I've been thinking about this for about a week now.
It all started when I watched the movie The Big Year. It's a movie about bird watching, or "birding" as they like to call it. It stars Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black. I didn't know what to expect, and to tell you the truth I was overly pleased with it.
It wasn't overly funny, it wasn't overly hilarious in any way. The best way I could describe it would be to say that it is like a romantic comedy without the romance. There is somewhat of a romance in there, but it is not central to the film.
To be even more truthful, it was shocking to watch a completely clean movie. I think that Owen Wilson flips the bird in there somewhere, but it was a joke applicable to the topic. Other than that, it was clean. Squeaky.
If I would compare this film with other more recent comedies, I would say that this one should get more buzz than it does. An example would be The Hangover. I saw it. It was funny at times. Yet, to make a movie like that you need a lot of "fart" jokes, a lot of potential for nudity, drugs, alcohol, and other ridiculous acts for the camera. To me, it's too easy to make jokes like that. This coming from a guy who made a 'melons' joke in his first short film. What was I thinking?!
It is so refreshing to see a good story in a comedy movie. The Big Year is not unique in too many ways save for the fact that it is about birding. I found it interesting the whole time, learning about this subculture. I just might take more notice of the birds that fly into Xining this Spring.
Along these same lines I would say that The Muppets movie is a really nice movie as well. There he is again... Jack Black being funny and seemingly cooperative in making things funny for everyone. I got an "all in good fun" vibe from him.
When I watch Owen Wilson in the Wedding Crashers, or The Muppets star Jason Segel in I Love You, Man, I went away feeling dirty. I felt advertised at, and even exploited a little bit... all because of the sexy jokes. I, being a 30 year old man, am the type of guy that they target for these films. Well, me and maybe the younger crowd. Throwing some sex and dirty jokes at me and I'm sucked right in.
It's cheap and I really do feel like it's a copout to really 'trash up' a comedy movie. I understand that all of the 'raunchy' comedies grew out of the 80's and all of the trash that they produced. Yet, they seemed to have swayed too far on the side of cheap jokes and left the story to your own imagination.
The Big Year is a nice movie, a nice story, an interesting topic, and stars funny people. Is this the new formula for a great comedy? I hope so.