The exhausted mockumentary genre provides yet another reason for its demise in “Authors Anonymous,” a tenaciously unfunny comedy about an amateur writers group that goes into crisis mode when its dumbest member lands a book deal.
Full of preening idiots whose self-regard dwarfs their talent, director Ellie Kanner’s film hews closely to Christopher Guest’s now-stale formula but lacks the exceptional performances and the shrugging pragmatism that distinguishes the best of the mockumentary maestro’s work.
Well-meaning ditz Hannah (Kaley Cuoco) isn’t interested enough in the written word to learn who Jane Austen is. (“I hear she’s good. So, go Jane! Keep it up!”) The other members of her writers group, then, are understandably upset when she’s the first to sell a manuscript.
Consumed by envy, the sex-starved romance novelist (Teri Polo), the Tom Clancy-obsessed veteran (Dennis Farina), the Charles Bukowski-worshiping poser (Jonathan Bennett) and the lovelorn nice guy (Chris Klein) rush off to become the group’s next success story.
The characters are too broadly drawn to possess human hearts, but Hannah and Henry (Klein) enjoy an unexpectedly complex relationship: She’s frustrated her friendship isn’t enough for him, and he feels deceived when he discovers she doesn’t follow her own benignly trite advice.
Ultimately though, “Authors Anonymous” makes the same mistake it chides its characters for: hero worship. Happy endings rarely feel like such betrayals.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for suggestive material.
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on VOD.