Monday, August 29, 2005

Will Ferrell Isn't Funny, So Why Am I Laughing? Oh, Yeah. Pedophilia.

2005, USA
Nora Ephron

This is one of those movies that presents a conundrum for me, as a writer. It’s so disposable, so ephemeral, that I don’t know quite how to approach it. Targets for ridicule that normally seem so easy to find in most movies tend to waft away like hash smoke from a hookah, disappearing into the air, yet leaving their sickly sweet stink behind like a rotting hippie. Films like Bewitched, Kicking and Screaming, and Anchorman, in fact anything Will Ferrell has ever done, are entirely too forgettable to ever be considered good, yet many reviewers find them too funny to be labeled bad. Fortunately, I have absolutely no sense of humor, so I’m able to see Professor Marvel behind the curtain, frantically working levers and pedals in an effort to have Will Ferrell crowned a comic genius without him ever telling a single joke. I’m sad to say it, but the man is just not funny. He’s loud, I’ll give him that, and it is unpleasant to see him either nude or squeezed into tight underwear like toothpaste wrapped in a rubber band, but mostly he seems to make people uncomfortable. Like fear, however, the tension caused by feeling awkward frequently results in laughter, often hysterical bouts of it, but generally it’s the same type of laughter that inadvertently escapes when you find child pornography downloaded on your work computer, only with a less pleasant aftertaste.

Note: Not actually child porn. No need to report this.

Ferrell’s latest effort seems to almost recognize this, however, and casts him almost as the straight man, playing him against Nicole Kidman, who grabs most of the spotlight. He still gets to work his material, which mainly consists of acting like either a jackass or an simpleton, often both, but Kidman is the true star. This seems like a good idea, in theory, as Kidman can be fairly capable when she’s given the right material, but she tends to fumble when she’s presented with, say, no material whatsoever, or no more so than would fill up a post-it-note. Which is what this movie is, essentially. It’s a one sentence log line that someone forgot to expand into a screenplay. Essentially, it’s about a remake of the 1960s TV show Bewitched, only the lead actress is actually is a witch! Sounds like a hilarious script. If only they’d written one. As with Wedding Crashers, a lot of this feels like Farrell goofing off, but Kidman doesn’t seem too keen on improv, thank god, nor does the rest of the cast. They mainly just wait patiently while he does his thing, reminding me to an uncomfortable degree of every woman I’ve ever slept with.

This drawing, however, is under 18 years of age

While I understand that a certain spin on the naïve and dated humor of the original show is necessary to make the film appealing to anyone other than programmers at Deja View, I’m not sure I’m too crazy about their treatment of witchcraft. Frankly, there’s nothing funny about witchery. Have you ever met a real witch? They’re terrifying! And not in the Malleus Maleficarum, Burkittesville,Maryland way. They’re scary in the Magic: The Gathering, mother-earth life-force, werewolf-legs kind of way. Is it just me, or do they always seem to have a speech about persecution ready at the drop of a hat? I don’t want to burn you at the stake, Cerridwyn, I just want to get out of the frigging comic book store without spending twenty minutes arguing about gender politics and moon goddesses. I always feel like I’ll have to buy a mood ring off them to make them go away, or donate money to a vegan soup kitchen that smells like moldy beets and urine. I’ll admit that pagans are generally misunderstood, portrayed as Bible-burning, child-sacrificing vampires in the media, when in reality they very rarely burn Bibles, but I’d certainly go to greater lengths to understand them if they didn’t dress like they’re trying to date Anne Rice’s daughter. As a word of advice to any pagans that may be reading this, no one else is terribly impressed by Stonehenge. And, that goddamn ankh tattoo isn’t winning you any fans. It doesn’t mean ‘eternal life’ in Egyptian, it means ‘loser’ in English, and this is coming from a guy who’s got his entire body marked up like The Book Of The Dead. And on that note, I’d like to draw the reader’s attention to how far we’ve drifted from Bewitched in just a few short minutes. If I can’t remember what I’m talking about two paragraphs into a review, the movie can’t be that good.


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