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The great joy of a good mockumentary is the believability in it, the knowledge that yes, of course it isn’t real, but damn, it sure does feel it, as if you really want the characters in the film to be actual people. From gold standards like This is Spinal Tap to the plethora of improv films by Christopher Guest that followed, there is a tiny cherished corner in cinema that is just packed with funny movies that poke fun at the world we live in. And now comes Tour de Pharmacy, a brief 39-minute show dedicated to the 1982 Tour de France, and like its ancestors, is a riotously funny movie.
There isn’t much of a story beyond doping and cycling, with the premise being that just after the race begins, all but five racers are eliminated for using drugs. Or rather for paying the bribe to not be tested. They include Slim Robinson (Daveed Diggs), who wants nothing more than to be “the first black anything” so he can be as famous as his uncle Jackie; Juju Pepe (Orlando Bloom), an experienced but not so drug-free rider; Marty (Andy Samberg), the “first African” to join the Tour de France, even though he’s just an American who only lives in Niger because his parents own a diamond mine, and Gustav Ditters (John Cena), a pumped up Austrian rider who the year before was super skinny before he did steroids. And lastly Adrian Baton (Freddie Highmore), who plays a woman pretending to be a man trying to compete in a men’s sport. They are not the most motivated crew and the competition becomes one for the ages, because that’s how long it takes.
Directed by Jake Szymanski and written by Murray Miller, Tour de Pharmacy knows full well that it’s got a funny story and more importantly, that is got no legs for a full feature film. The short run time allows it to feel like an extended SNL sketch, and with many SNL alum in the cast, almost is. The gag here is that the “documentary” takes place in the present using ‘archival’ footage. All the characters are played by other actors as older versions of themselves. For instance, Jeff Goldblum plays Marty and Danny Glover plays Slim. There’s also Dolph Lundgren, Julia Ormond, and Kevin Bacon, among a surprisingly long list of famous faces, with the most notable probably being Lance Armstrong himself, playing himself, in shadow and voice alteration … though not so much.
The remarkable thing about Tour de Pharmacy is how much momentum is has, never losing steam as the premise seems a fountain of opportunities in which to poke fun. Raucous and racy, with nudity (both female and male frontal), the jokes are fast and on target for the whole show from the retro film stock look to the cast themselves who take it seriously even as it doles out the absurd. It’s more than a shot as cycling and sports docs, it’s a shot at filmmaking in general. And it’s really funny.
Movie description: Tour De Pharmacy is a 2017 mockumentary that chronicles the prevalence of doping in the world of professional cycling.
Director(s): Jake Szymanski
Actor(s): Andy Samberg, Orlando Bloom, Freddie Highmore