"Mansome" Takes a Look at the Evolving Definition of Masculinity

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted May. 15, 2012

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Will Arnett and Jason Bateman in "Mansome."

Grade: C-

Give Morgan Spurlock credit: He’s savvy. He’s got a good thing going, cranking out documentaries with gimmicks so basic that he wins simply for doing it before anyone else. Never mind that few would feel compelled to “reveal” that McDonald’s is unhealthy (Super Size Me), that not all Muslims are terrorists (Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?), that advertising dominates all (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold).

Mansome—even typing that word makes me err toward self-harm—is Spurlock’s second theatrical documentary currently making the rounds, apart from the festival circuit-rider Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. (A Star Wars reference—nobody does that!) The subject is the evolving definition of masculinity, particularly given the rise of such buzz words as metrosexuality and manscaping. It’s a not uninteresting subject, if not an earth-quaking one, and it requires a mind serious enough to do some actual journalism, plus a sense of humor willing to mock both men who are overly concerned with their appearance as well as the douchebags (like Adam Carrola) overly concerned that they’re diminishing traditional masculinity.

But even for such a frivolous topic, Spurlock treats it with little seriousness. He shows us intense beardos who participate in beard competitions, athletes who shave off all their hair, even those on their fingers, and inundates us with a length-paddingly extended hang-out session with old-timey barbers. Spurlock, for once, keeps himself mostly out of the picture—save a requisite dare in which he shaves off his dickheadish ’stache—and instead turns to Judd Apatow’s Rolodex to dream up quips, periodically turning this into a theatrically released episode of Best Week Ever.

That Mansome is still mildly watchable is a testament to how good a fit its filmmaker is to this somewhat interesting topic. It’s still lazy: The talking heads are largely famous and largely men, and few bother going deep on whether looking good brings one confidence or simply makes one a narcissist, or if gender questions are a result of feminism or just a return to the distant past, when real men didn’t dress like goddam slobs. Of course, coming up with more concrete answers would require a filmmaker who isn’t always ready to move onto the next gimmick.

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