According to Google, when most people think of the happiest man on earth a certain Tibetan monk comes to mind. And if you read up on him, you’ll discover why he deserves the title, and why he is not the subject of this meandering oddball documentary.
The subject is in fact a song and dance man who has been appearing in shows in Disney Theme Parks for over 40 years. With his bouffant hair and a face that now belies his age (60+) Billy Flanagan narrates his own story in what turns out to be more of a puff piece than an objective profile.
The film starts in the middle of the Covid pandemic when Disney has closed all its theme parks for the 2nd time in history (the 1st time being after 9/11). All the performers who have been laid off are only on one-year contracts so get no remuneration from their Employer and so are not only dealing with being confined at home but also without an income.
Billy however takes it upon himself to create his own singing telegram service in the Orlando area cycling hundreds of miles to bring some joy to his fellow performers during the pandemic and keeping himself fit at the same time. It gives the film the opportunity for a whole coterie of his work colleagues to fall over themselves to heap praise on Billy. Strangely enough most of them mention when they are working together, even if Billy just has a supporting role, he always insists on being center stage. When we thought for one brief moment that first-time feature filmmaker Cullen Douglas may question Flanagan’s unceasing appetite for fame, he let it pass without comment.
There is one part in Flanagan’s story that had real potential to get behind the facade that he insisted on maintaining. That was when the question of him coming to terms with his sexuality when he was middle-aged. Like many men of his generation, Flanagan had thought that marrying a woman and having a family would suppress his homosexual urges. Of course, it didn’t and when they decided to separate, his three children were quick to defend his actions. even though his wife took a long time to recover.
Once again the director foolishly allowed Flanagan complete control of the narrative, so after opening the door, he very quickly slammed it very shut without us learning anything at all about his ‘new life. The only thing we could be sure of then, was that he was by no means anywhere the happiest man in Orlando, let alone on earth.
The story ends as the Covid pandemic slows down and Disney re-opens all its parks. However, the Big Mouse In Charge fails to re-employ nearly all of the hundreds of performers except for one. Billy Flanagan
Most people who live outside of that part of Florida have never even heard of Flanagan, and are probably at a loss as to why this documentary was made in the first place. If his story qualified for any coverage at all it would be a 30-minute special done by his local TV station. And with an entirely different title.
Review : Roger Walker-Dack
Editor in Chief : Queerguru Member of G.A.L.E.C.A. (Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association) and NLGJA The Association of LGBT Journalists. and The Online Film Critics Society. Ex Contributung Editor The Gay Uk &Contributor Edge Media Former CEO and Menswear Designer of Roger Dack Ltd in the UK one of the hardest-working journalists in the business' Michael Goff of Towleroad