Review: ‘Snervous Tyler Oakley’ reveals little about the YouTube celebrity

Tyler Oakley at VidCon in 2014.

Tyler Oakley at VidCon in 2014.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The 7 million subscribers to Tyler Oakley’s YouTube channel may be the only ones to get much out of Amy Rice’s documentary “Snervous Tyler Oakley.” Shot during a world tour of public appearances, the film is aimed at those who already know the social media superstar and would like to see more of what he’s like when his webcam is off.

For those baffled by the concept of “a YouTube celebrity,” this movie won’t elucidate much. “Snervous Tyler Oakley” is part of the phenomenon, not an examination of it.

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It’s easy to see why Oakley is so popular. He’s friendly, upbeat, disarmingly honest and aware enough of the unlikeliness of his fame to be a little sheepish. But because he’s so frank in his own videos — about his pop culture passions and growing up gay in Michigan — there’s not much for Rice’s doc to add.

What’s missing here is more about Oakley’s fan base, and more about how he went from shooting lo-fi video-blogs in his dorm room to being internationally beloved. Aside from a few seconds of the subject looking stressed out and annoyed by the demands on his time, everything about “Snervous” feels as carefully managed as something he would have made himself.

But then maybe it’s too much to expect a movie produced in association with YouTube to be even a little bit curious about what makes the channel so successful. It’s as though everyone involved with this doc is afraid to push too hard, lest they knock everything down.


“Snervous Tyler Oakley.”

MPAA rating: PG-13 for language and some thematic elements.

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes. Playing: VOD Only