Sunday, April 29, 2007

in a family way

For many years, I have prided myself on my ability to look down on people who favor gross-out or other types of base, broad comedy. That's not to say that if getting a screenwriting career meant selling out and writing Date Movie 12: Now That's What I Call Date Movie: Furious Havana Drift, I wouldn't do it, but I could never bring myself to watch more than a few minutes of the American Pie / Van Wilder sort of movies that gross so many millions. One exception to this rule is Grandma's Boy, which I saw as a free screener called "Nana's Boy" a few months before its release. Though I don't smoke pot, play video games, or have a particular obsession with huge fake boobs, there was good acting and plenty of witticism to string those themes together and create a laugh riot.

When The 40 Year Old Virgin came out, I didn't expect much. I knew Steve Carell to be funny from The Daily Show, but what sold me was that if Catherine Keener had been willing to sign on to what looked like a boring 'not-quite-teen sex romp,' there had to be something more substantial to it. What a pleasant surprise it was to see a smart collection of funny characters, perfectly crafted for their situations, with a revamped Hollywood storyline that ended up being just the right amount of endearing. I wouldn't say that everything in the movie was perfect, but I must applaud writer-director-producer Judd Apatow for appealing to popular kids, nerds, adults, men, women, comedy fans, and romance fans with this film. In hindsight, I'm sure I shouldn't have expected anything less from someone involved with both "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared."

Apatow's next project as a director (he's still writing and producing, but has kept his directorial talents from other projects such as - wait for the shock of a lifetime - Fun With Dick and Jane) is Knocked Up, which will bring along Virgin's Seth Rogen and pair him against the glorious Katherine Heigl. [Sidebar: Kirsten Dunst needs to realize that just because she has kittenteeth like Katherine Heigl doesn't mean they make her beautiful. Heigl also has the benefit of not looking like a hobo's mummified corpse.] The similarity in marketing between the two films is an interesting tie-in, hopefully getting Virgin's audience to come back. Look at how the first movie's poster is stylistically similar to the second, and how they convey that the characters are different, but both of them will surprise us with how unlike their appearances they are. Now, look at me, judging books by their covers and coming to the conclusion that these characters wouldn't want us to!

I'm interested in the parallels that the filmmakers and the stuido are trying to draw between the two films, because I would very much like for Knocked Up to have the same charm and charisma that the first did. I have faith in the main actors and in Apatow, but I wonder if the appeal of the subject matter will fail to attract the right type of audience. It doesn't seem that most teenage boys are going to want to spend their tips earned from hard nights delivering pizza and drinking Steel Reserve to want to see what happens when you get drunk and careless with a foxy lady. Certainly, there will be a larger female audience - perhaps because of Izzie Stevens, and perhaps because the thought of pregnancy/childbirth humor wouldn't disgust them. It follows, then, that enough boyfriends can be convinced to buy a ticket due to the Virgin-related advertising, so hopefully things will work out for this movie.

I like to see a quasi-realistic situation (whoops I'm a young professional who got drunk, got pregnant, and is trying to work it out) presented in a way that's not depressing like a Lifetime Original Movie, but not maudlin and predictable, either. So, I'm looking forward to Knocked Up, but I don't want to get my hopes up too high. The best case scenario seems to be that it is funny and sweet, and also presents a more positive take on real life to young audiences, where people do get pregnant, and people do turn unexpected pregnancies into positive situations. The worst case scenario is that is is funny but completely ridicules the situation that Heigl's character gets into. Apatow did produce Anchorman, one of my least favorite movies, but as he was not a part of the creative team, I'm not worried that this new film will leave the same sour taste in my mouth. Unless the studio wants it to so that more young men will see it.


Secondary blog: So, ever since I woke up yesterday morning, I've lost my voice. I was feeling unwell a few days ago, but right now I feel totally healthy. Except for the fact that I just can't make sound come out of my mouth! I've allowed myself to have some fun with it, assuming it goes away soon, and have been acting as though life is one big game of charades. My friends have been pretty good about interpreting my miming, and putting up with my furious scribbles on a notepad. I don't know, it's just an interesting experience. For some reason, I'm integrating what little ASL I know into my communication, even though none of my friends can interpret it. The last time I lost my voice was junior year of high school, when I was singing all the time, out of my range, for my school's production of The Wiz, and it just gives such an unusual filter to the minutiae of daily life. For one thing, I'm trying to listen more actively to what people say because I'm not thinking about what anecdote I want to tell everyone at the dinner table. My thoughts have become more introspective and reactionary, because if I really want to say something, I have to think about it more during the process of writing it down or conveying it some other way than if I were to just blurt it out. Perhaps because I have to pick and choose what to tell people, I am being more insightful? I don't know, I just wonder what things would be like if nobody used small talk. Also, one of my friends noticed that there is a little bit more of a patronizing tone that can occur when someone is responding to my hand motions and silent mouthing of words. I don't think this is a bad thing or unusual, it's just how people normally talk to children or other nonverbal beings. Anyway, just a random musing. If my voice isn't back by tomorrow morning, I am going to go to the doctor, because I think after two days of curious silence, it'll just get frustrating.

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