that's where he seems to have grown up, like a lot of others, and now he's trying to work his way out, comedically.

But it's like the fish trying to see his own water; the only terms Mandt has at his disposal are the same ones he's trying to critique. It's an interesting double bind and relevant. Check it out.

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