Mister America Review: A Conceptual Victory for Tim Heidecker and His On Cinema Shared Universe

Much like SCTV and Mr. Show before it, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! was both underseen at the time of its airing and groundbreaking with its sketch comedy. While it might have been difficult to find anyone who was watching it when it aired between 2007 and 2010, countless comedians and sketch shows have pointed to it as a source of inspiration, cementing itself as one of the most influential comedic experiences of the last few decades. Keeping in line with that breakthrough series, co-creator Tim Heidecker continues to deliver fans experimental comedic storytelling and, while Mister America might not be his most hilarious endeavor, it delivers an impressive new chapter in his On Cinema Shared Universe that will baffle audiences with its narrative accomplishments.

Despite his only place of residence in San Bernardino County being a hotel room and never having been a practicing attorney, that isn't stopping Heidecker, playing a heightened version of himself, from running for the county's District Attorney. The mockumentary explores his meetings with campaign manager Toni Newman (Terri Parks), his attempts to win over the county's residents, and his frequent antagonism of both professional rival Vincent "The Rat" Rosetti (Vincent Rosetti) and personal rival Gregg Turkington, also playing a fictional version of himself.

If you're familiar with Heidecker as a comedian, having seen him in films like Bridesmaids, The Comedy, or even Jordan Peele's Us, you'll be treated to a number of uncomfortable encounters, from Heidecker's run-ins with San Bernardino residents to his rants about "The Rat," interrupted by bursts of vaping while he cranks the volume of his EDM band DKR playing on the stereo. The laughs come early and often, yet the inherent nature of Mister America attempting to provide some semblance of an actual documentary prevents the storyline from offering extreme highs and lows in its humor, while failing to offer a comedic crescendo. Additionally, Heidecker's abrasive nature, substance abuse, and perspective that he should become the District Attorney merely because he feels entitled to the role offers a depressing reflection of our current political climate.

To the uninitiated, Mister America is a middling comedy that chronicles the downfall of a political hopeful, which succeeds in lampooning the absurdity of politicians and their quests for power. If you've been following Heidecker's work following the end of Tim and Eric, however, Mister America is truly astonishing with its mere existence.

In 2011, Heidecker and Turkington teamed up for the podcast On Cinema, which satirized the world of film criticism. In 2012, the pair turned the podcast into the web series On Cinema at the Cinema, which started with a similar goal but has evolved into a world of shared storytelling that rivals that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over the course of the web series, now in its 11th season, there have been births, deaths, fights, rebrandings, spinoffs, Oscar specials, breakdowns, musical projects, and murder trials, all of which occur tangentially to Tim and Great rating new releases on a scale of Five Bags of Popcorn. The mythology of the series is so dense that fans have attempted to compile every piece of content to create an interactive timeline, as the work Heidecker and Turkington are doing to weave these projects together is staggering.

Given that Tim and Eric was a flagship series for Adult Swim, in the vein of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, some viewers have dismissed its comedic merits as "stoner comedy," given how its content and editing style felt light years ahead of its peers in embracing absurdity, which is a major disservice to Heidecker and cohort Eric Wareheim. Clearly Heidecker is continuing to mine his specific vein of creativity with Turkington that feels more in line with the efforts of Andy Kaufman or Sacha Baron Cohen, with it being entirely possible that audiences won't be able to fully appreciate their works for years.

No matter what your familiarity is with its creators, Mister America is an absurd and entertaining mockumentary and, while On Cinema fans will want to support the endeavor in concept alone, it's a testament to Heidecker and Turkington's creativity that you might laugh just as much, if not harder, at an On Cinema Oscar Special or Tim's trial for causing the deaths of 20 people at his Electric Sun music festival due to the distribution of toxic vape pens.


Rating: 3 out of 5

Mister America lands in theaters on October 9th.