7 Days in Hell full movie review - Funny in places but mostly rushed and shockingly tasteless in the end
I rarely write reviews, but because I love tennis I couldn't remain silent about 7 Days in Hell (which might as well refer to the viewer's experience watching it).
So, because I love tennis I was looking forward to what had been advertised as a long-deserved comedy tribute to this phenomenal sport. Kudos to HBO for at least making this happen, then. Sadly, the laudatory comments have to end there. As a I began watching, my exhilaration soon gave way to consternation, which gave way to disappointment, which gave way to mild disgust, which gave way to utter disbelief as the show progressed. Foregoing any real effort at mining comedy from what makes tennis a unique sport in how it affects those intimately involved in it, the film veers into the direction of a no-holds-barred adolescent gross-out fest that I am not sure even a target audience of 14-year old males could continue to enjoy beyond the few initial reaches of explicit excess.
Just to make it clear, no content phases me. That is to say, when nestled in proper context and meaningfully weaved into an effective comedic narrative, I can laugh at the most outwardly obscene and/or shockingly irreverent. For example, I love South Park (truly biting and smart satire), Monty Python (Meaning of Life is superbly absurd in its excesses that drive home the sublime irony of the subject matter to which they are directed), and I also enjoy the occasional juvenile humour when delivered with gusto (I love Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, and the likes of 40-year Old Virgin and Superbad).
The central storyline is great: chronicling a marathon Wimbledon tennis match between a self-proclaimed bad-boy of tennis (which has been a historically upper class sport - much like golf - with Wimbledon considered its apex tournament) and Britain's great hope (a simpleton with Mommy issues). The movie is framed as a documentary with real life tennis greats on hand to provide interviews and commentary (Serena Williams, John McEnroe, Chris Evert), and a host of high caliber comedians and actors acquitting themselves quite well in their respective roles. For example, Fred Armisen and Will Forte are amusingly understated as tennis historians and journalists, and Michael Sheen is especially hilarious as a lecherous TV talk show host.
Conceptually, then, the show is funny. Samberg and Harington are perfect as the players, Samberg drawing mostly on his days at SNL in providing a broad portrait which plays perfectly into the flamboyance of his character, and Harington excelling as the contrastingly understated and somewhat lost foil for Samberg's brashness. The interviews, played straight, are genuinely funny, as are the scenes with Sheen. The stuffiness associated with much of Wimbledon is lampooned effectively with an irreverent portrayal of the Queen Mother worthy of Monty Python.
Unfortunately, the funny bits never coalesce into a cogent whole and are overtaken way too early in the proceedings by outrageously excessive and sophomoric "porn funnies" (don't know how else to characterize them). Again, the problem isn't as much with the face value of what comes next as it is with why it comes next. Basically, it isn't organically integrated and is thrown in simply because of its expected shock value, which simply renders it unfunny. And when the outrageously inappropriate and lewd isn't funny, it becomes tasteless. And tasteless makes one cringe, not laugh.
It appears that Muray Miller (the writer) had run dry of real ideas, and in order to extend the running time he began to resort to CGI porn (which, in another context might have been funny). Thus, very sadly, 7 Days in Hell simply degenerates into excessive crudity with no real comedic underpinning. Apparently, to some an oversized CGI schlong flopping around is funny enough in and of itself. I am simply not one of those people who thinks it is (in contrast, I find South Park's "Floppy Wieners" ersatz "tribute" to Game of Thrones hilarious in its astute skewering of the show).
I am not sure if Murray Miller was rushed for time or if he simply fulfilled a longtime dream of getting some extreme and crude porn parodies inserted (pun intended) into a mainstream production. Be that as it may, it ruined this one for me because it seemed out of place and self indulgent. And self indulgent is never a good thing in comedy, especially when it results in unfunny parts outstripping the funny bits by a ratio of 2:1.