Just About Famous review

by Rob Rector

I never really got the whole “celebrity impersonator” thing. I’d never pay to see one perform, as I’d much rather just listen to their actual recordings, or hear a cover band’s rendition of the music than watch someone reconstruct everything that has been built by another.

Though, I suppose I understand the appeal. They are like the street vendor knock-offs of all the name brands you can’t really afford, so I know there’s an audience for it. Can’t afford Gucci? Well, there’s a Fucci watch for about a fraction of the cost.

But there always seems to be a hint of sadness to the whole affair for me. People who dedicate their entire lives to merely mimic another’s life just seems like such a waste of talent and time. It’s one thing if someone does celebrity impressions and creates a comedy bit out of it (this means a pass for you, Rich Little), but others who merely skate by just resembling someone seems like an empty way to spend your time.

Just About Famous
Directed by
Jason Kovacsev & Matt Mamula
Charlie Franks, John Morgan, Dale Leigh
Release Date
April 21 2015
Rob’s Grade: C

But who am I to judge, as Just About Famous presents a cast of characters who seem perfectly content and proud of their accomplishments to merely ride on the coattails of the celebrities their genetic lottery has won them?

George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Elvis (naturally) Madonna, Lady Gaga, Dame Edna and Barack Obama are all those whom the documentary features (that was expanded from a 2010 short). There are certainly some telling glimpses of the hollowness of their lives (like the poor Obama impersonator who feels that his slight resemblance to a president somehow has prepared him for a life in politics…until he goes door to door to try to solicit support). There’s also the woman who devotes hours of dance preparation for her Lady Gaga impersonation (and even hires backup dancers). It all seems rather sad, but directors Jason Kovacsev and Matt Mamula keep the tone light, never scratching too far beneath the surface for us to really witness who these people truly are.

They keep things rather bouncy and light (the film is set, oddly, to a Mariachi-like soundtrack), and you can tell they have affection for their subjects. But if you are looking for depth of its odd cast of characters and why they are driven to walk in the shadows of celebrity, this is not where you will find it.

The film culminates in the annual Sunburst Convention in Florida (where else?), where they are paraded out to onlookers and, primarily, one another, where they peddle their wares and try to pay for their airline tickets, apparently. The show’s host Greg Thompson seems like a swell enough guy, but when he mentions his hero is P.T. Barnum, you get the idea as to where his priorities are. For Barnum was a huckster of the highest order, who made money parading around what he called “freaks” for his own reward.

And, when we watch the general public fawn over these blatant fakes as though they were the actual celebrities, it calls to mind the words of the famous Barnum critic, David Hannum, who said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”