Wherein unreasonably free time is dedicated to proving Jonah Hill is funnier than you.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Strange Wilderness

Why I Wanted to See It: I adore Jonah Hill.

Why I Hadn't Seen It: Nobody did.

Why I Just Did: Cinco De Mayo.

Why I'm Glad I Did: Real wildlife footage + fake voiceovers=funny. Jonah Hill and Justin Long take the back seat after Accepted, pulling off the subtle-yet-dumb-type of gags I feared had died with ZAZ. The rest of the cast wasn't bad (Ernest Borgnine! Robert Patrick! Um...the big dude from Beerfest!) either.

Why I Wish I Hadn't: Having a ridiculous plot — a struggling wildlife show tries to capture Bigfoot to save its time slot — is one thing, but keeping the plot chugging along with cheap contrivances is another. Characters randomly get masticated, mauled, manhandled,[1] and murdered in obvious attempts at padding the running time. The framing device used to start the story is extraneous to the point it actually confuses things.

But yet and still I loved it. Strange Wilderness is not a character study; it's an excuse to amuse. When a movie keeps you laughing, why complain that there's no real story? A good comedy need only divert, while classically critical components such as "structure" rarely do anything but distract.

Like the narratology/ludology debate for game scholars, maybe film critics need to switch their standards for this type of film. Otherwise it's too easy to decide, "This is a 'slacker comedy,'" and denounce the genre. I humbly suggest the following metric: because Jonah Hill has more lines in Strange Wilderness than Walk Hard and Horton Hears a Who combined, it is inherently better.

[1] Turkey-handled too.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Heartbreak Kid

Why I Wanted to See It: Michelle Monaghan plays Miranda and I adore alliteration.

Why I Hadn't Seen It: Heartbreak Kid's hook is it's a modern-day Middlemarch [1], taking the conventional happy-ending as only the starting point to relationship troubles. The thing is, I never finished Middlemarch.

Why I Just Did: Starting this week, Michelle Monaghan is in Made of Honor as Hannah, which was just alliterative enough to jog my memory.

Why I'm Glad I Did: Ben & Jerry Stiller[2] are adorable together, and Rob Corddry is funny in that "Ha, and he wanted to leave 'The Daily Show'!" sort of way. The seemingly inexorable happy ending to the story is exorabled [sic], if only slightly.

Why I Wish I Hadn't: Even accepting that Eddie's new bride Lila is somehow unfit for marriage, still-even accepting Eddie and random co-vacationer Miranda are completely compatible, even-even accepting that Eddie's premeditated equivocation is excusable to extricate himself from this mess, this movie still has one inexcusable flaw:

It cheats.

For the film's last half-hour, the script keeps skipping over important events by having a character walk up and say, "Boy, these last X weeks have sure moved the plot along." There are successive 2, 24, and 72-week jumps achieved this way. It's like watching Lost in 8:15, but 300% longer and one-third as coherent.

[1] The real reason I'm writing this entry is to proudly note that nobody's made this connection before, if only because George Eliot doesn't really resonate with readers like she used to. Maybe if I looked at reviews from 1973, when the original came out?
[2] Now that joke is darn near 10 years old.