Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 07/14/07 10:08:44

"Annoying Anecdotes: The Movie!"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

“Fired!” opens with the promise of a Hollywood-insider dish-scooper but ends up as a Michael Moore-lite political documentary. In the middle, we get something of a promo reel for a stage show, and a short film featuring puppets, and an overlong bit with Andy Dick working a lunch cart, which feels like a leftover skit from a late night talk show.

The documentary comes from Annabelle Gurwitch, the actress best remembered as a host from the TBS series “Dinner and a Movie;” indie fans will also recognize her from the wonderful comedy “Melvin Goes to Dinner.” After being booted off a Woody Allen play (she says the director told her she “looked retarded”), Gurwitch edited a book titled “Fired! Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, & Dismissed,” which collected essays by celebs telling their favorite getting-fired anecdotes. Gurwitch also started a spoken-word stage production, in which many of those same celebs would read their works to a theater crowd.

Now comes the third incarnation of Gurwitch’s obsession with pink slips. Directed by Chris Bradley and Kyle LaBrache (who effectively serve as Gurwitch’s camera-pointers, as Gurwitch is so in charge of the proceedings that it’s pretty much all her own movie), “Fired!” begins with the actress’ anecdote about her encounter with Woody - which is clumsily reenacted with an unseen Allen imposter, thus setting the stage for several other cheaply staged moments. Fortunately, Gurwitch ditches the hokey bits fairly early (save for a weak finale); unfortunately, what follows is a mish-mash of insincere journalism and too-random anecdoting.

Much of the film consists of those tales of the canned, with folks like Tim Allen, Jeff Garlin, Jeffrey Ross, and Fred Willard reminiscing while Gurwitch supplies the reaction shots. To supplement this, we get a large supply of footage taken from her stage show, with folks Paul F. Tompkins and Illeana Douglas delivering more finely tuned stories. Gurwitch also finds non-famous people to supply more of the same.

For variety, Tate Donovan takes his dismissal from the movie “Torch Song Trilogy” and retells it using sock puppets. David Cross sends in a very fake but slightly amusing consolatory videotape. And later, Gurwitch takes Andy Dick out and has him work a day making lunches for construction workers - supposedly to help make up for his being fired from the food industry years ago, but really, it’s just a chance for a nutty comedy interlude that has nothing to do with anything.

Throughout this, Gurwitch, working from what I suppose is a home office command center, begins investigating anything and everything connected with being fired. She interviews a former human resources manager, goes to a career fair, visits a self-help seminar. All of these play like discarded segments from “The Daily Show,” in which the actress tries to turn the more absurd clips into comedy gold, but really winds up just telling everyone that she used to work with Woody Allen. Is this movie about what it’s like to suffer a downsizing, or is it about namedropping?

The final chunk of the picture has Gurwitch turn into documentary crusader, as she follows the case of a woman fired for smoking and the politician fighting for her rights; this also leads her to Lansing, where news of a possible GM plant closing sends the movie into “Roger & Me” territory, but without Roger. Here, Gurwitch isn’t so much helping the little guy as she is shoving a camera in his face and asking him what it’s like to be out of a job. (And wouldn’t ya know it, she even gets the union leader to say a few things about Woody Allen.)

There are funny moments in “Fired!”, but Gurwitch doesn’t supply any of them. She’s an investigator who keeps trying to make the story about herself; she’s a ringleader who keeps pulling attention away from the interesting stuff. Gurwitch is a fine writer and a terrific actress, to be sure, but her movie is a mess, a tiresome, pointless ramble that’s always heading in the wrong direction.

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