Monday, May 11, 2009

Like, Dude, That Was Totally Uncool

Given that we get out the the theater with rather less frequency than we should, Rache and I tend to get much of our movie watching done at home. This weekend, as we rummaged around for options, we tried to figure what might make for a nice release from what had been a care-heavy week. Nothing art-house. We were too tired. Nothing too stressful. Just a bit of goofy escapism.

We settled on Pineapple Express, a recent Christian independent film starring Kirk Cameron as a truck driver trying to get a load of fruit to a small church revival. Well, that's what it said on the box.

This was a Seth Rogan vehicle, purportedly about the wacky misadventures of a pomo Cheech and Chong on the run from a drug lord. For all of the endless consumption of the devilweed, it was actually pretty entertaining for an hour or so. Classic "bumbling incompetent buddy movie" fare, with a reasonably smart if intensely profane script and some genuinely entertaining characters. It was good escapist entertainment.

At about the hour mark, though, the film suddenly became something entirely different. The endearing slacker doofballs and eccentrics you'd been laughing at suddenly start killing one another. Not in a Wiley Coyote, Kung Fu Hustle sort of way. In a "I'm shot and Dear God it really hurts and please help me" sort of way. It became viscerally, actively, intensely negative, so much so that I began wondering how much financing Rogan had received from the DEA to make the film. Somewhere in film school, Rogan must have been too stoned to show up for the class that taught you that slapstick does not weep. The film fell apart.

While watching it, what most troubled me was this: What if we're supposed to think this is funny? Am we supposed to laugh at the one-liner pitched out at the burned and contorted body of the antagonist who forty minutes ago was having an amusingly awkward moment with his pre-adolescent son? Or chortle as the emotionally vulnerable villain cries out at how much more his first gunshot wound hurts than he'd expected? Or type lollollol into Twitterific as our protagonists goofily muse about how they are, in fact, now all murderers?

Googling the reviews afterwards, I found an interesting split. Many of them note the same intense dissonance between comedy and brutality. But some...well...some just thought it was funny the whole way through. A laugh riot, a festival of gore, hipster brutality, and giggles!

I realize this isn't a particularly pomo thing to say, but I can't help but come to the conclusion that this sort of "entertainment" is just...well...evil. Shocking, visceral unpleasantness is not funny. Not edgy. Not fun, any more than a group of Taliban dragging a man into the street and cutting off his head with a knife is "fun." Like the blighted and amoral torture porn genre, it's just a bit of darkness, that serves no purpose other than to demean and numb us.

This is all Tarantino's fault.