Plot: Eddie (Ed Helms) has managed to score a wealth of acting jobs, but his numerous television appearances haven’t led to much success or exposure. This is because while Eddie is often seen on various programs, he dons different disguises to make sure no one can recognize him. He is a veteran of informercials, as either an enthusiastic audience member or a dazzled volunteer from the crowd, so he needs to blend in so viewers don’t realize the repetition. He also doesn’t seem interested in more out of life, as he likes his work for the informercials and is slowly pursuing his crush, a beautiful gas station attendant named Judy (Amanda Seyfried). He lives a mostly isolated existence, so besides the occasional flirting with Judy, calls from his mother, and talks with fellow audience regular Chris (Tracy Morgan), Eddie is rather lonely. But he gets a lot of attention when a late night talk show host notices his frequent appearances on infomercials, then crafts a comedy segment around his constant presence. In the wake of the unwanted fame, Eddie seems to lose it all, as he can’t return to the informercials and he starts to crumble under the pressure.
Entertainment Value: The Clapper is a straight forward, downbeat blend of drama and comedy, an experience that isn’t memorable, but has a few fun moments and a better than average cast. I like the premise here, as it seems like the kind of scenario that could happen, as infomercials do reuse audience members and I could see an obvious case like Eddie’s as viral video magic. I also appreciated that despite his mediocre life, Eddie was more or less content with his lot, as most movies would paint him as a bitter never was or a desperate for fame wannabe actor. The situation is taken over the top at times, but I still think The Clapper feels more or less grounded and even believable, at least until things start to spiral in the last half. The issue is that the writing doesn’t capitalize on this great concept and settles for a generic, forgettable experience. I’d say this was intended, but the movie really pushes hard for sentiment toward the finale, so it is clear they didn’t aim for a slice of life, mundane kind of cinematic ride. The end result is a solid cast and a less than memorable script that provides a watchable, but wholly forgettable and unremarkable movie. The premise has great potential, but none of it is realized, though fans of the prominent cast might find some fun here.
As the movie follows a bland, generic lead, Ed Helms was the ideal choice, since he is one of the more bland, generic comedic presences around. His lack of charisma and charm are put to good use here in bolstered Eddie as a forgettable, run of the mill person, but Helms is unable to reverse those traits toward the finish, when the movie seems to ask a little more from him. He isn’t terrible, but he is just kind of there and flops most of his jokes, while floundering in dramatic or emotional moments. His generic persona seems like a natural fit for most of the movie, but I think someone with a little more spark could have done much better. This is especially true in the romance thread, where Helms has no chemistry with Amanda Seyfried and toward the movie’s end, when Helms is asked to step out of the generic mold and he is unable to do so. Seyfried is fun in a smaller role, but she is held back by Helms’ lack of charisma, dooming the romance thread and not giving her much of a chance to shine. The cast also includes Tracy Morgan, Brenda Vaccaro, Leah Remini, and Alan Thicke.