Somewhere around the release of Anvil! The Story of Anvil, I started to get really tired of documentaries about failures. There have been some classics in the genre—Audience of One, American Movie, Heavy Metal in Baghdad—but at some point, it stops feeling like a spontaneous discovery of failure and more of a metaquest about a documentary filmmaker looking for an idiot to mock. All you need to do is tack on an inspiring, Ed Wood–like message on the end and voilà—you'll have to beat the film festivals off with a stick!
Best Worst Movie is technically a post-failure documentary; it's about the strange second life of Troll 2, a film that is adored in cult-film circles as the most inept horror movie of all time. And while it doesn't revitalize the idea of the documentary of failure, Movie at least doesn't dishonor the genre, either. Part of the appeal of the film is that director Michael Stephenson performed in Troll 2 as a child. We can feel his affection for his costars, especially for the lead of Troll 2 and Movie, George Hardy.
Hardy is Movie's secret weapon: He's an affable, white-bread guy, a handsome dentist who makes you laugh at his stupid jokes just because he wants you to. He's also an awful actor. At first, Hardy is ashamed of his performance in Troll 2, but when it ascends to cult status, he embraces the badness, going to conventions and basking in the self-mockery as entertainment. Not everyone displays such good-natured self-awareness: Troll 2's director, Claudio Fragasso, thinks that he has made a work of genius, and he bristles at Hardy and Stephenson's ribbing.
Movie is a light entertainment, strumming its one idea again and again with little regard for whether the premise might be wearing thin or not, and it misses several opportunities for greatness. Troll 2's female lead, Margot Prey, has gone insane in the intervening years, and she makes several brief appearances in Movie; her stringy hair and empty eyes hint at another, far more interesting movie taking place in the background, away from the cameras. But Stephenson frustratingly retreats from any opportunity to deepen the film, leaving Movie as a one-joke movie, told surprisingly well.