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GET BRUCE

by: Michael Dequina

Bruce Vilanch. You may not know the name, but you certainly know his work--especially if you've watched the Academy Awards in recent years. Ever laugh hard at one of Whoopi's quips? Ever tap your toe to one of Billy's uproarious opening production number parodies? Yes, that is the work of the incomparable Mr. Vilanch.

Get Bruce! is documentarian Andrew J. Kuehn's tribute to the heretofore unheralded talent of Vilanch, whose wit appears to be behind just about every awards show and every major comics' routine. In addition to Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, Vilanch has written for Robin Williams (who not so surprisingly steals the show during his interview in the film), Bette Midler, among others, and Kuehn spends a good deal of time showing Vilanch's writing process. A lot of that process entails getting to know the person for whom he writes, for each word is tailor-made for the peformer's personality. And we see that has forged some lasting relationships that go beyond work and into the realm of friendship, as evidenced by the cameraderie between Vilanch and his "clients," and the genuine affection they show for him in their interview segments.

Get Bruce! is just as much a tribute to Vilanch's personality as it is his talent. He is a true eccentric, with a warped wit to go with his strange appearance: beefy, bearded, and always wearing a T-shirt, regardless of the occasion. Vilanch's ebullient manner is obviously a big reason why everyone wants, to borrow the film's title, to get Bruce, and his unconventional charm also wins over the audience with little difficulty.

And, in turn, so does the film, which seems to go by even more quickly than its brief 72 minute running time. One does wish that, like Vilanch, there was a bit more meat on Get Bruce!'s bones; while there is some perfunctory information on his background (including an extended interview with his mother), not a whole lot of insight is given into what exactly makes Vilanch tick, what shaped him into the person he's become. But that's not the point. Kuehn's point is to pay tribute to that person Vilanch has become, to raise the curtain on someone whose abilities have long remained hiding backstage. With Get Bruce!, it's likely that Bruce Vilanch is in the limelight to stay.

RATING: *** 1/2 (out of *****)

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