Maximum Truth, 2023.
Directed by David Strassen.
Starring Ike Barinholtz, Dylan O’Brien, Blake Anderson, Brianna Baker, Beth Grant, Max Minghella, Mark Proksch, Tony Rodriguez, Kiernan Shipka, Tiya Sircar, Scott MacArthur, Kelvin Yu, David Strassen, Mia Serafino, and Seth Rogen.
A documentary crew follows political grifter Rick Klingman as he teams up with his sketchy buddy Simon to take down a rival congressional candidate.
There is one admittedly clear goal behind co-writer director David Strassen’s (penning the script alongside star Ike Barinholtz) Maximum Truth; broadly poking fun at right-wing extremism and their political grafting tactics. Yes, it’s low-hanging fruit, which can still be funny
Filmmaker David Strassen’s mockumentary introduces political attorney Rick Klingman (the reliably funny Ike Barinholtz who can’t overcome the film’s severe flaws) as a dimwit who will make himself available to any absurd loss cause, such as protesters taking action against a play produced by Canadian Seth Rogen insinuating that revered US president Abraham Lincoln was gay. Seth Rogen briefly cameos in what might be the funniest gag n the movie, also giving off the impression that perhaps more surprise cameos would have kept up some comedic momentum.
Following that disaster, Rick is recruited to investigate a congressional candidate (Max Minghella), as a nut job rich elderly woman believes that he is a demon and wants the truth to come out. Certain people with certain political affiliations believe such preposterous things, so the setup is fine. From there, Rick brings in his equally dumb fitness grifter friend Simon (Dylan O’Brien) to work together, chasing various sketchy leads that would make Rudy Giuliani seem intelligent by comparison. That’s one way of saying the insanity here certainly feels like a reflection of America’s current political landscape.
A brief opening stretch explains how Rick fumbled his way into his current position as a lawyer, but there’s nothing noteworthy about him as a character. He is a doofus for higher by literally anyone, so concerned with getting the truth that he never stops questioning what makes sense and what doesn’t. He doesn’t seem to want to believe any of the leads he comes across because they validate his political beliefs (I’m honestly not sure what they are; again, he’s a grifter doing everything for misguided reasons), but more so that if someone is coming to him and entrusting him with information, it must be true.
The investigation takes him into the world of the congressional candidate’s past, particularly some untrustworthy, loosely connected acquaintances quick to make serious allegations that probably have no basis in truth. Everything from sexual harassment to anti-Semitic comments come into play as accusations, while Rick and Simon inevitably seek more funding from right-wing extremists.
The problem is that when every target is low-hanging fruit, even at 86 minutes, a film consisting of tired jokes (no matter how relevant) and no real plot becomes tedious. There’s no intrigue as to whether or not the congressional candidate has skeletons in his closet, and every introduced lead builds to a fairly disappointing and predictable backfire. Ike Barinholtz and Dylan O’Brien have serviceable comedic timing (the finale sequence where everything blows up in their face is amusing), but the characters and investigation are stretched far too thin, likely more suited for a sketch comedy skit.
These jokes are often lame, outdated, and desperate to the max for laughs. Maximum Truth reveals everything it has to offer in the first 10 minutes, then transitions into maximum boredom.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com