This is the post where, in the context of a movie review, I assert my superiority over the masses.
August 18, 2010
I enjoyed the movie, The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. The pair plays misbegotten policemen partnered together in a movie that adroitly lampoons buddy-cop movies and a few other things (our wrecked financial system). No surprise the comedy works, director Adam McKay cut his teeth with Ferrell on SNL and more recently, produced numerous bits on the hit Internet series, Funny or Die.
However, I’m more interested in reviewing the audience for The Other Guys than the movie itself. I couldn’t help but notice them -and not just because many were talking throughout the movie -It’s Saturday night, It’s a Will Ferrell movie-, but because of what they were saying.
Though the audience was clearly entertained, it became apparent to me that the majority of them didn’t get the movie. Not really. I know that sounds crazy; it’s a frickin’ Will Ferrell movie. What’s not to get?
Yet, I was surprised by how mystified the kids (everyone under 30) to the right and left of me were about many aspects of the film. For starters I don’t think many of them understood it was a total put on. You’d think the Scary Movie franchise would have indoctrinated the masses into the send up. Granted, The Other Guys wasn’t overtly advertised as a parody but it’s sad many in the audience couldn’t figure that out for them selves.
For example… Ferrell plays a bizarre nerdy cop. Much to his partner’s bewilderment and consternation, Eva Mendes is his sublimely beautiful wife. It’s a funny bit. Unfortunately, the folks sitting around me were really confused by it. “Why would she marry a guy like that?” I heard a girl say to her boyfriend. “Shit, how’d he get her?” I heard another guy say to his friend. When Ferrell continues to berate his gorgeous wife this only befuddled the audience more. “Why is he being so mean to her? She’s awesome!”
The audience just didn’t get the very thing that made these scenes most funny. Yes, Ferrell got laughs but the film’s campy nature and screwball irony were lost to the masses, these masses anyway. I’m sure of it.
How could these young people be so ignorant? Isn’t irony, sarcasm and deadpan the currency of their culture?
When Napoleon Dynamite came out it was lauded as comedy’s second coming. “Vote for Pedro” tee shirts were everywhere. Office Space is considered a cult masterpiece. Mumblecore defined a generation. Are we to believe these films became hits (*) despite not being “gotten” by much of the gate? If my audience was any indication the answer is yes. Like Napoleon, Ferrell’s character looked funny and acted weird. Could either of these impressive deadpans be considered a success in spite of not being perceived as deadpan? And if so, does it even matter?
Many of you might not get what I’m getting at. Think of it this way. Huckleberry Finn is not considered one of America’s greatest comic novels merely because Huck is a wily hillbilly. His combination of determinism and naiveté defined our country and still does. That Huck said and did some hilarious shit is secondary to the book’s essence.
Granted, The Other Guys is no Huckleberry Finn. (It’s got more laughs.) But in a way Napoleon Dynamite is. Here’s my point: I appreciated both movies for not just making me laugh but for making me think while I was laughing. Whatever, dude. It appears the modern audience doesn’t give a shit.
* “Hits” may be too strong a word. Without looking up the box office numbers, I recall only modest numbers…at first. But the above-mentioned movies had a long tail, eventually achieving status and viewers well beyond the norms. Maybe the smart people came later, attracted by critical raves and word-of-mouth?