WARNING: Spoilers ahead…
Did you know that Mike Tyson’s original passion was cycling?
Did you know that cycling was invented so men could fuck in the woods?
Did you know that the experience of being on meth is akin to having a bear suck your dick (if you have one, presumably)?
Did you know that Kevin Bacon never ages?
Ok, full disclosure: it’s probable that only one of the above statements is actually true (Kevin Bacon is lookin’ fresh, ya’ll). But if you are willing to take Andy Samberg and Co.’s “sports” mockumentary Tour de Pharmacy at face value, all of those factoids are real. And isn’t that the sort of world we’d all rather be living in?
This spiritual sequel to HBO’s 2015 tennis showdown 7 Days In Hell shares a lot of DNA with its predecessor. Both specials have a svelte runtime of around 40 minutes, and are stuffed full of gags and cameos. You don’t really have to know much about tennis or the Tour de France to appreciate them. If you enjoyed the first one, chances are you’ll have a good time watching this latest effort. If anything, Tour de Pharmacy might have a slight edge over 7 Days In Hell when it comes to the cast, which is somehow even more chock full of surprising faces, each used to great effect. There is an obvious sense of wish-fulfillment in casting Jeff Goldblum as an aged-up Andy Samberg, but I can’t hold that against Samberg. If I could have Jeff Goldblum play me in 30 years, I’d be thrilled. And the fact that Jeff Fucking Goldblum is actually one of the least surprising celebrity turns in this whole enterprise makes it worth the 40 minutes.
For example: within the first few minutes of the special we see Orlando Bloom riding a bicycle, rocking some severely bleached facial hair, pissing himself, and then dying.
But don’t worry, he’s still in the majority of the film. The premise, in a nutshell: It’s 1982 and nearly every competitor in the Tour de France has been disqualified for drug abuse, leaving only 5 very eccentric riders to finish out the race. “Period” footage is interspersed with modern day talking head interviews, allowing us to meet the riders and see their older selves in the present. In addition to Andy Samburg/Jeff Golblum as the Nigerian cyclist Marty Hass and Orlando Bloom’s incredibly named Juju Pepe, there is Daveed Diggs/Danny Glover as Slim Robinson (nephew of Jackie Robinson), John Cena/Dolph Lundgren as the Austrian competitor Gustav Ditters, and Freddie Highmore/Julia Ormond as Adrian (Adriana) Baton, a woman who rode as a man to prove that women can cheat just like anyone else. And Kevin Bacon is the only character to play himself in the present — though in the past they did stick him in a truly awful wig.
James Marsden proves he is literally never NOT charming as the BBC journalist Rex Honeycut, who makes it his mission to ride along for the entire tour. As you probably noticed from the trailers, Lance Armstrong pops up with a good sense of humor about doping. And Mike Tyson just Mike Tysons it up as himself, a guy who apparently really loves cycling. Oh, and Phylicia Rashad plays an animator who was fired from Sesame Street for creating a Black Panther-esque muppet. You can tell HBO’s distribution deal with Sesame Street is continuing to pay off creatively!
Well, that and all the bare naked penises. Do you remember that scene in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping where a fan exposes himself to Samberg’s character in the limo? It’s like that, only several times over. In fact, the sheer number of penises may be the other area in which Tour de Pharmacy truly exceeds its predecessor. Those Lonely Island boys do like a good dick joke. Or two. Or… more.
Look, this is an exercise in excess. It’s an excuse to get a bunch of famous people to do and say ridiculous things. It’s no more or less cerebral that than. But those famous people are used well, the jokes come fast and hard and manage to stick the landing more often than not, and even at 40 minutes it’s over before you realize it. Frankly, it’s a hell of a ride (look, I had to make some kind of bike pun — sue me). In a media landscape littered with bloated 3-hour blockbusters and strained 22-episode seasons, it’s refreshing to find a one-off little confection that can amuse and distract you and still be over in less time than it’ll take you to understand what happened on that last episode of Twin Peaks: The Return.