Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Have a Comedy Problem

Well, I finally saw "Bridesmaids," and it cemented for me what I've suspected for a while now. I have a serious bias issue when it comes to modern comedies. To put it bluntly, the type of gross-out humor that is very prevalent in most mainstream American comedy films is not to my taste at all. I'm not a fan of raunch, or humiliation, or anything overly crass or crude. I think that resorting to bathroom humor is lazy, dull, and frequently disgusting. I think outrageous isn't synonymous with funny. Sexual hijinks bore me. I laugh more consistently watching television sitcoms than I do at Judd Apatow films.

However, unless a comedy has some extreme elements, the studios really see no reason to put them into theaters, and so will go a lot farther with content in a film than they would anywhere else. I liked most of "Bridesmaids," even though it was a little long, but I also found the constant bathroom humor off-putting. The food poisoning scene was funny, and was actually much more restrained than I thought it would be, but did they have to belabor the point? Is watching talented comedians embarrass themselves like this so central to major comedies now?

I actually saw several other mainstream comedies from last year that I liked, but weren't nearly as high profile or successful as "Bridesmaids." "Crazy, Stupid, Love" was a really solid romantic comedy in a genre that never has enough good ones. "50/50" limited its crassest moments to the character played by Seth Rogen, and I thought it maintained a good balance of sentiment and humor. "Cedar Rapids"? Great. "Tucker & Dale vs. Evil"? Loved it. "Tower Heist"? A glorious guilty pleasure that I will rewatch more times than I will ever admit to.

But when it comes to the aggressively R-rated comedies like "Bridesmaids," I can't take the raunch. It drives me crazy because a lot of these films are aimed directly at my age group of older adults. The women in "Bridesmaids" are all roughly around my age, and I can relate to several of the characters. I just can't stand to watch them being put through the situations that the film puts them through. My favorite sequence was the one where Kristen Wiig's character is trying to get the attention of her love interest, a cop played by Chris O'Dowd from "The IT Crowd," with reckless driving. The gags were pretty old and tame, but they made me laugh.

The problem is, and I know it's a problem, one of the defining hallmarks of modern comedy is pushing these boundaries in ever grosser and more extreme directions. I've become all too aware that I'm missing a lot of great films because of a hang-up with this kind of content. I think my only hope is that if I keep watching enough of it, I'll get desensitized by all the gross-out humor over time, the same way I have with the constant profanity and sexually explicit humor that also characterize these movies. Or I could just stick to the TV edits, but that just feels like admitting defeat.

Anyway, I guess this has all just been a very long and involved explanation for why I don't feel comfortable writing a full review for "Bridesmaids." I honestly think I'm too bothered by some of the content to be able to judge it fairly. I was extremely disappointed because I like Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph from their "Saturday Night Live" stints and I want to support a movie that's being held up as an example of women being funny on the same terms as men. Unfortunately, it happens to be in that corner of contemporary American humor that I despise.

And I know I'm in the minority about this. It's one thing if you don't like a single movie that happens to use raunchy humor badly, but it’s a different thing if you dislike a whole string of them, and have been using it as an excuse to ignore lots and lots of movies I probably should give a chance. Honestly, I wouldn't have given "Bridesmaids" a second glance if it hadn't gotten so much good press and even awards attention recently.

I expect I'll always like the softer, milder comedies like "Midnight in Paris" better than the latest Judd Apatow film, but I really have to learn to take them on their own terms, or else I'm just not being fair.

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