Review: Tour de Pharmacy
In 2015, the team of Jake Szymanski, Murray Miller, and Andy Samberg collaborated on the short sports mockumentary 7 Days in Hell for HBO - a fictional narrative revolving around a heated tennis rivalry between pro athletes which oscillated through a number of comedic venues. Their latest collaboration, Tour de Pharmacy, very much retains that absurdist tradition, also taking the form of a ESPN 30 for 30-esque special and chronicling the events of the 1982 Tour de France race, in which, according to this story, every single participant tested positive for using drugs.
Thankfully the focus is only on five combatants (the only ones to have not been outright disqualified), and here a great myriad of talent is on display. Samberg is terrific as clueless white African entrant, but its surprising how funny his co-stars end up being, considering most do not exemplify an overtly humorous background of work. Hamilton star Daveed Diggs portrays the nephew of baseball great Jackie Robinson trying to make a name for himself as the first potential black winner of the race; John Cena is an overly-roided Australian racer and continues to provide big laughs the way he did in Trainwreck and Sisters; Freddie Highmore actually plays a woman disguised as a man, attempting to break the gender barrier of the race's history; and finally, Orlando Bloom does great work as a stereotypically French athlete (with an even more ridiculous name of JuJu Pepe).
Like with 7 Days in Hell, Jon Hamm narrates the action as events unfold with a relatively dry and witty tone. What really helps carry Tour de Pharmacy through its rather short 36 minute runtime , beyond the cavalcade of surprise cameos and bit-parts from figures in both the entertainment and sports world, is the various interludes and segues into over-the-top humor that Samberg and his Lonely Island crew are known for. For instance, in explaining a crucial bit of information regarding the wide doping cover-up in the first portion, we're subjected to a commercial for the fictional KultaBank banking institution which involves milk and cunnilingus, that even the various interviewees are baffled by. Another great element comes into a totally wacky 1970s-style educational film about how blood cells work, which descends into utter madness in almost no time at all, that continues as the animation's creator is given time to explain her history with making politically-charged art. While mainly tracking the events of the 1982 Tour de France, Tour de Pharmacy has its strongest and best laughs when shifting into these strange territories, and giving the viewer something unexpected yet hilarious in terms of its surprise value.
A short piece of entertainment, yet one that is chock-full of jokes from start to finish, Tour de Pharmacy manages to outdo its predecessor thanks to a great ensemble and a spirit which certainly pushes the limits of television comedy (full disclaimer: there is a lot of nudity and violence, hence, why its being premiered on HBO at 10pm). If you're a fan of any of the cast or crew, it's a no-brainer of a watch.