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The funny side of getting fired

Who knew that getting fired could be so much fun?

That's the immediate response to Annabelle Gurwitch's documentary, "Fired!"

But then, what would you expect from a woman who turned getting whacked from a Woody Allen stage play into onstage "Fired!" nights, a book by that name and this film?

It's an interesting twist on the documentary art form and convincing proof (in case anybody still needs it) that docs don't have to be boring. This one is drop-dead funny.

Of course, it helps that Gurwitch -- an actress, humorist and professional hostess ("Dinner and a Movie") -- has friends such as Anne Meara, Tim Allen, Sarah Silverman, Jeff Garlin and a host of others who could probably make dying from the bubonic plague seems funny.

But the film does have a heart as it explores one of the experiences most adults face and few talk about.

Gurwitch (the writer and producer) and director/editors Chris Bradley and Kyle La Brache apply some Michael Moore techniques to the subject (the scene in which the camera is traveling down the street in Lansing, Mich., after the announcements of cuts at local GM plants is an obvious nod to Moore's "Roger & Me").

"Fired!" is structured as a Moore-like quest for knowledge, with the camera trailing Gurwitch as she interviews human-relations professionals (get your resume ready if somebody tells you you're too good for your job or starts a conversation with "as you know. . .").

Like Moore, she creates some of her own situations, such as when she puts a friend in the kitchen of a traveling sandwich shop only to discover -- again -- that he wasn't meant for the food industry. Another story (the "Torch Song Trilogy debacle") is told via puppets.

There are moments when the film gets serious, such as when she's talking to Robert Reich, the labor secretary under President Clinton, and to TV economist Ben Stein.

But those moments are few. The heart of the film is its stories of being downsized, outsourced, let go and canned. With some sharp editing, the talking heads bounce back and forth as if in a conversation that refuses to let the viewer be bored.

To be fair to the currently unemployed, Gurwitch's humor dances dangerously close to dismissing their pain. She has neither Moore's sense of bitterness nor bite.

But the overall message of the film is really something different and nonpolitical: To be human is to be . . . fired.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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>Movie Review

Fired!

Review: 3 1/2 stars (out of four)

Not rated, but contains some rough language. 71 minutes. Opens today at Emerging Cinemas in Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre.

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