Rating: 2 out of 5.

A satirical political mockumentary should be an easy home-run, especially from comedy maven Ike Barinholtz and hottie co-star Dylan O’Brien. Maximum Truth confuses everything that works in these types of offbeat comedies, stumbling its way from one mishandled scenario to the next. I kept waiting for the comedy to finally hit the right notes. Reaction shots and facial expressions are funnier than anything the script has to say. Of course, the messaging remains painfully on the nose, and completely lacks subtlety. The truth is, Maximum Truth has little to offer beyond the occasional surface-level chuckle.

Meet Rick Klingman (Barinholtz, who also co-wrote the script), attorney and consultant. A self-proclaimed “truth provider,” Rick will pretty much do anything for a bit of cash. As he explains in the first few minutes of having a film crew follow him around, Rick gets hired by people to help “get their truth out there.” In one of the few funny asides, we see Rick leading the picketing of a stage play written by actor Seth Rogen entitled Freeing Lincoln—a play that draws a conclusion of President Lincoln being involved in a gay relationship. Rick is a character never taken seriously—he rants about how people online say his brain is made of monkey cum, and goes on a long tangent about his miraculously unbelievable weight loss journey.

When the wife of a fracking tycoon, eccentric Mary Jo (Beth Grant) hires Rick to take down a young democratic candidate (Max Minghella), Rick must team up with his enterprenuer/activist bestie, Simon (O’Brien), to properly dig up dirt. O’Brien is a scene-stealer from the very first frame, thrusting and working out in his backyard. Simon pushes his ridiculous “high quality weight loss supplement” Shreded (literally spelled with two ‘d’s instead of three) every chance he can. As Rick and Simon follow every possible lead, the corruption goes deeper into sexual depravity… or does it? 

As a big O’Brien fan, I had to appreciate how the film really plunges him through the female gaze. At one point, Simon passionately rips off a dirty shirt, buttons and all, to put on a new one. In another moment, O’Brien strolls around casually in nothing but a towel as the area around his genitals is distorted by the camera. Who cares if Simon pronounces “cafe” as “kay-fe” when he looks that good? The chemistry between Barinholtz and O’Brien is so close to being great, but Maximum Truth manages to miss the mark. They deserve a better movie built around their camaraderie.

An absolutely disastrous press conference that happens near the end of the film is an obvious high point for Maximum Truth, and almost makes the movie worth it. Yet ultimately, the talent here seems far greater than its hollow scripting would suggest. Mockumentary style, particularly that of Christopher Guest, ranks among my absolute favorite types of films, so this one was a major disappointment. It may be rather insipid, but at least the presence of Dylan O’Brien and Ike Barinholtz ultimately ensures Maximum Truth is never boring. Perhaps next time, the script may need longer to simmer.

Find out what constitutes Maximum Truth, now in limited release theaters and streaming on VOD. 

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