Producers: David Stassen, Ike Barinholtz and Patrick Rizzotti   Director: David Stassen   Screenplay: Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen   Cast: Ike Barinholtz, Dylan O’Brien, Marco Diaz, Beth Grant, Mark Proksch, Jena Friedman, Blake Anderson, Max Minghella, Brandon Wardell, Andrew Friedman and Seth Rogen   Distributor: Momentum Pictures

Grade: C

The shiftiness of political consultants is hardly a new subject for movies—just think of Frank Capra classics or Robert Redford’s “The Candidate” (a full half-century old now)—so a mockumentary about one needs to stand out somehow.  Ike Barinholtz’s tack is simply to turn his into the story of a hapless goofball who talks big but doesn’t have a clue, and then to pair him up with a partner even dumber than he is.  The result might have been titled “Two Stooges on the Campaign Trail,” but instead, with a nod to Stephen Colbert’s old concept of truthiness, is called “Maximum Truth.”

Barinholtz, full of smarmy energy, plays Rick Klingman, a blowhard lawyer of sorts who embraces right-wing causes; he’s first shown leading a feeble protest against a play depicting Lincoln as gay, leading to a cameo put-down by Seth Rogen.  Then he’s recruited by wealthy Mary Jo Nackerson (Beth Grant) to dig up dirt on a L.A. city council candidate she doesn’t like, Antonio Kelly-Zhang (Max Minghella), whose hit-all-the-bases name is the funniest thing about him.  Rick enlists his even dopier pal Simon Tarnum (Dylan O’Brien), a fitness freak trying to promote an energy drink whose name he can’t even spell correctly, to work with him on the mission.

Their efforts amount to one disaster after another.  First up is Fred Zurtz (Mark Proksch), a guy whose claims that Antonio once sexually harassed him collapse when his memory goes blurry and own behavior turns out to be more than a tad questionable.  Then there’s Arliss (Blake Anderson), whose promised sex orgy tape proves to be a photo-shop job so terrible than even dimwitted Rick won’t bite.  Last but far from least is Carol (Jane Friedman), whose recollection of a collegiate anti-Semitic remark is bolstered by her willingness to go on the record about it.  That sets up the will-she-or-won’t-she final act, when Rick and Simon anxiously fret over whether she’ll appear for the press conference they’ve impulsively arranged.  And all the while they have to contend with the fact that an offer of information might be a joke concocted by an online prankster going by the moniker Sludge Whopper (Brandon Wardell).

Barinholtz and co-writer David Stassen, who also directs, sprinkle in other semi-sketches to extend their conceit to short-feature length.  The most important are scenes of Rick’s home life, where his obvious partner Marco (Tony Rodriguez) grows increasingly furious over Rick’s attempts to downplay the nature of their relationship in front of the off-screen documentarian’s camera—and the cavalier treatment of their domestic life, especially when it comes to celebrating his birthday.  There’s also a meet-and-greet with potential donors at Mary Jo’s house, a collection of cranks and wingnuts at which Rick eagerly accepts an invitation to hold one guest’s automatic rifle and then—you guessed it—accidentally unleashes a fusillade of bullets into the ceiling.

There are scattered laughs here and there, and Barinholtz certainly never stops trying to sell the material; he’s also enlisted a bevy of his friends for supporting roles, sometimes (one presumes) improvising on the spot. O’Brien, moreover, earns some real chuckles playing a well-muscled dope who even endures a final indignity with equanimity.  And the mockumentary feel is nicely maintained in Mara Certic’s production design, Keith Dunkerley’s cinematography, the editing by Dorian Harris and Xueyi Shay Yang and Jeff Cardoni’s bouncy score.

But this is a one-joke affair content to coast on the farcical surface, never considering the real malignancy of the political consulting business it’s satirizing.  As such even at a modest running-time (a mere seventy-eight minutes) it overstays its welcome.  It might have worked better as a series of sketches on a cable comedy show.