Monday, August 22, 2005

BUT I THOUGHT SHE WAS GOING TO WIND UP WITH THAT RICH SNOB! Saw two of the summer hits this weekend -- Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I understand the good reviews each has received, but I think both films are getting graded on the curve.

There's great stuff in both pictures. I love the way the "Shout" medley in Crashers encapsulates both the animal joy and the depressing childishness of the crasher schtick; the pursuit looks exhilarating, and the sex looks tiresome, which is of course absolutely right for the characters and the movie. And Steve Carell's Virgin is a brilliant creation:­ an overgrown boy with all the enthusiasm, likeability, and nervous stares of incomprehension pertaining thereunto. When I saw these, I was fascinated: could it all go this quickly and surely?

Alas, no. Both movies drag in the middle, with occasional jet-blasts of schtick to revive the viewer, instead of tight plotting to guide him or her to the inevitable happy endings. No matter how well-played, the sex-starved and/or humorously foul-mouthed older people, horny temptresses, devious richies, stoners with hearts of gold, etc., are such glaring and antique contrivances that I would have to be in a ridiculously good mood to shake them off. And I am rarely in that good a mood.

Worse still, I'm sorry to say, are the allegedly adorable love interests. In Being John Malkovitch Catherine Keener's character is a delightful surprise; in Virgin the woman Keeler plays is earthy, quirky, and sweet ­-- that is, a compilation of descriptive terms for the Catherine Keener persona, all of which I adore, but which add up to considerably less than a character.

I think the movies get over on the acting (Wilson and Vaughn especially benefit from having a real love affair to play), and on the general perception that they are "sweet" -- i.e., despite the grotesqueries and nude bodies lying about, these entertainment machines are gonna make you feel good about life and love. Yes, we are all terrible, terrible people and we want to experience vicarious redemption, even if we need the Rappin' Grandma to help us along. Well, for my part, I dislike being prodded and goaded into vicarious redemption. I have nothing against sweetness, but after three plus hours of Hallmark sentiment with dirty words scrawled around the margins, I really wanted to watch some Billy Wilder. That's sweet too, but considerably more substantial.

OK, I'll shove the crayon back up my nose now.

(Update: fixd stupid spellin misteak)

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