Monday, September 8, 2008

another day, another whatever...

So, I almost had a job interview last week with a guy who'd made a movie starring Frank Gorshin, and I was all excited, because, like, hey, Frank Gorshin! But then the guy never called me back so, like, whatever, everything in the world is completely and totally awful. But, whatever, "Hamlet 2," I've been meaning to write about "Hamlet 2." "Hamlet 2" is wholeheartedly adequate, much better, in the bigger sense, than "Tropic Thunder," which is similar, both being media parodies, both having Steve Coogan in them, both being kind of anti-semetic. Yeah, just like "Tropic Thunder" has Tom Cruise in pretty much unredeemable "jewface," "Hamlet 2" had Amy Poehler as an ACLU rep who says things like, "I married a Jew, so nothing scares me!" It's basically just jokes where saying "Jew" in and of itself is the punchline. It's kind of inexplicable and inexcusable in a film that otherwise uses stereotypes against themselves- a significant portion of the cast is Hispanic, and the white characters' prejudices and preconceptions against them are called into question. The Christian ring-wing gets similar treatment. And yet "Hamlet 2" is happy to let the whole Jew thing go uninterrogated. A gay character gets pretty much the same treatment- it's supposed to be funny just that this one guy is gay. Basically it's acceptable just to say "jew" or "gay" in a movie and have that be a joke. Kinda lame.

So, yeah, that's too bad too, since otherwise the film is pretty funny, though admittedly a bit listless. It moves along a slow pace, without much narrative to develop, never really delivering the big laughs, but a consistent series of smaller chuckles and giggles, what have you. There's something about the film that kind of gets to the gut. It takes place in the real world, but once removed, apocalyptically. There is an overreaching, overarching sense of doom that permeates the narrative, and in fact informs the humor. "Hamlet 2" takes place in a world where niceties have more-or-less become obsolete. Everyone just attacks one another, or more specifically attacks the idiot acting teacher played by Steve Coogan, with absolute abandon. Indeed, this is not a film of subtley, or nuance, although it works best at its' most understated, such as a few funny scenes with a deadpan preteen theatre critic twho Coogan's character takes far too seriously, or David Arquette in a nearly wordless performance as Coogan and Catherine Keener's roommate, just sort of a dude hanging out in the periphery, but it works, because it doesn't try too hard. I also liked Elisabeth Shue, very funny as a metafictionalized version of herself (having, in the film, given up acting to become a nurse). Hey, I didn't realize it, but "Hamlet 2" was directed by Andrew Fleming, whose first film, "Bad Dreams," I wrote about last year on Negative Pleasure, and who also directed the Watergate parody "Dick," which I liked a lot, and the recent not-that-bad version of "Nancy Drew," along with an episode or two of "Arrested Development."

Speaking of Amy Poehler, as much as I didn't like her as a braying antisemite in "Hamlet 2," I thought she was the only redeeming quality of "Baby Mama," which I caught on DVD this week. I'm not a member of the cult of Tina Fey- I find her way too self-congratualatory- and this film did nothing to improve my opinion of her. Between this and "30 Rock," it seems like Fey finds something really novel about the idea of a successful woman, and also seems to be implying that it's impossible for a woman to have a fulfilling social life and a successful career. Also, that a woman can only be successful if everyone around her is an idiot, a lunatic or a mindless syncophant. So, yeah, she's portraying one thing, seemingly progressive, but simultaneously enforcing really traditional gender stereotypes. And that, in a nutshell, is "Baby Mama," except with the additon of a painfully stereotyped black character (played by Romany Malco, who specializes in these kinds of roles nowadays, he was the pointless n-bomb dropper in "40 Year Old Virgin"), and did-he-really-used-to-be-funny? Steve Martin playing the exact same character played by Kevin Nealon in the so-so pothead comedy "Grandma's Boy," only in much, much larger doses.

Both Martin's and Malco's characters, and their frequent, unfunny and pointless appearances, are a testament to the genuine lack of comedic material on hand in "Baby Mama." There's basically nothing going on in this movie, despite an only-in-Hollywood plot contrivance (Poehler isn't really pregnant, except she is, except the baby isn't Fey's, or whatever), so the film mines other successful recent comedies for gags and performers to appropriate. In addition to Martin via "Grandma's Boy" and Malco straight outta "40 Year Old Virgin," you've got "Idiocracy" and "Let's Go to Prison's" Dax Shepard, a pretty funny performer, here totally wasted as, surprise, a white trash guy, same role he played in "Let's Go to Prison" and "Idiocracy". There are also comedy gynecologists ala "Knocked Up," "Little Miss Sunshine's" Greg Kinnear, and Muara Tierney, who hasn't done much comedy lately but got her start on "Newsradio." Everything hereabouts is basically recycled and watered down. As much as I don't like them, I'd have probably preferred a Judd Apatow-styled frat bullshit asshole comedy, since those at least have some kind of relationship with portraying some form of something basically resembling reality, even if it is a smug, ugly reality full of people I wouldn't piss on to put out a fire. "Baby Mama" clearly takes place in movie-world. Oh, but my original point, Amy Poehler is actually really funny in this movie. She has a way saying weird or outrageous things as though they were totally matter-of-fact. And it's funny. Like I said. But don't watch this movie. It's terrible.

And what's with Hollywood's push towards glorifying pregnancy and breeding these days anyway? This film, "Knocked Up," "Juno"...and I'm sure some other junk I'm forgetting, plus the real life examples, all this teen pregnancy shit, Jamie Lynn Spears and now the horrible Republican v.p. candidates horrible redneck daughter...is more people really something we need right now? And given what I would characterize in a steady decline in the quality of people born since, say, the early 1980s, um, I ask again- do we really need more people? The world is horrible enough without having less space and more noise, and more undereducated, overencouraged, hyper-aggressive human monsters with an excessive sense of entitlement and a general lack of boundaries and shame? Seriously, we need a plague or something.

So, yeah, my message to the world this week, how about toning down the mediocrity, just a little? And how about a job, for real this time? And stop breeding until we can generate a culture than prizes intelligence and dignite over one-upmanship and gross consumerism.

Kill 'em all, Frank. Kill 'em all.

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