Written in part by the late Robert Downey (of Greaser's Palace fame), though probably re-written a great deal by its star Chuck Barris, this pseudo-fiction mockumentary, like its namesake TV show on which it was based, was ahead of its time, paving the way for such masterpieces as the Christopher Guest-directed This Is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman. Barris, creator of the Dating Game and the Gong Show practically invented crap, pseudo-reality television some two decades before crap, pseudo-reality television would overtake television. In fact, he would take the form to the limit doing just about everything one can do with the form, which simply put isn't much. Where would American Idol be without the Gong Show? I defy anyone to tell me the two shows are all that much different. At least the Gong Show had an amusing and fun way of judging, and not the self-serving patter of the latter show. The Gong Show Movie portrays an aging Barris as undergoing a nervous breakdown, trapped by the show that brought him fame, swamped by fans who treat their encounter with him as an audition. Intercut with Barris' slow and generally unfunny and self-absorbed breakdown (it was the "Me Decade" after all) are scenes cut from the actual show, which are hilarious and utterly fascinating on so many levels, but which are far too brief and cut too quickly. There's a lot of promise here, however, with some good supporting performances (including a first screen appearance by the late, great Phil Hartman), though I'm afraid the same cannot be said about Barris or his wife, who are strictly amateurs. Their on-screen sincerity is laughable. Watching Barris on-screen, though, I'm reminded of Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (featuring an incredible and spot-on performance of Barris by a real actor, Sam Rockwell) an interesting take on Barris' excellent and fascinating autobiography in which claims he was in fact a CIA contract killer and the Gong Show was his cover. No kidding. While it's hard to take Barris on his word, it's easy to understand how he could have come up with this story; it provided him with a dramatic escape from the absurdity that his life had become. This film, then, stands as an interesting middle-piece occupying the freshly absurd richness of the Gong Show and the "let's just dance" attitude of the 70s, and the coldly cynical detachment that produced both the book and film of Dangerous Mind. It's entirely of its time, a kind of Altmanesque menagerie of scenes that hang together only by the increasingly psychotic energy of its players. And it points toward the desperate "everyone's a celebrity" mentality vomited up by the mass media in their desperation to fill up the magazines and television screens and newspapers, and which now clog the internet with blogs and, dare I say it, facebook accounts. Recommended, with reservations.