Pop Culture

Laughs, misfires in ‘Wild West Comedy Show’

If you’re one of those people who wishes concert films would spend more time filming what happens backstage and on the bus and less time fixated on the actual stage performance, then you’re the perfect audience for “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights — Hollywood to the Heartland.” (And yes, that’s the complete title — colon, ampersand, dash and all.) If you were expecting an actual comedy concert film, however, you’ve got another thing coming.

While this approach does yield some interesting moments — the comics tour a Hurricane Katrina refugee camp, we meet the performers’ family members at various stops on the itinerary — most of this fly-on-the-wall footage feels disposable. Actor Vaughn decided to take four rising young comedians out on the road to do 30 shows in as many days, but the “Swingers” star fails to realize that he’s the least interesting thing in the film. Not surprisingly, the movie gets better when Vaughn pops up on screen less often and lets his protégés take center stage.

If you can survive the first half-hour or so, which features lots of footage of Vaughn patting himself on the back for coming up with the tour and Vaughn hanging out with celebrity pals like Jon Favreau and Dwight Yoakam, “Wild West Comedy Show” starts getting a lot more entertaining, thanks mostly to John Caparulo, a short, stocky Ohioan whose put-upon style of delivery makes him the breakout star here.

Besides Caparulo, there’s Ahmed Ahmed, who gets a lot of comedic mileage about being Egyptian in post-9/11 America; Bret Ernst, who’s equally gifted at wild physical comedy as he is at stand-up; and Sebastian Maniscalco, who’s probably most thrilled to be along for the ride, since at the time of filming he was still working a day job as a waiter.

Actors Justin Long (star of Mac commercials, the underrated “Accepted” and the reprehensible “Strange Wilderness”) and Keir O’Donnell (“the gay guy from ‘Wedding Crashers’!” as a 12-year-old Katrina refugee recognizes him) pop up along the way, but their onstage segments are edited so badly that you really don’t get any feel for what they actually do in the show.

Coming off as the organized grown-up of the group is executive producer Peter Billingsley — forever known as Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” — who now produces films (“Elf,” the upcoming “Iron Man”) and TV (“Dinner for Five”) for Favreau. “Wild West” includes a hilarious clip of the project on which Billingsley and Vaughn met, an after-school special about steroid abuse.

The eventual DVD of “Wild West Comedy Show” will no doubt let you see Caparulo, Ahmed, Ernst and Maniscalco do a complete routine from start to finish. And if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll very much want to see these guys at work without all the editing and behind-the-scenes shenanigans (to say nothing of the hideously blurry cinematography) getting in the way.