You couldn’t ask for a more revealing, asinine, appalling portrait of American power at work in the fields of self-justification than the Bohemian Grove, the fabled retreat at which one might witness Henry Kissinger in drag pissing on a California redwood while clinking mugs with a puke-spattered, toga-wearing George H.W. But if a satire on the Grove is viable—the tales of Bohemian conduct do virtually defy belief—you couldn’t ask for a more exasperating barrel-jam misfire than Harry Shearer’s directorial debut, Teddy Bears’ Picnic (Magnolia, opens March 29). Here it’s Zambesi Glen, an annual soiree to which CEOs, university chancellors, senators, and washed-up TV personalities (?!) collect to act like frat boys, and Shearer stocks his movie with the usual has-beens (Howard Hesseman, Fred Willard, Michael McKean, Henry Gibson, etc.).
Trying to catch up with Christopher Guest, Shearer cartoons it up but has no idea how to mock this infinitely absurd reality. The caricatures are soft-edged and vapid, and the movie’s as dull as a slow leak; scene after scene features three or four fat cats sitting around in small rooms, sipping cocktails. Picnic pre-emptively obliterates textual complaints (and its own stabs at humor) by being the most amateurishly shot and lumpishly directed film to see American projector light in years. As if the post-dubbing and back-projection weren’t chintzy enough, the cinematography (by Jaime Reynoso) makes most ’70s exploitation films look like Storaro.