Review by Sean Boelman
There are a lot of movies about comedians, and some may be asking whether or not there needs to be another one, and the short answer is no. However, Steve Bryne’s feature narrative debut The Opening Act manages to be thoroughly charming despite being generic thanks to the talent of its lead actor Jimmy O. Yang.
The film follows an aspiring stand-up comedian as he gets his first shot as the emcee for his childhood hero, a once-prolific television star, only to discover that the spotlight isn’t what it initially seems. There really isn’t much to set this out from any other underdog story about a fresh face trying to make it in the big leagues, but it’s an effective story nevertheless.
Perhaps the weakest element of the movie is its character development. Although the protagonist’s arc is compelling, the supporting characters are all flat and archetypal. There’s the wild card, the reluctant mentor, and all sorts of other cliches thrown in for good measure. But it’s in service of an uplifting message, so it can be forgiven.
Admittedly, the film’s portrait of the entertainment industry is a little bit starry-eyed. The main point, that everyone has to bomb at some point, and it’s best to get it out of the way early, is valid advice. However, in trying to cram all of the story beats into a mere ninety minutes, it loses a lot of its authenticity and legitimacy.
Still, it’s definitely a very entertaining movie, and it never outstays its welcome. There are plenty of great stand-up sequences that keep the laughs coming, and a few other bits that pay off really nicely. Even when the film is being deliberately unfunny, Byrne is able to get the laugh with a hilarious crash and burn.
Yang’s performance is excellent, as he brings both excellent comedic timing and some genuine emotion to the character. But the ensemble here is what is going to make the movie stand out. With supporting turns from Cedric the Entertainer and Alex Moffat and cameos from a slew of comedians including Bill Burr, Ken Jeong, Russell Peters, Whitney Cummings, and more, you’re sure to see a favorite face here.
On a technical level, the film is definitely very straightforward. In fact, there are some sequences that play out in a way that almost feels like a commercial for the Improv comedy clubs. Still, Byrne does a few interesting things, like including personal interviews with the cast about their first bomb over the credits.
The Opening Act is an extremely pleasant and quaint comedy. Although it doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any particular way, it offers sufficient laughs and entertainment to be more than worth the rental fee.
The Opening Act hits VOD on October 16.