It may be early in the year, but it’s a good bet “The Clapper” will land among 2018’s worst films. Writer-director Dito Montiel, adapting his novel, takes an ill-conceived premise and drives it into the ground with a painful, tone-deaf approach to both social satire and romantic comedy.
Ed Helms, in a floundering, unappealing turn, plays Eddie Krumble, a lost soul who, along with friend Chris (Tracy Morgan), works as a professional paid audience member or “clapper” for infomercials, en route, one imagines, to greater things — whatever those may be. But when a late-night TV talk show host (Russell Peters) outs Eddie for his many, oft-disguised infomercial appearances, Eddie gains unwanted celebrity status, turning his already tenuous life even more upside down.
The TV stunt, engineered by the show’s scheming producers (P.J. Byrne, Adam Levine), also causes trouble with Eddie’s girlfriend, Judy (Amanda Seyfried), a sweet gas station cashier who’s confused and disturbed by the sudden spotlight. Can love conquer all — except for maybe bad filmmaking?
As if the addled Eddie, Judy and Chris, who behave as if they dropped in from some alternate, retrograde universe, aren’t tedious enough, the movie is populated by annoying kooks, hucksters, fringe dwellers and bottom-feeders — plus one invasive mother (Brenda Vaccaro) — who are presented with all the subtlety of, well, an infomercial.
Rated: R, for language and some sexual references
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Playing: Vintage Los Feliz 3, Los Angeles; also on VOD