As Funny as a Brick In Someone Else's Teeth
There are many different kinds of funny. There’s funny ‘ha-ha’, and there’s funny ‘strange’. There’s funny ‘Saturday Night Live’, or ‘not funny’ as it’s often called, and there’s funny ‘what’s that funny smell and why haven’t I seen your girlfriend in three weeks?’. Then, there’s funny ‘Chaplin’, and there’s funny ‘Buster Keaton’. Brick is funny ‘Buster Keaton’, staring you dead in the face without a smile and blinking, daring you not to laugh, while Chaplin is busy tripping over his cane and loosing his hat. And the best part is, Brick is funny without actually having any jokes in it. It accomplishes this by setting a note-perfect 1940s film noir film in a 21st century high school. The image of Tommy Solomon from 3rd Rock trading barbs with a femme fatale in her tweens is so inherently ludicrous it’s inspired, yet never does the film stop taking itself completely seriously.
The Olsen Twins play a pair of sleazy strippers. Well, they should.
The only problem is, it takes about half an hour to figure this out. Up until then, Brick just feels like somebody in Hollywood really likes Blue Velvet and Encyclopaedia Brown books, and has gone too funny ‘strange’ on cocaine to tell the difference between the two. And every once in a while, Brick does slip, drifting into a high school drama production of Touch of Evil. But when the film is working, you almost forget that you’re watching a ridiculous, contrary impossibility, the novelty equivalent of an all-midget western, or a female Mathlete. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the school private eye, Brick takes the viewer into a gritty and depraved underworld of drugs, sex, and violence, all carried out by teenagers speaking as if Dashiell Hammett taught them English. The plot is labyrinthine and complex, the kind of story you’re going to have to explain to your girlfriend, and you’re still going to get it wrong, unless you happen to have seen both The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep.
Detective novelist Dashiel Hammett. I had a different picture to go here originally, but I like this one better.
But the fact that the movie cribs from every detective film in sight is entirely forgivable, given the nature of the movie as a tribute/parody to the genre. After seeing it, I’m hoping Brick is a big success, and leads to a host of other films paying tribute to classic film structures. I hear Jim Henson Studios is working on a Muppet version of Schindler’s List, where Fozzy Bear and Kermit imprison and gas all the big-nosed Muppets, and there’s a retirement home sex-comedy in the works over at Dreamworks. Myself, I’m working on a big-screen version of Debbie Does Dallas starring a girl that looks like Dakota Fanning and my neighbour’s kids. I assure you, the film will be hilariously funny. But not in a ‘ha ha’ way.