Saturday, March 5, 2005

comedy viewing

It always seems like it might be cool to get a cold because then I have a couple of days off work to just read and watch movies. Only catch is that instead I end up sleeping most of the time and otherwise not really wanting to concentrate on anything particularly demanding.

So I watched The Girl Next Door (Luke Greenfield 2004) expecting, or at least hoping, for mildly amusing comedy. But it turns out that the DVD’s ad for There’s Something About Mary wasn’t entirely an accident because like that film Girl is basically a romantic comedy aimed at guys. Though in this case it’s not romantic and barely a comedy. One of the behind-the-scenes bits has one of the creators claiming that this is a “realistic” look at high school which means he’s either completely deluded or pursuing a peculiar marketing angle. Girl is really another variation on Risky Business (complete with a sex scene in a moving vehicle) but with even less imagination and charisma (and RB was pretty bad anyway). There’s nothing to the film except getting characters from point A to point B and to that end nearly everything else has been tossed out. So neither of the leads are given the slightest hint of romantic backgrounds/history that would complicate the sudden love affair and actually they even seem to be different characters at different points, probably the result of three credited (and who knows how many uncredited) writers not any sort of, y’know, character growth. (Imagine what Bunuel or Lynch could have done with this.) Elisha Cuthbert’s character is so severely underwritten that there’s nothing the least bit human about her and it doesn’t help that Cuthbert’s acting abilities apparently are solid enough that she’s able to memorize her lines. In fact the only thing saving the movie from being a total waste are the two squabbling nerd buddies who would have been more interesting in the foreground, maybe like a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead version of a cliched Hollywood comedy. (And whoever writes that first I get an idea fee of 1.5% of the gross.)

Actually the week before I also watched a couple of “dumb” comedies: Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (Danny Leiner 2004) with the also-ampersanded buddies-in-the-title Starsky & Hutch (Todd Phillips 2004).

Harold & Kumar is easily the strongest of the three, though it’s still not worth going out of your way to see. Interestingly, even though it’s blatantly non-realistic H&K does provide a romantic complication for its lead and a reasonably clever resolution, something totally missing in The Girl Next Door. The H&K filmmakers go from non-sequiturs to gag-reflex gags to almost-elaborate set pieces with a true comic sense and nicely pitched performances by Kal Penn and John Cho.

On the other hand Starsky & Hutch misfires pretty much from the start. Instead of reworking the material, Phillips and his writers really just made a long episode of the TV show with a few winks and nudges to show that they’re ironic and comic. Except that why not just watch the show and add your own ironic comments? Really, even if you're humor-impaired you couldn't do any worse and it would also be much shorter. But then Phillips made the lame Old School and a Phish documentary so he’s clearly not the brightest bulb in Hollywood. (Though I do like somebody's completely oblivious comment on the IMDB that the original 1975 TV show was in an age before terrorism. Of course, I instantly imagine a movie where Starsky and Hutch have to clean up a fragment of the Baader-Meinhof gang loose in California to hook up with the Weather Underground.)