August 09, 2009

MOVIES: a depressing day

After enduring a double feature of The Hangover and Funny People, I am officially declaring myself out of touch with American movie comedy. This was four hours of so-called comedy during which I laughed not once, a festival of men being insulting and abusive to one another, a cornucopia of homophobia and dick jokes. And these are men who are supposedly friends? One wonders how men who didn't like one another would behave.

There's only one significant female character in each movie. In The Hangover, she's a castrating shrew (Rachael Harris has done interesting things with similar characters in the past, but she's given nothing to work with here), and in Funny People, she's merely an object of desire with no personality of her own (Leslie Mann, wife of director Judd Apatow, reminding us why nepotism is a bad thing).

Humor feels so much meaner in the last decade. I think of TV shows like The Office (both versions) or Curb Your Enthusiasm, which ground most of their jokes in awkward humiliation and embarrassment, and now that movie comedy is dominated by Apatow and his imitators, that sort of cruel humor dominates the box office, too.

Maybe it's a generational thing, and maybe I'm just a cranky old curmudgeon, but I desperately hope this is just a phase. Surely it's still possible to make comedies in which the audience can like the characters, and in which the characters actually like one another.

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