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TICKLED: 4 STARS. “despite the movie’s name, it’s no laughing matter.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 9.01.52 AMDespite the light ‘n fluffy name “Tickled” is hard core investigative journalism with a human touch. A personality driven doc with pop culturist David Farrier going down the rabbit hole into the deeply weird and wild world of competitive endurance tickling is a “Law & Order: SVU” style story, complete with heroes, villains and unbelievable, but true, plot twists.

The story of “Tickled” begins when David Farrier, a self-described “light fluffy journalist,” came across a strange tickling video on the internet. Thinking it will make a good story for his New Zealand TV3 pop culture show he contacts the makers of the video requesting an interview.

When the people responsible for the video were slow to respond via email Farrier contacts them through a public Facebook page and that is when the story gets weird, troubling and takes on the aura of a thriller. Imagine Michael Clayton with tickling and you get the idea.

The openly gay Farrier finds himself on the receiving end of virulently homophobic responses and harassment from the American tickle video makers that escalates to repeated threats of lawsuits if he pursues the story. Despite the intimidation he and co-director Dylan Reeve soldier on with the documentary, travelling to the US to meet others with similar stories.

One young man claims he was subjected to on-line humiliation that ruined his chance at a pro football career when he objected to his tickling footage being used in ways he hadn’t originally signed off on. The tickling tale gets stranger and stranger as Farrier and Reeve uncover more accounts of bullying and, using financial records, follow the story to a Wall Street law firm and beyond.

Comments on the evils of cyber bullying are front ‘n center but “Tickled” is primarily a cautionary tale for our times. Hidden among the film’s intrigue and entertainment is a strong worded moral about looking before you leap; about why placing your trust with anonymous internet entities is a dangerous thing and despite the movie’s name, that’s no laughing matter.

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