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Don’t Suck (2023) Review

Billed as a vampire comedy, Don’t Suck is the story of Pete (Jamie Kennedy, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, Jack Osbourne’s Night of Terror: UFOs), a burnt out comedian who’s spent too much time chasing fame on the standup circuit. He’s finally managed to go viral, but it’s from using the C word on a cashier while trying to be funny. He and comedy club owner Danny (Dionysio Basco, Killing Joan, Pretty Dudes) however dismiss it as her fault for being too easily offended.

That’s followed by Pete approvingly referring to Danny “Weinstiening” the students in his comedy class and boasting about being part of the mob that stormed the Capitol. That should give you an idea of where Don’t Suck is coming from, what kind of jokes to expect and whether or not to cut your losses and bail now.

Pete gets offered what could finally be his big break, a chance to open for Russell Peters on an upcoming comedy special. He books a few gigs to warm up and test out new material, and ends up with Ethan (Matt Rife, The Curse of Wolf Mountain, Black Pumpkin) as his opener. Ethan does a routine about being a 400 year old vampire that’s so unfunny it enthralls audiences. That might be because as Pete finds out during a confrontation with a pissed off, and armed, heckler Ethan really is a vampire.

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Director RJ Collins (American Sicario) and writer Rick D’Elia (National Lampoon’s Funny Money) actually make their first mistake before a single joke is told. They open the film with that confrontation and then flash back two weeks to Pete meeting Ethan stepping on the punch line of all the is he or isn’t he jokes before we even get to them.

Of course it’s fair to ask if the jokes would have been funny even if the filmmakers hadn’t spoiled them, because very little in Don’t Suck is funny. It doesn’t matter if the topic is politics, vampirism or Pete’s endless arguments with his girlfriend Stephanie (Ellen Hollman, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power, Army of One) over whether or not he’s jealous of Ethan it all falls flat.

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Much of the time Don’t Suck’s jokes seems to go out of their way to be nasty, misogynistic, or otherwise offensive in order to get publicity by way of controversy. That worked for Rife who opened his Netflix special with a joke about beating women and continues to milk the backlash for attention. Considering how little attention the films has gotten though, it’s fair to say the strategy hasn’t paid off.

As an actor though Rife is so bland I’d forgotten I’d seen him in several films and mentioned him in at least one review. Here he comes off as though he wandered in from a Twilight spinoff. He has retractable fangs and eyes that turn bright orange, he can see his reflection and go out in sunlight but at least he doesn’t sparkle. He’s one of the least impressive vampires ever put on film.

For his part, Kennedy is long past the form that landed him parts in the Scream and Tremors franchises. He’s not even up to the standup performance that was recorded for 2020’s Stoopid Smart. It might have helped if D’Elia had given him something funnier to do than outrage farming with lines about nobody wanting to listen to him because he’s a straight white male.

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Don’t Suck features cameos by standup comedians such as Jimmy “JJ” Walker from the old sitcom Good Times and Scott ‘Carrot Top’ Thompson whom I thought was dead and does little to convince me otherwise. They even toss in MMA fighter/actor Rigan Machado (Lord of the Streets, Jiu Jitsu) as himself. None of this even temporarily improves the film.

At times it feels like Collins and D’Elia have made something that’s more of a social media rant than a movie. And if you find the posts on Twitter, Truth Social, etc. amusing you may enjoy the film more than I did. But I can’t see anyone but the most dedicated of culture warriors actually finding it funny. Rather than trying so hard to “own the libs” Don’t Suck should have worked on living up to its title.

Don’t Suck is available on Digital Platforms via VMI Worldwide.

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