MOVIE REVIEW- Comedy cowboys: Hilarious 'Hollywood to Heartland'

a still from this week's filmThough shorter on title than The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights– Hollywood to the Heartland is longer on laughs. In fact, it's funny as (insert your favorite four-letter word).

If you don't have a favorite four-letter word, you may pick one up from the movie. All the comics involved "work blue," as they say.

They didn't play Podunk, or even Pittsburgh; they opened in Los Angeles and closed in Chicago, appearing mostly in cities that are considered pretty major if you're not from New York or L.A.: Atlanta, Memphis, Phoenix, Austin, Cleveland, Nashville, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Indianapolis– you know, non-coastal America's greatest hits (though none in Virginia).

Apparently the show's format varied according to the guest stars Vaughn had to interact with. In for most if not all of the tour were producer Peter Billingsley (Ralphie in A Christmas Story) and Vaughn co-stars Justin Long (Dodgeball: A True Story) and Keir O'Donnell (the gay brother in Wedding Crashers). Jon Favreau (Swingers) helps kick things off in L.A., and Dwight Yoakam guests in Bakersfield, where Buck Owens gives Vaughn a guitar.

The four stand-up comics may not have Vaughn's marquee value, but they amuse the hell out of the crowds: John Caparulo, a sweet, chubby blue-collar guy from Cleveland who doesn't have much luck with women; Bret Ernst, a high-energy "half-Guido" who "sweats when he eats" and does great physical bits; Egyptian-born Ahmed Ahmed, who says, "Arabs– we're the new black"; and yuppie-ish Sebastian Mansicalco, the least experienced of the four, who's determined not to go back to waiting tables after this tour.

Whether onstage, being interviewed, or in candid scenes of the tour, the emphasis is on rapid-fire humor, with a few exceptions. The comics go to a trailer park outside Birmingham to distribute free tickets to Hurricane Katrina evacuees living there. Ernst's folks travel from Boca Raton to see their son in Atlanta, and between jokes about his gay older brother we learn that brother died of AIDS in 2001. As Caparulo says, "It's a really cool thing to have a job that's cathartic."

I think my favorite line comes from Ahmed, whose parents brought him to the U.S. when he was one month old. Telling how women find him exotic, he says one told him, "'Make me your Egyptian princess.' So I threw a sheet over her head and told her to shut up."

The film's been shortened by 15 minutes since critics at the Toronto festival complained it was too long, but there's still at least some visual souvenir of each city visited. There are also some appropriate, mostly country-flavored songs ("Streets of Bakersfield," "Georgia on My Mind") for some of the stops, but not "El Paso" or "Detroit City."

At the outset, Taylor Hackford predicts, "These people will be different people when they finish." He should know better. The tour may be exhausting, but each audience re-energizes the performers. They may be happier and more fulfilled than usual at the end of a grueling month while preparing for post-partum depression, but they're the same people who decided to go into that crazy business in the first place, and they've been reminded of why.

Ahmed says, "Funny is funny." Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights– Hollywood to the Heartland is funny. And it's already been named Best Picture of 2008 by the Association of Film Critics Who Get Paid by the Word.