- Actors: Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard
- Director: Mike Birbiglia
- Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
- Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Rated: R
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Release Date: December 6, 2016
- Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018
While it may do little to sway disbelievers into becoming fans of improv shows, a medium that has long been viewed as the only step below stand-up comedy in the list of shows that friends of entertainers dread attending out of mere obligation and support, Don’t Think Twice is so profoundly insightful in its discussion of larger issues that it ultimately doesn’t matter what the art form is. This may sound somewhat crass considering the weeks that the cast spent rehearsing and performing real improv shows, which were filmed for inclusion in the final edit, but it is the way that success effects their group dynamic which is well-thought out and insightful. The improv, despite being edited down to presumably show the funniest of the real material, lacks the kind of laughs to counter the spot-on criticism of planned sketch comedy on shows like Saturday Night Live.
The stand-in for SNL in Don’t Think Twice is a show called “Weekend Live,” which even has a humorless dictator at the helm of the production, a clear stand-in for Lorne Michaels. The comparison is so obvious that Don’t Think Twice occasionally feels single-mindedly focused on the condemnation of this particular show, bouncing between envy and resentment. This is where the sincere love of improv becomes a saving grace for the tone of the film, even if the jokes are more likely to inspire mild amusement than big laughs.
“Weekend Live” looms over all of the characters in Don’t Think Twice, most of which are desperate for a chance to be involved, even as they criticize the show’s lack of creativity and humor. Filmmaker and star (and skilled improv participator) Mike Birbiglia counters this superficial world with a humble improvisation troupe based out of New York, known as The Commune. The emphasis in these shows is not showboating or ego-filled performances, but this quickly changes as the loss of their venue threatens to end the group, and visitors from “Weekend Live” upend the delicate balance.
The group is headed up by improv veteran, Miles (Birbiglia), who is still clinging to the fact that he once auditioned for “Weekend Live,” keeping him stuck in a state of arrested development alongside his job teaching the art form and bad habit of dating his younger students. Miles is an overgrown narcissist, completely lacking the self awareness needed to see the incongruity between his situation and his vision of himself. This becomes even more difficult when his former student, and current member of The Commune, Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), is suddenly cast as the member of “Weekend Live.”
If Miles is a representation of narcissistic failure, Jack is the flip side of the same coin, handling his sudden success with all of the tact of a sledgehammer. Though the film does a fair job of showing the impossible situation of being given an opportunity that cannot be shared with the people that helped you get it in the first place, Jack’s behavior is far from admirable. Beginning with an ill-timed announcement of his audition on “Weekend Live” during another improv member’s grief over his father’s hospitalization, Jack has tunnel vision when it comes to his own career. This inevitably builds to a moment of plagiarism, the ultimate cardinal sin for comedians.
Though a portion of the film does tellingly compare Miles and Jack, there is a far more sympathetic character to counter Jack’s narcissism. Unlike Miles, Jack’s girlfriend, Sam (Gillian Jacobs), has no interest in finding success on a show like “Weekend Live.” Despite being given an audition alongside Jack, Sam makes the intentional decision to miss it. Miles may exist within the world of improv, but he desperately longs for the fame of the popular sketch show, even if he simultaneously criticizes it for being unfunny. Sam, on the other hand, is completely content with the artistic satisfaction of anonymity. And for that reason, she very naturally becomes the film’s primary voice, the closest thing to a protagonist in an ensemble cast of realistically flawed characters.
The Blu-ray release of Don’t Think Twice comes with a DVD and a Digital HD copy of the film. There are four features in the extras as well, though none are particularly in-depth. The additional improv footage is simply a couple of minutes long, which doesn’t speak well about the mass of footage that they were said to have filmed of the actual cast improv show. There is an additional featurette with the cast talking about improvisation. The two remaining extras are featurettes, one about the cast and the film’s plot while the other also includes comments from key crew members. Both are just over five minutes long.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10
Historical Significance: 6.5/10
Special Features: 6/10