Review by Sean Boelman
VHYes, co-written and directed by Jack Henry Robbins (son of Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon), is a new retro comedy with a very unique style. Thanks to an intriguing premise and plenty of memorable segments, Robbins’s newest film cements him as a comedic talent to watch.
Told through a series of vignettes and segments, the movie follows a young boy as he accidentally records TV shows and home videos over his parents’ wedding tape. It’s rather hard to classify exactly what this film is, because it is by no means a traditional narrative, nor is it exactly an anthology movie, but there is very much a cohesive story to be found flowing through all of the individual pieces.
At first, the frequency at which the film shifts perspectives and moves to another segment is off-putting, but once Robbins is able to find his rhythm, the movie moves at a much more natural pace. The laughs come frequently and steadily, and perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Robbins is able to introduce some interesting and earnest themes (and some striking political commentary) through the narrative.
One of the film’s biggest successes is the sense of nostalgia that it is able to create. People who grew up in the age of VHS will undeniably find something to love in the movie, and even those who were raised when DVD was the dominant medium of home entertainment will likely find some memories raised by the film. Although nostalgia can be used as a crutch in other movies, this script has enough ingenuity that it comes across as completely natural.
Another strength of the film is its character development. Although very little time is spent with any of the characters, and that time is frequently split up, Robbins and his co-writers are able to establish their personalities effectively through those brief segments. Many portions of the movie are inspired by or are parodies of a real person, and they do a very good job of capturing the essence of the era.
The film’s cast is very large and features some recognizable comedians, many of whom are quite funny in their roles. Highlights in the ensemble include Thomas Lennon, Charlyne Yi, and an almost unrecognizable Tim Robbins. However, the biggest standout is Mark Proksch, who is absolutely riotous as a host of a public access show in which the character values random items people bring to him.
On a technical level, the movie is quite impressive because of the unique way in which Robbins shot the film. The movie was shot completely on VHS and Beta tapes, and as a result, the film feels very authentic for the retro style. Additionally, there are some surreal moments sprinkled throughout, and Robbins handles those quite effectively.
VHYes does take a bit of time to find its footing, but once filmmaker Jack Henry Robbins is able to solidify what he wants to do, this becomes a hilarious and creative endeavor. Although the style won’t work for everyone, those who buy into it will really enjoy it.
VHYes is now playing in theaters.