Friday, June 15, 2007

The Twilight Zone

I think I'm in The Twilight Zone. Click on the link, and it will take you to the Rotten Tomatoes page for Knocked Up. You will see that it has a 91% freshness rating - and no less than 97% from the so-called "cream of the crop."


I saw it yesterday, and I can say from firsthand experience that in fact it's torture. I won't say that watching "Knocked Up" is as painful having your testicles zapped with a car battery because that wouldn't even be an analogy. Watching "Knocked Up" literally is strapping your testicles to a car battery - or at least, the effect on your psyche is the same.

I can't believe this is being passed off as "dude humor." For one thing, to call something "dude humor," it first has to be humor. And only then, when we know it's humor, do we check to make sure it also appeals to dudes.

Well, "Knocked Up" fails to meet this first requirement in spectacular fashion, and that's already enough of a case against it that I could reasonably stop typing now. It just sucks in general to advertise something as a "comedy" and then fail to include funny scenes. And what sucks even worse than that is including token funny scenes with well-worn jokes lamely executed. And what's even worse than THAT is including such scenes sparingly in an otherwise thoroughly unfunny "comedy." I'll leave it to the reader's imagination which path of suckitude "Knocked Up" travels. But Jesus Christmas - honestly - I mean is there even a single person alive who still thinks slacker potheads are funny? Or that it's "edgy" when a Jewish actor playing (super-shocker!) a Jewish character refers to his afro as "Jew conditioner?" Or that it's still funny to look a 5-year-old girl straight in the eye and tell her that "prick" means "penis?" Sounds like a movie that should've been made 20 years ago, right? When all this stuff was still flirting with taboo? But EVEN THEN it wouldn't have been funny, because the execution is just so damn lazy. Take the scene where everyone in Ben's apartment has pinkeye. I guess we're supposed to fall on the floor laughing because they all got it from farting on each other's pillows. You know - classic "dude" humor, right? Well, *ahem*, yes, except that they didn't bother to build up this joke AT ALL. We open the door to find someone with pinkeye and are treated to nothing other than - DA-DUM! - expository dialogue explaining that pinkeye comes from fecal matter in the eye. Aren't you supposed to do that several scenes ago? So it's, like, funny on its own when someone shows up with pinkeye? Alright, that out of the way (check!), no less than ALL of the roommates come to the door and they all ... wait for it ... they ALL have pinkeye! Get it? 'Cause they're like so super-immature that they ALL farted on each other's pillows! I mean, fuck me in the ass, they might as well have just had someone standing in front of the theater holding up an "audience laughs" card. (It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again...) The sad thing is, it's not even hard to fix this, right? Aside from dropping the "pinkeye comes from fecal matter in the eye" seed on earlier soil, they could've - oh, you know - staggered the appearances of the various characters with pinkeye. No reason they ALL have to show at the door, right? And instead of the stock pothead explanation for why the last man standing (yes, OF COURSE there is a "last man standing" who didn't get pinkeye from a pillow - or at least thinks he didn't) has red eyes too, they could've, oh I dunno, thrown us for a REAL curve? Or else allowed someone to escape without getting it, but had a clever explanation for this. Or SOMETHING. Point being - options abound, and the writers picked up none of them. And so it goes for two miserable, someone-please-slam-my-left-hand-into-a-churning-blender hours.

As for the second point, any "dude" who apprectiates this movie needs his penis license revoked. Enjoyed it? Male, are you? Yeah, well, you're gonna hafta give that back, I'm afraid. No sex for you until you grow up and stop hating yourself. I mean, honestly, I don't think I've seen a more blatantly anti-male movie since The First Wives' Club. It's not just that all the normal feminist bromides (you know, women live in clean glass palaces in the sky and concern themselves with real-world problems like raising children and furthering the species while men all dick around smoking pot and going nowhere all day) are out in full force. Oh no. In addition to a double-helping of this tired old crap, we get unapologetic double standards in obesity-inducing portions for desert. FOR EXAMPLE... When Pete is caught - NOT in bed with another woman (as his wife was expecting) - but having a night out with the guys playing fantasy baseball, it never even occurs to the snooping wife while dressing him down (for playing fantasy baseball!!!) that she, in fact, has been going out to clubs whenever she feels like it in low-cut dresses encouraging men to hit on her (i.e. doing something MUCH closer to cheating than he was...). Nor, when she finally can't get into said club for free ahead of the line anymore on account of her age, does she stop to think for a minute that men have been actually waiting in line all those years (which, really, is all she's asked to do). Nor, when she still thinks Pete is cheating on her, does the fact that she's not even sleeping with him suggest itself to her as a possible cause. Right - so Pete's not allowed nights out to himself, but she's damn well allowed to go to clubs and flirt whenever she wants, not make an effort to keep the romance in her marriage alive and lay ALL the blame for this at her husband's feet, and then it's suposed to be a flagrant social injustice when the club won't let her in for free anymore on account of her no longer being hot, never mind that she's been an active participant in this same (newly-discovered) "injustice" for years? It's too much for the rational mind to handle. But the worst double standard, really, is in the main story itself. Alison gets to dress Ben down for being irresponsible at the slightest provocation (which usually amounts to being anything less than positively ecstatic that he's about to father a child he didn't plan on with a woman who doesn't seem to think that much of him), and yet there's nothing irresponsible about getting drunk and sleeping with a guy you don't respect or even find all that attractive??? Honestly, what the fuck? Oh, right, I think she's supposed to get soooooo many brownie points from the audience for deciding not to abort that that just makes up for everything. See - responsible, right? She's raising the child? Well, right, but never mind that it totally ruins another person's life for her to make this decision. Never mind that the child has a father who wasn't planning on having it any more than she was. Never mind that she has a glamorous, high-paying job, a sister with a family, and is in every way capable of raising this child on her own, whereas the father is not. And never mind that the father wasn't even consulted for her decision - let alone that it doesn't seem to occur to anyone at all that he has a right to some input here.

The whole movie is old-fashioned in that annoying, prudish, third-wave feminist way. Women can have jobs, can have total say over their reproductive decisions, and can sleep with whomever they want for whatever whim of a reason - so we're all very "liberated" until we need a man to stick around and be a father. Then, all of a sudden, we find that sex roles haven't changed after all. Convenient. Which isn't to say, of course, that Ben is completely off the hook for failing to strap down on their one-night stand. It's just that, well, a more sensitive treatment wouldn't have killed anyone. The prospect of his staying at home and being a Mr. Mom (and working on his website out of the home, for example) isn't even raised as an issue. Nor, more importantly, is the idea that this woman would be fine without him. She's beautiful and successful - if she doesn't like him, why not just have the child, tell him to fuck off, find herself a better man to help raise it, and get on with her life? But MOST importantly, the decision to keep the child isn't treated as a "decision" at all. It's just the "right thing to do." As if. So much for liberation. If this movie is chauvinistic in any way - as some critics have (implausibly) tried to claim, then it's because the woman decides to raised the child with this loser like a "good girl" when so many better options are available to her.

But never mind any of this, in fact, because the setup is hugely implausible to begin with. First of all, women like her don't sleep with men like him - ESPECIALLY not when they're out on the town getting drunk to celebrate their promotions! What's he even doing in that club, anyway? We saw how long the line was - and him and his cash-strapped friends aren't exactly the patrons the establishment is looking to admit! She's hot, she's rich, and she's AT AN UPSCALE CLUB. Can't she find a better jockey? But even if we buy that she chooses him, we're really expected to believe this whole condom failure story? That is, she insists he strap down, but doesn't (a) have a condum of her own to give him, (b) doesn't notice he's not wearing it (???), (c) doesn't help him put it on, nothing? And then on top of that, we're expected to believe that the thought of abortion just never entered her mind? There's no struggle here, REALLY? I mean, no matter how legitimately pro-life you may be (and let's face it, she's doesn't strike us as the type, exactly - she picks up losers in clubs for one-nighters, after all!), you still STRUGGLE with the option of abortion in this kind of situation, right? Or at the very least adoption? And we're really expected to buy that once she knows all about him, the kind of life he leads and exactly what his prospects for success are - that she continues to want him to act as father? REALLY? AND... Despite his complete lack of money or prospects, we're expected to believe that he feels qualified to be a father and, in fact, actively wants to be one? Sorry, the whole thing just doesn't work. None of this happens in the way it would have happened (and often does happen) in real life.

A lot of people have apparently hailed this overbaked bit of crap as prophetic for our times or something. It captures the sensibilities of the modern generation? It's a nice thought, but I'm not even sure what the point here is, exactly. The message seems to be some weird mixture of sexual liberation and an anti-abortion tirade. That is, casual sex is A-OK - and it won't even ruin your life if you get pregnant! There are some struggles, but they're all illusory, really - babies are automatically and without a doubt or question the best thing that can happen to anyone. So it's sort of like the Pro-Life Action League tanks up on ecstasy and goes to the disco or something. JUST. DOESN'T. WORK. A useful sort of message here would be something like: get your reproductive philosophy in order NOW rather than later because pregnancy sneaks up on you. That would have been a fitting message for the modern generation, I think. You know, we're all tolerant now - so abort, don't, it's your choice - sleep around or don't, it's your choice, blah blah. Just be sure you know what you're gonna do when the completely predictable consequences come knocking and you'll be fine. THAT would've been a good message. But the whole problem here, really, is that this movie can't decide whether it wants to be a comedy or not. If it does, it needs to make light of the subject like all good comedies do. If it wants to face the subject square-on, it needs to do a more serious and sensitive treatment. Give us some real characters who deal with problems - rather than having the woman's string of rash decisions (sleep with loser, fail to abort pregnancy with loser at risk to job, decide to stay with loser just because he's the biological dad) all work out by dumb luck alone!

I dunno. I suppose I've made my point. This movie, plainly and simply, hasn't got a single redeeming quality. It's not funny, it has an incoherent story, an incoherent set of moral expectations, and it sends absolutely the wrong message to boot. And did I mention it's not funny? Skip it, please.

[Un(?)intentional casting irony: I'm pretty sure the techie who first notices Alison is pregnant is Parker - Buffy's ill-advised one-night stand from Season 4. ]


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