Tucker Max is good for the nation’s literacy rate.
Quite seriously, if the crowd at the Iowa premier of his semi-autobiographical movie I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell on Tuesday evening is any indication, an entire generation of twentysomethings are growing up having read nothing but the antics of a self-described narcissist.
“It’s the first book I’ve ever read in just two days,” said Sam Tucker, 20, who drove all the way from Ames and was first in line for the film three hours before the doors opened.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Max is an inventive and clever writer with a knack for telling a story, even if not a single one of those stories is reprintable in anything remotely resembling a family publication.
For the uninitiated, Tucker Max is a former law student who created a Web site based on stories he had written down for his friends. The stories mostly boast of his time spent boozing, sleeping around, making fun of people in some of the harshest ways possible, excreting on hotel floors, and generally causing problems for everyone around him.
As writing partner Nils Parker put it, “He’s a bulldozer of intention. A literal maniac in his 20s.”
From there, the Web site turned into a wildly offensive yet undeniably funny book of mostly unconnected stories, and the book into a mildly offensive and generally funny movie with loosely connected stories and a weak plot.
The movie is right in the wheelhouse for those who are already fans of Max. It’s hilarious in spurts, suitably off-color and politically incorrect (a large portion of what passes for the movie’s plot centers around Max’s search for a midget stripper so he can sleep with her, Jesse Bradford’s character makes numerous references to killing strippers, etc.), and can out-gross any other fecal matter scene this side of Zack and Miri Make a Porno. The movie delivers the funny easily on level with The Hangover, it’s most obvious recent comparison.
The real question is if anyone else will like it enough to give it the same mass appeal The Hangover enjoyed.
That the movie will do well with young males and likely young women is a given. The movie’s crew, however, says the film is testing surprisingly well with older women, which seems like it might be a bit farfetched. While Tucker and Parker certainly have a knack for biting one-liners and crude comedy, the movie sags in the serious moments and drags a bit when Tucker has a (minor) change of heart.
IHTSBIH purposefully, according to Max, leaves out many of the conventions of a Hollywood comedy, especially the redemptive ending.
“No one changes who they are in 10 days. This movie is about Tucker’s narcissism,” said Max. “The only thing he learns at the end of the movie is how to model appropriate behavior.”
In this way, the movie acknowledges that the attraction is and always has been Tucker Max himself, so why change him? A reliably self-reflective individual, Max seems to know he’s the show and has a solid grasp of exactly why people find him so interesting.
“After the comedy, the humor, the funny stuff, there’s an attraction to the fact that I’m real, authentic. There are many ways to be male, and I’m one of them,” said Max.
Tucker Max is how his fans are, were, or would like to be. In that way, Tucker Max represents a sort of odd wish fulfillment for his legions of die-hard fans, who don’t want to be superstar athletes or presidential candidates, but aspire to be the life of the party.
Lee Wilkins, a 22-year-old who skipped work to make the premier, summed up the feelings of most of the premier’s attendees: “I would definitely love to party with that guy.”
“The main question guys ask me is about being cool,” said Max. “The thing about cool is that it’s not the car you drive or the clothes you wear, it’s about being comfortable with yourself.”
But it’s not just men who try to emulate Max.
“I want to be him,” said Ali Warth, a 22-year-old graduate from Iowa City.
“I was him in college,” added her friend Joani Walton, 31.
But there’s something else going on. A sort of subtle message even Max likely didn’t intend. The movie, the book, the whole Tucker Max phenomenon tells his audience that you too can be boorish and narcissistic and still have a best-selling book and make a movie based on your life. It’s a truly interesting cultural phenomenon that will surely one day be the subject of a Chuck Klosterman essay.
I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell opens nationwide on Sept. 25.
Watch the trailer: