Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wonks Will Destroy Comedy As We Know It

Okay, for a good long while now, I've sat by, idly, as my wonky friends debate the finer points of filmed comedy, and like the good man who's allowed evil to flourish by doing nothing, I've come to see the error of my ways. Look: if my political friends want to impute their lovely geopolitical worldviews upon the coming season of comic book arcana and sci-fi excess, have at it. But please, please, spare the world your joyless ruminations on comedy. For all that is good and holy. My god, stop.

This whole matter has been basically touched off by recent posts from Ezra and Matt, in discussion over I Love You, Man, but it's hardly limited to them, and it's hardly a new thing. I sensed something deeply stupid, this way coming, when the release of Knocked Up led to all of these socio-political ruminations on the movie's abortion politics. To all those people: SHUT THE FUCK UP RIGHT NOW. Knocked Up does not have "abortion politics" or a message of any kind on the matter, outside of a quick sop on the fringes of the plotting. Want to know why? Because the movie CANNOT SERIOUSLY CONSIDER ABORTION POLITICS BECAUSE WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK WOULD THE MOVIE BE, IF NOT SOMETHING IN WHICH A BABY WAS BROUGHT TO TERM? A twenty-minute long comic short about a trip to an abortion clinic? GAH, SHUT UP SHUT UP.

Anyway, Ezra and Matt, God love them both, but it's like they viewed I Love You, Man, from the operating theater of some grim surgical redoubt, lingering over dissected innards as if there was some deep and wonky truth to be had there. It's weird! I saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall with both of them and they seemed to have a pretty good time. Maybe there's a grace period where they allow themselves to enjoy something before steadily picking apart the experience with all sorts of superfluous thinking. Both Ezra and Matt seem to think that a whole bunch of problems have gone unresolved in the movie, but they hone in on problems that are entirely irrelevant! Or were at least irrelevant to me! Jesus, you can practically smell the way Ezra and Klein want to drop the term "status quo ante" into the discussion. Let me tell you what this movie is about, and remember, I have a MFA in this shit.

Paul Rudd's character is getting married. He needs a best man for his wedding. By dint of circumstances, he lacks close male friends. In fact, he lacks, entirely, an innate knowledge of the "vocabulary" - the repository of physical and verbal "stuff" that men do when in each other's company. That's the joke! So the movie presents an escalating series of set pieces in which this joke is exploited, where Rudd's character flails in social settings like an Aspergers Syndrome sufferer, unable to read the social tics that we, in the audience, see clearly. That's the "comedy": the juxtaposition of the non-ideal against a recognized ideal.

Now, the movie has two requirements. AND ONLY TWO. 1. Rudd must make it to the end of the film with a wife. 2. Rudd must make it to the end of the film with Jason Segel's character present and in his wedding party. These are the only important issues to be resolved. To make things interesting, there is a brief conflict that threatens the marriage, and an extended period where Segel's presence is in doubt. At the end, however, both needs are fulfilled.

Both Ezra and Matt overthink everything really badly, and believe that the movie was obliged to answer the question of why Rudd and Rashida Jones should get married. It never occurred to me to worry about that! That whole brief interlude was just an overheated hang-up devised to briefly put the lovers in conflict. Eventually, they both sort of realized that no one needed a fucking five-paragraph essay to elucidate why they wanted to marry each other. That the two were right for each other is established as a given in the very first scene.

Yeah, you might also ask yourself things like: well, why doesn't he just ask his brother to be his best man? Or his father? GAH. SHUT UP. DON'T THINK ABOUT THAT SHIT. TO THINK ABOUT THAT IS TO IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE THIS MOVIE ENDS IN TEN MINUTES. WHY MUST YOU OVERTHINK THIS?

Anyway, the movie has plenty of stops along the way - fun ones, that delve into some very critical issues, such as:

  • projectile vomiting
  • masturbation
  • blowjobs, and the awesomeness of blowjobs
  • dog shit
  • trying to hit Lou Ferrigno in the face: funny?
These are the important matters that this movie is here to discuss. And you know, that's a lot of stuff to cover! A movie that's able to pack in thorough explications of these concepts is a rara avis. Frankly, movies that delve so deeply into the awesomeness of blowjobs the way I Love You, Man don't often leave room to fully cover the issue of the universal humor found in trying to hit Lou Ferrigno in the face. And yet, astoundingly, you'll note that nowhere in either Matt or Ezra's exegesis are these incredibly essential matters discussed. It's like they don't even WANT TO CONSIDER THE AWESOMENESS OF BLOWJOBS!

And look, the bottom line is this, if you are able to get through an entire blog entry on I Love You, Man, and NOT EVEN MENTION Rush's song "Limelight," then you need to admit to yourself that you did not even remotely get the movie at all.

I guess what I'm trying to say to Matt and Ezra, is this: Gentlemen, living on the gilded stage approaches the unreal for those who think, and feel, and who are in touch with some reality, beyond your gilded cages.


IMGoph said...

permit me to comment, as someone who knows a fair number of people in both the political and theater realms here in DC (as you straddle both worlds, dceiver)...

it seems to me that wonky is sometimes too polite of a word for our political friends. they're good people, and they mean well, but they have a really tough time just being there, enjoying the moment, and not tying to tie some kind of other meaning to everything (not necessarily a political meaning, just a rationalization).

on the other hand, all of the folks i've met who are involved in theater seem to be—gulp—more well-adjusted. i mean they can just enjoy the world. sure, someone with an MFA can be just as likely to over-analyze the shit out of something for no reason, but it just doesn't seem to happen in the same way, at least to me.

YMMV on this one, but i just wanted to add my 2¢...

Anonymous said...

Moral of story - don't see Hollywood movies with shoeshine boys of the ruling elite. Trade down for a better class of friends.

Jake said...

Bravo sir. This is the post we didn't know we needed until we had it. Knocked Up was a particularly painful example of over examining an issue. OK so she has an abortion. Thats not a movie, thats a 15 minute Funny or Die short. I enjoy thinking about the layers of a movie as much as anyone but it can't be that hard to accept that sometimes, in an effort to make people laugh, some odd/confusing/unique premises must be accepted.

Having said that I look forward to the coming 45 blog posts debating how Seth Rogan's character in Observe & Report shows why we need judicial reform.

Tom said...

Asking why he doesn't want his brother to be best man is about as useless as wondering why your best friend Harry has a brother Larry and in five days from now he's going to marry; he's hoping you'll be there if you can 'cause in the ceremony you'll be the best man makes any sense at all. Wouldn't Larry be the best man?

See? Useless.