Tour de Pharmacy – 5 out of 5
I like documentaries and I like funny things, so mockumentaries are like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to me (the best sandwich, in my book). The previous HBO mockumentary by director Jake Szymanski and writer Murray Miller; the tennis feature called 7 Days in Hell, I found to be very funny and when I saw they were making another one where they poke fun at the Tour de France and all the accusations of doping and drug scandals, I was all-in! And, I gotta say, I really think they outdid themselves this time around with Tour de Pharmacy and made something funny in an epic way!
A name that could only belong to a reporter, a porn star or a pro wrestler...
or an ambitious person who does all three.
This mockumentary is telling the story of the 1982 Tour de France and how all the cyclists were on performance enhancing drugs. After racer Juju Pepe (Orlando Bloom) causes a massive pile-up and a brawl breaks out, the judges learn that all of the racers were on drugs and all but 5 racers were taken out of the competition. The remaining contestants were Pepe, the African Marty Hess (Andy Samberg), female racer disguising herself as a man; Adrian Baton (Freddie Highmore), Jackie Robinson’s nephew who wishes to break the color barrier in cycling; Slim Robinson (Daveed Diggs), and Austrian Gustav Ditters (John Cena). What follows is tale of sportsmanship, cheating, drug use, death, love, gratuitous male nudity and insanity…all in the name of cycling.
He's up front but you can't see him.
Tour de Pharmacy works so well as a mockumentary and a comedy because it is playfully teasing the subject material that it is satirizing but it is also taking the genre very seriously and delivering a product that feels very authentic. The entire feature feels like a legit HBO Sports doc and, even better, the production used old cameras in order to make the footage from 1982 look real and dated. Even when the story gets really ridiculous (and we have a moment where John Cena is hoisting a naked dude over his shoulder and has that man’s bits and bobs on display for the world to see) the movie still feels like a documentary. To put it simply, Szymanski and Miller are doing exactly what great parody does and that is honor the very thing it is mocking. In a world where satire and parody has basically just de-evolved into bad pop culture references and being as mean-spirited as the creators can be, this film is a throwback to when parody was an art form that was meant to offer both praise and humorous criticism.
Andy Sandberg is such a goddamn treasure!
In addition to a tone that really captures the art and difficult nature that is the mockumentary, this film is overloaded with talent—and overloaded in a good way. You already have the core group of racers but the film offers up “modern day” equivalents with these characters. You have Jeff Goldblum as Marty Hess, Julia Ormond as Adriana Baton, Danny Glover as Slim Robinson and, my favorite part, Dolph Lundgren as Gustav Ditters.
The dude will never stop being an intimidating presence.
This is just offering you humor from the young and the old with these characters and it doesn’t stop there. There are hysterical cameos by the likes of Mike Tyson and J.J. Abrams. You have James Marsden as the reporter from the 82 race, there’s Will Forte having a small (but memorable) scene as a cop, Jon Hamm is narrating the whole thing and even Kevin Bacon joins the cast. There are so many people in this film and each and every single one of them was fantastic. However, the most memorable of them all, in my opinion, was the very funny addition of Lance Armstrong.
Without a doubt, his inclusion in this film was a great decision, in my opinion.
One thing this film has been heavily criticized for is the involvement of former sports hero Lance Armstrong. Look, I get it. The guy is a cancer survivor who charmed us all by coming back from the brink of death and going on to achieve greatness in the world of cycling and then all our hearts were broken when we found out he did it using drugs. Here’s the thing though: Everyone was using drugs on those bikes. I won’t argue that the man is a saint but he’s definitely not the only demon in the room. However, that being said, I have a special place in my heart for people who don’t take themselves too seriously and are willing to make light of themselves and Armstrong does this in such a strong way in this film. Every time the action cut to him was absolutely hysterical and just utter brilliance in the world of comedy. I salute Miller for writing it and salute Armstrong for doing it because it made an already attention-grabbing comedy even stronger.
Also in the film, you get to see Jeff Goldblum dressed like this and that's an
Tour de Pharmacy does all the right things that a mockumentary needs to be in order to be successful as a comedy. It captured the correct tone and was able to make that balance of being authentic feeling, funny, and, at the same time, honoring the subject matter it was teasing. It has a tremendous (and large) cast and it never, at any point, ceases its strong pace of humor and entertainment. The only downside is that it is a short film (but it had to be in order to capture that HBO sports documentary series feel) and it definitely left me wanting more.
We don't pull our sunglasses down in order to show how shocked and
surprised we are anymore.