This is the post where, in the context of a movie review, I assert my superiority over the masses.

August 18, 2010

We’re laughing so it must be funny…

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?

We use irony to straighten our hair.

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?

Clowns are funny…seriously.

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?


11 Responses to “This is the post where, in the context of a movie review, I assert my superiority over the masses.”

  1. […] more here: This is the post where, in the context of a movie review, I assert … By admin, on August 18, 2010 at 3:01 am, under 2010, Articles, Movies, Songs, Videos. Tags:2010, […]

  2. MrWisdumb said

    I’m not disagreeing with your premise, but I don’t think you can put Office Space in the Mumblecore category… Aniston was already a star, Livingston wasn’t unknown, the support cast had serious character actor cred, Judge directing and MTV Studios behind it all oust it from Mumblecore status.

    • SRP said

      “Office Space” was more to show a movie that defined irony and deadpan for young people. Folks seemed to “get” it…But just a few years later and young audiences have dulled. Why? Of course I’m generalizing in the extreme but it is curious…

  3. Anne said

    Am not sure that people laugh only because something is funny. They laugh because others are laughing; sometime, because they are uncomfortable.
    Younger audiences are more used to slapstick than witty repartee.

  4. tracy said

    Along the lines of what Anne is saying…My partner recently posited that many, within a younger audience, were watching the likes of the Daily Show and reading and referencing The Onion because “they think they’re supposed to” — without really getting it. And, if not forcing the laughs, laughing at the wrong things.

    We’re working with some younger clients right now and noticing a lack of depth and grasp of context. Professing to be “creative types” they are, in reality, frighteningly literal.

    One thought I was saying he was inebriated when I joked that he was “drunk with power.”

    I thought I’d have to hit 40 before complaining about “the kids these days” but I weep for the future.

  5. Madison said

    Instead of blaming the audience (‘They did not get it’ is a defense I am sure was employed in the past by people like the director of ‘Catwoman’)
    I would look for the responsibility on the part of the director.

    It appears that he wanted to infuse a ‘Naked Gun’ style of a movie with a snarky and it did not work. There might be a reason, after all, why Benny Hill was not in the original cast of Monty Python…

    “Maybe the smart people came later, attracted by critical raves and word-of-mouth?”
    That delay might the reason why they are (considered) smart..

  6. jim schmidt said

    smart people? napoleon dynamite and the other guys? by smart you don’t mean smart, ie s. hawking or even robert reich, you mean smart in the context of being able to pass a driver’s ed test, right?

  7. Madison said

    Perhaps those young movie goers have not had enough time to be exposed to the pop culture of present and the past – something that is required to truly get parody/irony/double meaning. Also with the ongoing diversification of the society it is unreasonable to think that everyone will get the same references or jokes.

    Overall all, I’d blame ‘Shrek’ and the other multi level reference productions – I noticed that many times kids in the audience were laughing at different times that adults..

    • SRP said

      Shrek (and other animated films) is a fascinating example in that the creators purposefully write “adult” lines to attract same and create word-of-mouth, knowing full well they already have the kids.

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