Monday, March 07, 2005

Light vs. Leaden

Just saw this film, The Miracle at Morgan's Creek, for the first time last night. Very funny Preston Sturges film starring Betty Hutton. I had just seen Be Cool the day before. It's an interesting if random anachronistic comparison.

Morgan's Creek is a great comedy. Be Cool is a bad one.

Now let's pretend that the screenplays are equal (I know it's hard. Bear with me) The secret, if I may ridiculously reduce the equation (may I?), seems to be in the direction and the editing room. Both films feature a convoluted plot, colorful characters, comical misunderstandings, slapstick humor, not-so smooth talkers trying to be smooth, and a musical sequence aimed at reminding us about why we love the star in the first place. But it's in the pacing and the cutting where one film shines and the other is badly in need of a polish.

Miracle on Morgan's Creek flies by. I've heard many non film-buffs say they don't like older movies because they're "too slow". I can only guess that they aren't watching the old comedies. In comparison, todays comedies seem to drag and drag. Even those with semi-big laughs or endearing characters (Meet the Fockers if I'm being generous) drag toward the 2 hour mark or beyond with lots of filler. I can't think of one recent comedy (including the justly lauded Sideways) that couldn't benefit from some tightening.

In Miracle and other 30s and 40s comedies, you miss things regularly because you're laughing as the next joke has already begun. But this film mercifully really moves. I'm all for silly. But silly reads as stupid if it's not fast. Maybe Be Cool is too much a product of our sitcom age? There's so much dead space after each joke that I couldn't help but wonder where the filler soundtrack chuckles were.

Are they so concerned with us hearing every word that they don't dare tell two jokes at once? And they leave good performers stranded. The Rock and Vince Vaughn, who play a gay bodyguard and his wannabe black employer, are the best things by far about Be Cool (sorry Uma & John and your happy dancing feet). Unfortunately they are given a few hilarious bits and then. dead. space. and then more of that same hilarious bit and then. dead. space. repeat... until the beautifully silly and truly funny joke is reduced to just mildly amusing. Such a shame.

I wish today's comedy directors would study Lubitsch & Sturges.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nick Davis looks like a freak whose head is about to explode!

Anonymous said...

Am I crazy to wanna jump into bed with The Rock?

And maybe Vince Vaughn at the same time?

...maybe it's just me.

-Glenn

Jose said...

...and George Cukor too! He was the best at this comedies oh and Hawks!!! Well my point is you are right, we need better comedies!

Papa Midnite said...

Nathaniel is King and deserves to gorge upon the finest meats and cheeses in the land. However, I can't think of too many films I hate more than The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

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