Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

HBO Mocks Sports Documentaries in '7 Days in Hell' **

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

HBO Mocks Sports Documentaries in '7 Days in Hell' **

Article excerpt

Remember that epic Wimbledon tennis match, back in 2001, in which two top players went at it for seven long, violent and ridiculous days?

No? Neither does anyone else. But Andy Samberg and Jake Szymanski imagine how it might have gone in "7 Days in Hell," an off-center (and off-color) special airing Saturday on HBO.

The drama is recounted as a mockumentary, the genre beloved by Woody Allen ("Take the Money and Run"), Christopher Guest ("Waiting for Guffman") and even Joaquin Phoenix ("I'm Still Here"). To state the obvious, a mockumentary may look like a documentary, but it's as fake as tofu posing as "mock chicken."

Here, Andy Samberg stars as Aaron Williams, America's "bad boy of tennis" in the 1980s and '90s. Adopted into a famous tennis family, Aaron made it almost to the top, but not quite, before self- destructing.

His improbable comeback attempt, at Wimbledon in 2001, is documented, or mockumented, by HBO's "Legends of Sports," which rounds up people real and faux to reflect on the marathon match.

Kit Harington, Jon Snow on "Game of Thrones," is Aaron's Wimbledon opponent, Charles Poole, a childlike Brit with a terror of a mother (Mary Steenburgen). When Aaron and Charles meet in the first round, Charles is supposed to knock Aaron off easily. But weather, streakers, cocaine and the queen conspire to keep that from happening.

Szymanski, who directed from a script by Murray Miller, gets the look of the documentary, including some real footage mixed with new scenes made to look vintage, just right.

The tone, though, is so broad, we never for a second forget the "mocku" in the "mentary." Samberg, in acid-washed denim and an '80s hair-band wig, goes over the top in his first scene and never looks back. Szymanski comes from Funny or Die and SNL Digital Shorts, so together, they aren't heavy on nuance. Expect more falling-down slapstick than sly jokes.

When "7 Days in Hell" revisits the lives and careers of the two competitors, that gives Michael Sheen a chance to parody a British talk show host who lusts for the young Charles and Lena Dunham to show up as the Jordache rep who ill-advisedly dresses Aaron. …

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