Being a has-been is a full-time job these days. From The Surreal Life to the various tragicomic editions of Celebrity Boxing, more Warholian ex-celebrities than ever are leveraging their flirtations with fame into sad little bids to remain in the public eye, no matter how pathetic the context. As sad pseudo-celebrity spectacles go, the new Pauly Shore vehicle Pauly Shore Is Dead ranks somewhere between Scotty Schwartz's porn career and the Flavor Flav-Brigitte Nielsen Surreal Life spin-off Strange Love. It's a flailing, potty-mouthed exercise in Postmodernism For Dummies that desperately tries to revive Shore's moribund career by satirizing his image as a flailing has-been desperately trying to revive his moribund career.
Suggesting that self-parody might be the true last refuge of the scoundrel, the film casts director/co-writer Shore as a once mildly popular comic actor and MTV personality reduced to faking his own suicide in a last-ditch effort to spark interest in his career. The move proves improbably successful, until Shore's hoax is uncovered and he's sent to jail. Whereupon the film proves yet again that behind every third-rate clown lies a sentimental softie—it actually tries to give Shore a genuine, unironic redemptive arc. At his lowest moment, Shore is visited by guardian angel Sam Kinison (or at least a portly look-alike shot largely in silhouette), who leads him down the road to self-actualization by telling him he must reconcile the ephemeral nature of his obnoxious "Weazel" fame with his true identity as a caring, empathetic human being trying to find meaning in a shallow, superficial world. Shore's epiphany isn't remotely convincing or earned, but coming after 80 minutes of porn-movie production values and running jokes that barely limp, its train-wreck mawkishness seems oddly refreshing.
Shore has managed to rope everyone from Ben Stiller to Sean Penn to Dr. Dre to Adam Sandler to Britney Spears to Carrot Top into providing cameos, but his formidable roster of guest turns seems less impressive once it becomes apparent that each cameo consists of some brief footage shot in what appears to be the same nondescript hotel room. The exception appears to be Tom Sizemore as Shore's loyal pal; he comes closest to providing a laugh when an anonymous bimbo IDs him as that creepy guy from the movies, and he deadpans, "No, that's Michael Madsen." (No points for guessing whether Madsen pops up later as well.) It's touching that Shore seems to think that something of his life and career deserves to be salvaged, but everything in this self-indulgent, glorified home movie suggests otherwise.