Cue the Rapture

I like it when we're funnyThis is not a good week for movies.

I mean, on some levels it’s a terrific week for movies; both “Hairspray” and “Sunshine” are throwbacks to specific types of cinematic greatness, and will satisfy anyone who’s been wondering where said greatnesses had got to.

But then there’s the other movie. The one about the macho firemen who pretend to be gay. I am afraid it’s going to be the weekend’s biggest hit, and that is something that really doesn’t need to happen right now.

We are at a turning point here, people, innocents caught up in the death-battle between two schools of comedy. One, driven by Judd Apatow — director of “Knocked Up” and producer of the impending “Superbad” — is pushing intelligent, raunchy comedy. Yahoos can laugh at the profane insults and the occasional humiliation, but these movies essentially love their characters, and assume the audience is smart enough to see them as people rather than caricatures. (Yes, even “Superbad”. Trust me on this.)

The other school is associated with Tom Shadyac, who directed “Evan Almighty” and produced the gay fireman movie. He is the devil. (I know people think Michael Bay is the devil, but he’s not; he’s just a swaggering douche with an effects budget.)

No, Tom Shadyac is the devil — and “Chuck & Larry” director Dennis Dugan is, I guess, his little dancing puppet — because he makes comedies that aren’t funny, because they have no actual jokes or structure or empathy for their characters. He casts a lot of talented comedians, though, which makes people in the audience expect that funny things will come out of those comedians’ mouths. It’s conditioning.

Really. There was a guy behind me at the “Chuck & Larry” screening who burst out in a honking guffaw every time Kevin James spoke, whether or not anything even remotely funny was being said. About an hour in, I realized he couldn’t even have been listening to the dialogue; he was responding too quickly. And then I understood it: He was laughing every time James stopped speaking, like a Pavolovian hyena. Either he was the most obvious plant in the history of plants, or he was … I don’t even know.

Gene Wilder has a wonderful little speech in “Blazing Saddles” about the regular people of Rock Ridge. Simple folk. Salt of the earth, they are. “You know, morons.”

Judd Apatow doesn’t pander to the morons. Tom Shadyac can’t pander enough. Tom Shadyac’s movie is going to make a hundred million dollars.

“Sunshine” won’t open wide until next Friday, so please go see “Hairspray” this weekend.

Make a stand.

2 thoughts on “Cue the Rapture”

  1. The concept of the new Adam Sandler flick alone is enough to give me a headache. But I’m excited about Sunshine (which I’ve been awaiting for months) and I’m not going to wait until next weekend either. I will go off in search of Sunshine! What a relief to hear that it’s as good as I’ve been hoping. A brain *and* a soul, you say. Why in the current movie making climate that’s practically a miracle!

  2. Funny you mention these two schools of comedy. I was just thinking about Apatow v Shadyac, since they each have a couple movies poised to win top box office comedy this summer. Although I’m fairly certain Knocked Up has already won, Chuck and Larry posted big numbers this weekend.

    Oh, and I can’t wait for Superbad. Michael Cera is hilarious. I hope you’re watching Clark and Michael, his online show. It’s terrific.

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