Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sandler sucker punches audiences, again.

Fine, don't listen to me. Go ahead and see your silly movies, what do I care? 

OK, in the realm of predictions for a slow weekend for summer movies, we blew it. This past weekend turned out to be one of the busiest so far this summer, taking in over 170 mil. Nice.

Not that I'm bitter, but what the hell were those of you who contributed ten bucks to the 40 million dollar take of Don't Mess with the Zohan thinking? I kinda get the Panda thing. First kid flick of the summer, kind of long to wait around for Wall•e, and Dreamworks has the second best track record out there when it comes to CGI animation. I get that. But Zohan? C'mon! 

Guess it's time for some true confessions. I really, strongly dislike the trend toward moronic comedies these days. Not so much for who's making them, though in my book that list encompasses a ton of wasted talent, but more for the lame and gutter level humor that pervades them. In any other form of entertainment, that practice would be akin to playing to the lowest common denominator, but in movie comedies, the practice is the new standard and seems to be encouraged. This results in not only a glut of tasteless humor, but a reenforcement of racial, gender and ethnic prejudices that find easy laughs and showcase a pathetic loss of values.

I'm not preaching that there should be any ethical standards met here. It's likely that any type of quality standard in a creative medium is as improbable as it would be stifling and destructive. What I am saying is that the lack of smart humor and clever comedies in film is at the very least an art form lost and a movie genre approaching the endangered species list. Take a look at last summer's Adam Sandler comedy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, also directed by Zohan's Dennis Dugan. Chuck and Larry fed off gay life styles and macho stereotypes to mine some of the most unfunny and uncomfortable humor ever to fill 110 minutes of screen time. That film did just under 35 million in it's opening weekend, on it's way to a US gross of over 120 million. With Zohan's take of 40 million this past weekend, it's obvious that Sandler and Dugan's new endeavor will likely go over the 100 million mark as well.

Maybe I'm just getting old, but where's the fun in it? If we allow filmmakers the luxury of doing what's easy and still reward them with tens of millions in profits, why will they ever try harder. And in the meantime, what are we missing? Isn't the "best" a product of challenging the artist? The film industry is rift with complaints that the business is all about the corporations and nothing about the artist, the creator. Celebrities (not talents) like Sandler play right into their pockets, fully engaged in the game of opening weekend numbers rather than creative and artistic triumphs. 

For the masses (and there are millions) that flock to see the next Sandler, the next Will Ferrell, the next Apatow production, if you enjoy it, knock yourselves out. This is after all a demand driven marketplace. But if we see Mr. Sandler mugging for the camera at the Spirit awards or spouting artistic rights and creative freedom while railing against the "powers of Hollywood", first we'll find something to puke in, then we're going to rant like a banshee on the web. If there is one day a Hall of Fame for those who brought the creative expectations of the movie industry to the level of imbeciles, Mr. Sandler, your legacy is assured.

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