Comedy From The Colon.
Remember when comedies were funny? Really? Could you recommend some, then? Because aside from the odd inadvertent chuckle during The Ladies Man and a knee-jerk reaction to seeing Kathy Bates naked in About Schmidt that started as a scream but was choked off early enough to sound like a guffaw, I don’t think I’ve laughed out loud at a movie since watching The General on PBS when I was eight. I do find some films funny on an intellectual level, like Wes Anderson’s work or The Passion of the Christ, but never to the extent that I do anything even remotely close to smile. Most attribute this behaviour to an adolescent desire to appear so serious and grim that it looks like I have no friends by choice instead of by default, but in reality it’s because I have a very specific sense of humor. See, I like actual jokes, well-written, planned and properly delivered nuggets of hilarity, instead of watching Ben Stiller zip up his scrotum in his own fly. That’s not a joke, that’s an HBO version of America’s Funniest Home Videos. And yet, the multiplexes are filled with that sort of simplistic vulgarity, in which audiences are shoveled so much shit the options are either laugh or choke, and people get so used to it they end up liking the taste, and thusly the American Pie series was born, of crass commercialism and a script the general quality of used toilet paper. In what way is a teenager drinking a mix of beer and semen funny? How does one deconstruct that? Do we interpret the ejaculation as the set-up, with the drinking as the punch-line, or is the inevitable vomit the kicker? It’s like applying the three act structure to a TV ad for Monday Night Raw, and the reason neither of them work is because they’re both aimed at line-cooks and high school basketball players. It’s slapstick for coprophiliacs and the retarded.
There's so much I didn't know...
Then, there’s the other end of the spectrum, comedies based on witty wordplay, elaborate sentence construction, and pop-culture footnotes, or essentially what you get when Kevin Smith jerks off into Final Draft 7.0. These comedies include the works of the aforementioned Smith, Dennis Miller cameos, and the parts of Pulp Fiction that are funny. While they don’t smell quite as strongly from a distance as the Farrelly Brothers, these films are equally tiresome. Awkward, unnatural sentence construction is a hallmark, as is at least forty-seven references to either obscure funk bands or 70s TV shows. You know, kind of like this website, only someone’s struggling to read the run-on sentences and jarring parantheticals aloud. Like Sin City, these scripts are better read than heard, because no actor in the world can make a three-part Star Wars joke sound unrehearsed, especially not Jason Mewes. As funny as it is to see a junkie with a grade-school education try to get past the third syllable of Coruscant without falling asleep, I think most of the humor is unintentional.
The Last Shot has the misfortune of avoiding both those categories, alienating any possible audience, yet refusing to provide an alternative. It tells the true story of an FBI sting that involved a fake movie production set up to nab some crooked union officials with ties to organized crime. I know, sounds tense. Nothing like trucking to get the pulse pounding. The kicker is that no one on the film, save the producer, have any idea of the true purpose of the film, here named Arizona. This could be a premise ripe for comedic exploitation, but I’m not of the opinion that either Matthew Broderick or Alec Baldwin are the right choices to make the most of it. Broderick, who plays the hapless first-time director making the imaginary film, plays a good straight man at times, with a blank, blinking face that would make Buster Keaton proud, but if your foil is Alec Baldwin, a comedic talent on par with a lump of granite, there’s not much to work against. What jokes there are fall flat, and while the premise is funny, it’s not going to work if you put unfunny people in the middle of it. Unless you mix in some semen.