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Photo: ‘Attack of the Hollywood Clichés’

A Skinny Look at the Clichés that We Know and… Are Fine With

Opening with a monologue from a shiny, spiffy Rob Lowe, the tone of ‘Attack of the Hollywood Clichés’ is clear from the very beginning. Sarcastic, self-aware, and surface level. Produced by Charlie Brooker, the creator behind the infinitely creative series ‘Black Mirror’, this film is a far cry from the masterful complexity of his dark anthology. This special features fleeting appearances from successful film stars like Florence Pugh, Andrew Garfield, and Richard E. Grant, among a menagerie of other talking heads ranging from film critics to journalists to icons of particular genres like Andie McDowell and Robert Englund. In an unstoppable stream of content, Lowe leads us down the path towards a broader understanding of cinema.

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Despite the clarity of purpose that lies within an informative look into a barrage of clichés that audiences know and are fine with (love is a bit of an overstatement, don’t you think?), this special ultimately suffers from a lack of focus. Clichés like ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ or ‘The Montage’ felt strangely well-discussed – probably due to the fleeting, momentary nature of the tropes themselves – as if they aren’t some of the most widely known tropes of all time. Other well-known clichés with considerably more depth, like now culturally-iconic ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’, receive a much more brief, lopsided treatment.

Starting with the iconic ‘Meet-Cute’ and commentary by rom-com sweetheart Andie MacDowell and quickly shifting to the ‘Maverick Cop’, the pacing and organization of these oft-familiar clichés are sometimes perplexing. While there are a few moments where this special finally begins to err into the expansive territory that more experienced audiences would expect, when it comes to reviewing more historically rich and long integrated tropes like ‘The Magical Negro’, ‘The White Savior’, or ‘Bury Your Gays’, the more scant nature of these discussions becomes painfully obvious. While standalone tropes like the aforementioned ‘Wilhelm Scream’ or ‘The Spit-Take’ are much more suited for this list-and-example type of composition, there are other ones that beg for context and elaboration. In this way, ‘Attack of the Hollywood Clichés’ embodies a whisper of its full potential as a series that shines a practiced, critically academic light on a number of worthy tropes.

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‘Attack of the Hollywood Clichés’ – Rob Lowe and A Collection of Talking Heads

‘Attack of the Hollywood Clichés’ is sectioned into the ‘comedy special’ genre despite lacking most of the components that would lead me to believe it’s meant for this, the most notable example being… jokes. Other than some flimsy attempts at humor from Rob Lowe and genuine, passing comedy from the various talking heads, it’s hard to discern where the ‘comedy’ is actually intended to be coming from. While I’m on the topic: listen, I love Rob Lowe, We all love Rob Lowe, including Rob Lowe. But, in this situation, his brand of somehow charming conceitedness falls flat in between the flash-bang segments of actual commentary. There’s no real vested analysis to balance out his effort at irreverent tongue-in-cheek, and it leaves these moments feeling hackneyed and hollowed out.

It’s strange, because I’m not sure who would choose to check this special out other than those who are already invested in Cinema, but from that perspective, the time spent on each fleeting trope feels like it hardly scratches the surface, much less the long-buried roots of each respective trope. It instead opts for quantity over quality, bustling onto the next topic or genre when you’ve hardly had enough time to grasp the former. The scarcity of its runtime made me assume that this would be an extended mini-series, episodically delving into the hallmark clichés, perhaps sectioned into genres or time periods. Instead, it skates over them, strung together by the qualities most anyone would recognize and recall. To this point, what this special lacks in thoughtful structure, it makes up for in reappropriated clips of other films that you’d probably rather be watching.

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A Cinematic Disservice to Old Chestnuts

‘Attack of the Hollywood Clichés’ lacks a tangible purpose beyond the parade of nostalgia and suffers beneath the weight of content despite being just under an hour in length. Like a prolonged Youtube video with less direction and no ultimate thesis, this short comedy special essentially repurposes images from a number of classic movies and edits them in a way that is fun and stylistic enough to bear. It can’t seem to decide between being a brief, sassy commentary or a half-assed investigation.

For something that satirizes these shallow mechanisms of Cinema, it embodies the same sort of ‘busy-but-uninspired’ familiarity of the clichéd Hollywood movies it attempts to spectatorially comment on. If you’re a layman, you’ll leave with a surface-level understanding of a collection of tropes; if you’re already an expert, you’ll leave feeling like this special was vastly overpacked and understated. In what may have been a resolute attempt to avoid structural clichés, this informational series errs on the side of meaninglessness.

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All in all, this is the kind of film I would recommend to a cinematically challenged friend with a short attention span who is at least mildly interested in the clichés that have permeated Hollywood since the dawn of Cinema.

Cast: Rob Lowe, Richard E. Grant, Florence Pugh, Andrew Garfield, Kenny Lewis, Keith Lewis, David Edelstein, Mark Strong.

Director: Sean Doherty, Ricky Kelehar, and Alice Mathias | Writer(s): Dane Baptiste, Ben Caudell, Sean Doherty, Erika Ehler, Jason Hazeley, Daniel Maier, Michael Odewale, Charlie Skelton | Editor(s): Mark Heasman & Damon Tai | Visual Effects: Anthony Brownmoore & Olivia Starr | Sound Department: Jules Woods |

By Grace Smith

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.

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Author

  • Grace Smith is a film critic and writer with 21 years of formative film exposure under her belt - and a focused interest in horror, surrealism, and substantial Cinema. Grace is passionate about The Hollywood Insider’s mission towards thoughtful and innovative media that expands audience perspectives towards entertainment. As a young writer and film-lover, Grace hopes to inspire readers towards not only broadening their horizons when it comes to cinematic media, but also raising their expectations.

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