When anarchic British comedian Russell Brand crawled out of a syringe and into a prophet’s robes to become a self-professed agent for spiritual and cultural revolution (with jokes), the reaction was a mixture of “Huh?” and “Cool” and “Wasn’t he married to Katy Perry?”
Director Ondi Timoner is convinced, however, of something magnetically transformative in Brand’s efforts to trade self-destructive rock-star narcissism for the kind of greatness that drove Brand’s political heroes — Gandhi, Malcolm X and Jesus, among others. Her movie “Brand: A Second Coming,” which arose out of a project he asked Timoner to work on, traces the merry/mad prankster’s roots in lower-middle-class England, early dreams of fame, chaotic dealings with said stardom, and eventual post-rehab epiphany that he could use his bristling intelligence, foul-mouthed wit and public notoriety to change a broken world.
But is what he wants (government overthrow, a new era of selfless giving) possible and realistic? Or will he just be the funny guy at a GQ event who calls out Hugo Boss for clothing Nazis and the comedian who runs roughshod over TV interviewers?
Timoner is ultimately too enamored of pumped-up montages and proximity to Brand’s motormouth virtuosity to make her film much more than a youth-centered rallying cry. Whether you agree with his system-damning rhetoric or see him as no better than anyone else in our clogged punditocracy, “Brand: A Second Coming” is, if not a careful portrait, at least an orgy of personality.
“Brand: A Second Coming”
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.
Playing: ArcLight Hollywood.