Raucous and loony and adroit and lewd, 7 Days in Hell is one odd comedy. This HBO parody of sports documentaries — specifically, the kind of sports documentaries HBO usually airs — 7 Days stars Andy Samberg and Game of Thrones’s Kit Harington as dueling tennis players battling for a championship in 2001.
Samberg stars as Aaron Williams, a cocky American, the adopted brother of Serena and Venus Williams. (Serena Williams, with an impeccable deadpan, appears on-camera to confirm this.) Harington is Charles Poole, a thick-witted British player who thinks if he says the word “indubitably” enough, people might think he’s intelligent. Together, the pair play multiple sets of tennis — the “days of hell” referenced in the title — as the mockumentary takes shape around them. Here, Harington’s Poole explains his tennis strategy… very, very specifically.
Jon Hamm provides some of the properly portentous narration, and this production is packed with stars, from Chris Evert and John McEnroe on the sports side to Will Forte, Fred Armisen, Lena Dunham, Mary Steenburgen, Michael Sheen, and many others on the actor side. (Interestingly, one of the best performances is given by Howie Mandel.)
I can’t say that I laughed very much at 7 Days, which was written by Murray Miller and directed by Jake Szymanski. The broad jokes and parody-documentary style is, if anything, strongly reminiscent of an early Woody Allen film like Take the Money and Run.
But the parody is very finely rendered — from the music to the editing, 7 Days captures the feel for this kind of filmmaking. For me, the biggest laughs derived from sportscaster Jim Lampley’s perfect periodic take-downs of the sport this mini-movie is lampooning — in a timely, Wimbledon manner. As Lampley says, “It’s tennis — who cares?” I assume a lot of viewers will find it funnier than I did, but I certainly admired the craft, and the impressive cast, that went into making this grass-court trifle.
7 Days in Hell debuts Saturday, July 11 at 10 p.m. on HBO.