Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Do You Believe In Unlikelyhoods?!"

There are two movies I recently 'discovered' when they went into multiple daily airing mode on Movie Central. One is 'Dodgeball'...

The other is 'Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle'...

Now by discovered I mean I had no interest in seeing them when they were released, and even upon hearing decent things still didn't rent them, but now find it difficult to not change the channel when they come on.

What is it that makes a great comedy? Or more specifically, a comedy that holds up under repeated viewings. One that you WANT to watch over and over again (this is probably more of a question for the's kind of a youth thing - 'Napoleon Dynamite' was a recent example).

In my younger days, it was the big three - 'Caddyshack', Animal House', and 'The Blues Brothers'. Except back then, pre-VHS video, it was about hoping for them to show up on the bill at the local drive-in (mommy, what's a drive-in? or vhs for that matter?). My buddies and I would sit through 'Staying Alive' with Travolta (ugh) if any of the above were the second flick. The piece de resistance was all three on a Labour Day weekend triple bill. Classic.

Other 'must see's' included Woody Allen's 'Play It Again Sam', 'Bananas', and 'Take The Money And Run' ("I have a gub.")...they'd show up occasionally on late night TV. But we'd stay up for them. No. Matter. What.

In fact, I had to wrangle sleepovers to watch them until I was almost 16 years old because we didn't have a television in our home. "Gape". I know, my parents were funny that way. Theatre folk. Old school. And I guess we did have a tv, but it was a 12 inch black&white with a coat hanger for an aerial and you turned to the other channel with pliers (yes, two channels), so it didn't really count. And it only came out (yes, it lived in the back of a closet) on special occasions like the first walk on the moon, the Oscars, and the Canada/Russia hockey series (or my dad and I would sneak it out and watch Rockford Files when my mom was out).

So, I slept over at friends houses a lot. That was my only way to stay somewhat connected to the other kids and what they were all talking about...TV-wise. I know...cry me a river.

Back to more recent comedies...I enjoyed 'Wedding Crashers' and '40 Year Old Virgin', but don't find myself getting drawn into watching them again when they show up on the Movie Channel. At least not in the same way I do with 'Dodgeball' and 'White Castle' (same thing happened with 'Old School')

Why is that? I already know the jokes. I know what happens. Know why it happens. So how come?

'White Castle' is basically a road movie with a stoner element - a simple quest (they must get to White Castle) constantly interrupted by a series of bad luck and wrong turns and unfortunate incidents. Sort of a Blues Brothers without the songs. In some ways, it's just a bunch of funny sketches strung together, but it still holds up remarkably well.

And all the characters they encounter along the way are memorable, especially Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Hauser) playing himself hitchhiking:

Neil Patrick Harris: It's a fucking sausage fest in here, bros. Let's get some poontang, then we'll go to White Castle.
Kumar: No, Neil, you don't understand. We've been craving these burgers all night.
Neil Patrick Harris: Yeah, I've been craving burgers, too. Furburgers.

'Dodgeball' is basically an underdog flick, 'Animal House' with some 'Rocky' thrown in, where the little guys at the loser gym take on the Globo-Gym Goliath and emerge victorious.

And all the characters are memorable as well, especially Ben Stiller as White Goodman (what a name) and Gary Cole as sportscaster Cotton McKnight:

McKnight: "Ladies and gentlemen, I have been to the Great Wall of China, I have seen the Pyramids of Egypt, I've even witnessed a grown man satisfy a camel. But never in all my years as a sportscaster have I witnessed something as improbable, as impossible, as what we've witnessed here today!"

But what gives both films that repeat viewability factor? Why these movies and not others? Both are about average Joe's tired of being stepped on and pushed around and deciding to push back. The writing is tight, sharp, and very funny...everyone's motivations are clear and simple with constant reversals and logical obstacles...and the direction is impeccable (there's a real art to letting funny just be funny and not trying to 'make it or direct it' funny). Finally, at their core, both movies have a lot of heart. what.

Maybe it's wanting to feel that good feeling again felt when I first watched it. Maybe it's the neverending quest to want to laugh or to be made to laugh...because laughing makes us feel better. Maybe it's just a guy thing (though women do show a tendancy to repeat view certain romantic comedies). Or maybe it's a purely personal thing that can't be analyzed or figured out. My 'Old School' is your 'American Pie', or 'Duck Soup'. I don't know.

But 'Dodgeball' and 'Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle'? Who'd a thunk it.

Not me.

SONG&ARTIST? - "Some day somebody's gonna make you
Want to turn around and say goodbye
Until then baby are you going to let them
Hold you down and make you cry
Don't you know?
Don't you know things can change
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day..."


deepstructure said...

wilson phillips - hold on

Good Dog said...

I've even witnessed a grown man satisfy a camel.

Just that line of dialogue alone makes me watch to sit down to Dodgeball. Is that very wrong?

wcdixon said...

deepstructure makes his second appearance in 6 months to again correctly get the tune (it's used to great comic effect in White Castle)

good dog: it's not wrong at all. Sit. Watch. Now. Seriously. I'm sure it's just a guy thing but...seriously.

EditThis said...

Little known fact about that song is it was written by Michael Jackson. You can sort of tell if you listen to it.

I disagree about Dodgeball...I never really found that film very amusing, but LOVE Harold & Kumar. One other film I never would have watched but did by accident and found hilarious was Zoolander.

Also, I love 40 year old Virgin, and will definitely watch it again and again.

Portnoy said...

Father Goose was on TCM last week. I could watch it right now, just to see Cary Grant suck the poisen from Leslie Caron's ankle.....

I don't like dodgeball. (even if i didn't get into a creative tiff (me fired) with *Ben stiller, i still wouldn't like Dodgeball)

i can watch Groundhog day over and over.

i have never seen Harold and Kumar from start to finish.

*much like himself in that version of Extras.

TV Minion said...

I love both those movies. Dodgeball sold me when Justin Long took a wrench in the head from Rip Torn. It's funny when it's not me.

Another movie like that for me is Talladega Nights, because Walker and Texas Ranger as children's names is comedy gold. I want to rename my cats Walker and Texas Ranger, but they barely know their names right now.

Riddley Walker said...

Give me Spinal Tap, or give me death!

Spent far too long in various bands and as a session musician in the 80s/90s to not find it painfully funny.

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid always gets a repeat outing every once in a while, as do Without A Clue, Galaxy Quest, The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (including the Crimson Permanent Assurance, possibly the greatest supporting feature evaaarrrrr).