It's OK to laugh with Jamie Kennedy — but just make sure he never catches you laughing at him.
"What bothers me isn't a bad review," the "Scream" series star fumed last week, acknowledging such less-beloved misfires as "Son of the Mask." "What bothers me is an ill-informed personal attack. Do you know what that means? It means someone who really doesn't know my work, who saw three minutes of something I did, and decided they are going to make a judgment against me [because of] my face or my family or my hair."
With that in mind, Kennedy is launching a 2007 retort that attacks his critics on two different fronts: First, he plans to remind everyone why they found him funny in the first place. Then, later this year, he hopes to expose the haters.
"My character is a breakdancer that hits his head in 1986 and goes into a coma," Kennedy said of phase one of the plan, this week's high-concept comedy "Kickin' It Old Skool" (see "Rewind: You Want 'Old Skool'? Try Sly Vs. Mr. T, Tom Cruise In Ray-Bans"). "He comes out of it in 2006, and let's just say some people should never come out of a coma. His parachute pants are timeless. It's a mix between '13 Going on 30,' 'You Got Served,' 'Big' and 'Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.' "
Phase two is "Heckler," an unorthodox documentary that screens this week as an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival and could be in theaters later this year. Co-produced by Kennedy, the flick might make him the unlikeliest of art-house movie stars as it chronicles his recent attempts to take on typically faceless Internet mobs that pile on such polarizing figures as himself, George Lucas, Rob Zombie and Carrot Top.
"It's about the ever-critical world that we are living in," Kennedy said of the doc, which he conceived as a tool to help him cope with the vitriolic words about his poorly received "Mask" sequel that had him stepping into the shoes of Jim Carrey. "It's all real. It's me confronting critics, reviewers, bloggers, me confronting hecklers, hecklers confronting other hecklers, other filmmakers and other actors telling me how they've dealt with it."
Recently, a series of intense clips from "Heckler" was leaked, including one of the comedian confronting such people as the Giant magazine writer who wrote that Kennedy should be "lynched, hung and dragged across Texas behind a F-350" pickup truck. Another shows an interview with a teary-eyed Carrot Top, still smarting from the Film Threat review that dismissed his 1998 movie "Chairman of the Board" as "The worst film of the 20th century." While Kennedy admits his sure-to-be-controversial battles could come across as sour grapes to some, he offers one get-out-of-jail-free card to his hecklers: Fork over 10 bucks for a ticket to a movie like "Old Skool," and then you are free to form your opinion.
"I would like them to be informed," he said, insisting that most "Son of the Mask" detractors never even saw the flick. "People start making up things, then [other] people join in, and people start hating, and it's like a hate train."
Kennedy is hopeful that "Old Skool" will derail that train, with its innocently comical fish-out-of-water take on '80s dance moves. "I remember 'Weird Science,' I remember 'Walk Like an Egyptian' and I remember Cabbage Patch dolls — although I didn't play with one," he laughed, discussing his favorite decade. "I had parachute pants, and I used to eat a lot of Sweet Tarts and Jolly Ranchers. I used to watch 'Breakin',' and MTV when it was with David Lee Roth and he'd host 'Dave TV.' "
The "Skool" cast includes a half-dozen cameo slots, filled with '80s icons who bonded easily with Kennedy since they've battled their own hecklers in the decades since. "The studio was like, 'Who do you want in this movie? Who influenced you in the '80s?' " he recalled. "I was like, 'Rowdy Roddy Piper, Erik Estrada, John Ratzenberger from "Cheers." ' I used to watch David Hasselhoff, and I wanted to get Emmanuel Lewis in there too.
"Hasselhoff wore the leather everywhere," the comedian laughed, recounting his time spent with the legendary 'Hoff on set. "I'd be like, 'Yo, you want Starbucks? They're going to do a Starbucks run,' and he'd go, 'Yeah, I'll have a Macchiato.' He's an espresso guy, but a double — not a single."
As for Estrada, Kennedy admitted that the "CHiPs" star-turned-infomercial-pitchman may have conned him out of a few bucks. "Oh man, I bought some land from him — a little piece in Wyoming," he sighed. "I'm a little worried. It's just a rock. He says he's developing it, but right now it's just a big rock."
If everything goes according to plan, Jamie Kennedy will soon be making an impressive box-office comeback, flanked by this unlikely team of Michael Knight, Webster and Officer Poncherello. And if you buy a ticket to "Old Skool" and still want to make fun of them, Kennedy promises that he won't come after you anytime soon.
"That's OK," he promised, picking his battles. "What is crazy is those who call themselves professional reviewers, and then are like, 'This guy sucks. He should get hepatitis and die.'
"What does that have to do with movie reviews?" Kennedy finished. "This is where movie reviews have gone?"
Check out everything we've got on "Kickin' It Old Skool."
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