I expected to adore this book. It’s Patton Oswalt — who I love — talking about film, one of my favorite subjects. But it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Oswalt talks about film a fair amount, but usually as a springboard to talking about himself and his career as an actor and stand-up comedian. When he came to Los Angeles, he became obsessed with the Beverly Movie Theater and saw his frequent visits as a form of education. He began as an aspiring director, and I am actually surprised — give his ambition and obvious knowledge of film — that he hasn’t yet taken a stab at it.
I would say, however, that the book itself mostly amounts to the story of a comedian geeking out over film, which makes it an endearing book but not always the most entertaining one. He writes at length about how film has influenced him, but he spends just as much time writing about his start in stand-up comedy and his time as a writer for MadTV and his work as an actor on Kelsey Grammar’s Down Periscope. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I were interested in his insights on acting and stand-up comedy. However, I am not that compelled by books about process, and ultimately, most of the movies he really dug into — save for Sunset Boulevard — weren’t all that interesting to me. I think I’d have preferred he ramble for nine minutes about Star Wars than detail his love of Pulp Fiction without actually offering any new insights into Pulp Fiction.
It’s certainly not a bad book, and it’s fun to spend the time with Oswalt, but I thought he felt somewhat short of his promise at the outset of the memoir to “be funny.” It is occasionally insightful and sometimes interesting (if you care about Patton Oswalt), but it is rarely “funny.”