Friday, August 13, 2010

Boring Movies Are Boring

I didn't like the movie but I kind of love Russell Brand.
I went to see the movie Get Him to the Greek a couple of weeks ago.  Guess what? I found it kind of stupid.

I don't mean that it's "a stupid movie" in the ordinary, predictable way that some movies are stupid.  In that sense I went to see it because it was a stupid movie:  a movie with silly jokes, over the top character acting, an implausible plot, and charismatic and attractive stars -- well, one charismatic and attractive star anyway.

What was stupid about it was that it was, aside from the quick jokes and cultural satire, completely boring.  I had kind of high hopes from the initial set up, which seemed to me full of promise:  nerdy young man meets the fading rock star he used to idolize.  So many things could have happened.  Was the guy going to challenge the rock star by being the only person willing to tell him the uncomfortable truth? Was the rock star going to hate him for it? Or was the rock star going to love him for his honesty?  Would the guy be disillusioned by being up close to that which, from far away, seemed so appealing and cool?

The movie kept having weird disconnected moments related to these themes, but they just never added up to anything.  One minute the nerdy guy is sucking up, one minute he's not, you never really understand what is going on with that.  It's supposed to be about friendship, but you never really get why they become such unlikely friends.  It's not Aaron's honesty, because he isn't honest.  It's not because of Aaron's fidelity, because Aaron isn't really loyal.  I think it's just because poor Aldous is so very unhappy and Aaron ... well, he just happens to be around. 

There's no parts of the movie that make you feel challenged in anything, or thoughtful, or ambivalent.  Indeed, with respect to themes, the most you could say is that the writer and director want you to know that Taking Drugs Is Bad, Having Casual Sex Will Get You Into Trouble, and You Should Love Your Family Members.

I thought maybe this was just a flukey thing, like you know, sometimes movies don't come out right for complicated unexpected reasons.  That was the impression I left with.  But then there was a New Yorker article profiling Steve Carell and describing the new way of making comedies.  Basically, someone comes up with a basic idea, and then a "bucket brigade" of funny guys like Judd Apatow come around and punch it up with ideas and then the actual dialogue of the movie is just improvised.

I get what these people are trying to do, but you can see how the resulting movies are kind of pointless, because aside from things like "wouldn't it be funnier if you said 'banana' instead of 'fruit'? Ha ha ha, hilarious!!" basically no thought is going into these movies at all. 

I gather the new movie made with this strategy is the Dinner for Schmucks movie.  If ever a plot cried out for a dollop of reflection it's this one:  dinner is a competition for who can bring the most idiotic guest, with none of the guests knowing why they're there.  But The New Yorker describes the creative process as revolving around moments like the one in which Carell changes one line from "She's talking to a lobster" to "She's talking to a manatee" and everyone explodes in laughter.  Ha ha ha! Manatee! hilarious!   

I have to confess, my reaction on reading this was some serious eye-rolling.  These guys are like, Hey, we're funny! We can just say stuff and it'll be funny! Movies Made E-Z.

People, it doesn't have to be this way.  All you need is a script.  You can improvise more jokes after you write it. Do it for me, and do it for Russell Brand, who really deserves better.

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