Tuesday, January 07, 2014

What I Watched in December

Only one trip to the theater last month. 

I have never been secretive about my general dislike for most American made cinema comedies of the past 20 years or so. I feel that a great slackening of both taste and talent has crippled the Hollywood comedy machine so much so that the ratio of good to bad has tipped too far in the bad direction. Somehere around 1992 this overbalance destroyed my desire to wade through the dross pile for the rare fleck of gold. I have occasionally been surprised by a modern comedy - 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, THE HANGOVER - but I have given up on the movies that seem to drive most of the multiplex activity. I would find it excruciating to watch most of what passes for comedy these days as I am despaired by the lack of intelligent thought onscreen. This is why I have stayed away from the movies with big comedy stars - Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Chris Tucker , etc. If I don't find them funny then why bother.

There was one recent comedy that I was tempted to see by virtue of the fact that it has become part of the culture in a way I found impressive. Indeed, I had heard many of the funniest bits from ANCHORMAN (2004) long before I finally sat down last year to finally watch the film at my girlfriend's request. I found it to be pretty good but too scattershot to really add up to a great movie. It has a lot of funny moments but none of them are very connected to each other and a few are simply non sequiturs that connect through their brilliant absurdity. I could appreciate the harsh, cynical attack on broadcast journalistic ethics the film used as its main plot device but I felt there was a lot of low hanging fruit that was left on the tree as the story wound down. So, not a bad film but nothing great except for the highlights.

Cut to....

Over the holidays we went out to the theater and, through a sad confluence of errors and a sold out show, we ended up seeing ANCHORMAN 2 (2013). I had been warned by friends I trust that it was a dog but luck was against me and there I was - sitting with my girlfriend, her son and his girlfriend watching this sucker play out. Damn! This film is exactly what I had always feared I would see if forced to suffer through most modern comedies. Flat, dull, stupid, poorly conceived and eventually irritating this is an unmitigated disaster. The cast seems to be having a good time and there are a few scattered laughs, but the inspired off-the-wall humor that made the first film a success is in short supply. The best moments are from Paul Rudd and Steve Carell but the film is so half-baked that several times the movie steps on the comic timing flattening scenes you know should be funny. Kristen Wiig is wasted and what should be her payoff scene with Carell is a damned mess with one laugh followed by the realization that they had no idea where to go with her character. Worst of all is that they simply play out a new variation on the same basic plot as in the first film making fun of the depths to which broadcast news will sink to gain ratings. Their mockery isn't very amusing when what they are portraying is almost exactly what cable television news has descended to in 2014 - vacuous, inane crap. There is much comedy potential in watching bottom feeders being rewarded for doing awful things that make the world a more terrible place but this isn't even trying to mine that idea to the depth of a fingernail.

This is a real shame. When you can see funnier lines in the trailer than the ones that ended up in the finished film you know something went horribly wrong. Both Yvette and I were looking at each other in despair about half an hour into the interminable two full hour running time of this crapfest. I know I'm a hard audience for stupid comedies but neither of us liked this mess and I think that says something. If you found this film funny I firmly believe you would have laughed at ANYTHING they put onscreen. More power to ya.

Trust me folks- just because you want it to be funny doesn't make it funny.

Back to my crappy thrillers and science fiction epics, thank you!

MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)- 8 (wonderful whimsy)
THE APPARITION (2012)- 6 (well done but nothing special)
CAGE OF EVIL (1960)- 6 (not bad b-noir)
EBBIE (1995)- 7 (well done TV version of A Christmas Carol!)
PORTLAND EXPOSE (1957) 6 (well done crime tale)
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)- 4 (sadly misses the mark)
ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)- 10 (rewatch)
HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949)- 8 (Mitchum in a Christmas film!)
THE UNINVITED (1946)- 8 (rewatch)
BECOMING CHAZ (2011)- 7 (doc about Chastity Bono's journey)
CHRISTMAS EVE (1947)- 6 (more a crime film than a Holiday tale)
THE HANGOVER (2009)- 9 (rewatch)
THE RETURN OF SABATA (1971)- 7 (Lee Van Cleef is back!)
THE HANGOVER PART II (2011)- 6 (a more slavish remake of the first film is unimaginable but it has some real laughs)
URBAN LEGEND (1998)- 5 (very silly but not terrible slasher)
ANCHORMAN 2 (2013)- 3 (barely a handful of laughs - sleep inducing)
COSMOPOLIS (2012)- 8 (fascinating cerebral Cronenberg)
TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN (1946)- 7 (very good adventure)
HERCULES, SAMSON AND ULYSSES (1963)- 7 (very fun peplum) 


Hunter said...

I could not agree with you more about today's "comedies."

Rod Barnett said...

There are a number I love but overall its a dark area of cinema.