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Tickled

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Are you ticklish? What about litigious? If so, this documentary might be for you. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry…and so will some of the “contestants” of the tickling contest, that are tied up and tickled.

New Zealand journalist/entertainment reporter David Farrier came across something online about “competitive endurance tickling.” It involved young men being held down and tickled. All of us, just like Farrier, think this sounds utterly ridiculous; but hey…I thought my neighbor looked idiotic “speed walking” and that ended up becoming an Olympic event.

Since Farrier covers bizarre human-interest stories, this certainly fits the bill. Yet when he emails the Jane O’Brien Media organization behind it, he’s declined an interview or information. That’s nothing new for a journalist, but what is baffling, is that they decide to respond with a series of insults, slurs about his sexuality, and other things. This both frightens Farrier, but also has him intrigued. It gets more baffling when the company sends three people to Auckland to meet with Farrier. You think they have finally come to their senses and are going to talk about tickling. Nope. More legal (and physical) threats.

Farrier decides to grab Dylan Reeve, his partner in crime, and go to the U.S. to investigate just what’s going on.

We soon realize that this isn’t a competition as much as it is a fetish. Sometimes, Farrier will state the obvious. At one point he tells us he “decided to make a documentary on it.” Yeah, well…we’re half an hour in, we sort of get that.

The documentary ends up becoming more like Catfish, than a documentary about people fascinated by tickling.

Now, there is one guy with a website devoted to it, that does talk a little about it and explains some of the aspects behind it. The more interesting thing is all the young men that have participated and don’t want to talk, fearing their lives will be ruined. That’s because some of them have had their lives ruined by the person behind all this. It’s a person nobody has seem to have met. And when we hear just what this bully does to them using the internet, it seems timely. We hear all these stories about things happening on the internet. Another aspect that seems timely, is how the person behind this can use his money, power, and connection to a law firm, to thwart the system. Reminded me a little bit of the Stanford swimmer that got a mere six months for raping a passed out girl.

It was a lot more rewarding watching journalists try to track down Rodriguez in Searching for Sugarman. In this, we get a lot of shots of them sitting in cars, working on the computer, or hiding a camera in a coffee cup (that just yields video of blue jeans). The documentary needed a bit more in the visual department, although the story is so captivating, you probably won’t mind.

I was a little curious as to how this company, which spends so much money to hire muscular young men to tickle, makes money. It would make sense if we heard a little about companies that buy these videos from them, but we don’t. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe this company is just stockpiling these tickling videos because the people (person) behind it is an obsessive addict.

I’ve written stories for various publications that famous actors have contacted, and their names were edited out of my story, after a threat of a lawsuit. So when the filmmakers feel threatened by the deep pockets, I feel their pain. When they decide to pursue the story even after threats, I admire their tenacity. The problem is the third act leaves you unsatisfied. It doesn’t help that the filmmakers seem dense at times. There were moments that I wished it wasn’t Farrier, but Chris Hanson (Dateline) to come out of the bushes and start questioning this pathological thug.

The guy comes across like John du Pont in Foxcatcher (especially when we see the first group of “ticklers” with their Adidas shirts on). And by the time you’re finished watching it, you’ll hope he ends up in jail with du Pont.

This gets 3 1/2 stars out of 5.