It’s hard to know what to make of Perry Caravello. He’s either the most dim-witted egomaniac vying for Hollywood stardom, or we’ve all just been punked, big time. Windy City Heat, a reality-show style film-length documentary, claims to be an elaborate prank played on Perry, where everyone from the director (Bob Goldthwait) to the PAs are in on the joke.
The DVD reveals that his “friends” Don Barris, Tony Barbieri (here, as a wig-wearing burnout named “Mole”), and Jimmy Kimmel have, for years, been promising aspiring comic Perry a chance at a leading role in a blockbuster film, extolling his talent and charisma. (He has neither.) Five months before production begins, Don convinces Perry that he’s a shoe-in if he auditions for Windy City Heat, an action flick in which the hero is hardboiled sports detective “Stone Fury.” It costars William “The Refrigerator” Perry as himself, in need of Stone’s expertise to find his stolen fridge. Perry doesn’t know that the film, and everyone working on it, is bogus, despite some obvious clues: a casting director (Dane Cook) named Roman Polanski; his on screen love interest, Susan B. Anthony (Lisa Kushell); Travis Bickle (Dave Sheridan) driving his limo; and foreign financial backing by Hiroshima Nagasaki. I told you he was dense.
The eight-day shoot subjects Perry to one “comedic” set-up after another. When thugs toss Perry (as Stone) into a dumpster, the filmmakers are sure to fill it with watery manure for the multiple takes Perry must endure. Only after he’s covered in shit, do they suggest that Perry request a stunt double, just in time to be escorted out of the room so his double can perform the graphic sex scene with the buxom Susan (upon meeting her, Perry explains that she makes him “hard as a… diamond, er… cutter or whatever”). When Goldthwait leaves the set after filming the scene, he runs into Perry in the halls. Shaking his head, forlorn, he explains to Perry that they can’t use any of the sex scene, because Susan has allowed full penetration. Perry’s visible devastation—having nothing to do with the film production and everything to do with his libido—says everything we need to know about him: He’s lascivious and deplorable. And so very dumb.
So dumb that it’s not long before one starts to wonder who exactly is being tricked here. Could Perry be so hungry for fame that he would actually drink, take after take, Stone Fury’s morning shake: a blender’s worth of raw eggs, leftover Chinese noodles, cheese pizza, glazed donuts, and beer? That he wouldn’t balk at the studio’s prototype Stone Fury action figure resembling an obese Samoan with a Geri-curl? That the “Most Promising Actor in an Unfinished Feature Film” trophy awarded to Perry by the President of Show Business at the windy City Heat premiere is legitimate?
In an effort to uncover the truth, I scoured the DVD extras, consisting of old cable access footage of Perry, with Don and Mole ribbing Perry at every turn. A special featurette titled “The Reveal,” which lets us watch the finished film alongside Perry, Don, and Mole. At no point does Perry seem to understand that the film’s a joke and he’s the punch line. Even his audio/video commentary track shows him in a suspended state of denial. As the text, “Everything you are about to see is an elaborate prank being played upon Perry,” fills the screen, he doesn’t even acknowledge it’s there. When he does comment, he more or less recites the film’s dialogue as it plays. The spectacle is sad and frustrating.
Equally frustrating is that in the film, Perry never takes a firm stand against his tormentors. Instead, he oscillates between engaged and enraged. One minute he’s name-dropping and trying to schmooze “celebrities” like Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel, the next he’s regressed to infancy, red-faced and screeching whenever anything starts to go awry. What never wavers is his insistence that he’s supremely talented: comparing himself to a young Brando, he boasts a killer DeNiro impression, insisting that “people magnetize towards my look.” That look? Balding, overweight, fanny-packed with questionable hygiene.
With such absurdity abounding, it’s hard to gauge who should be insulted more: the audience or Perry. While these shenanigans feel exploitative (as one can only think that if this is really a prank on Perry, he must be, in some significant way, mentally impaired), a hoax on the audience feels equally so, since it’s insulting to assume the audience can’t see through the sham, given the increasing ridiculousness of each situation. I suppose that since it’s never exactly clear either way means it’s somehow brilliant, but mostly I just think it’s mean.