I recently checked out Let's Be Cops on TV, and I don't know how to feel about it. Basically, the plot is about two dudes from Ohio who aren't cutting it in Los Angeles, so in an effort to redefine themselves, they pretend to be police officers because … reasons.
Ultimately, it wasn't that good, but it also wasn't that bad either. The funniest scene in the movie came in the first 30 minutes. Everything that followed was a visual representation of the word “Meh.”
Most of the humor stems from the chemistry between Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr, and if you've seen New Girl, you can probably guess that it comes easy for them. But how can the dynamic between two funny guys anchor an hour-and-a-half long movie?
Spoiler alert: it can't. However, it doesn't really hurt that the main characters are immensely likable. That was basically the only thing that kept me from switching to a Family Feud rerun after the first 10 minutes. Everything else about it could (and probably should) have been better.
This seems to be the ongoing trend with most comedy films these days; Filmmakers put all of the effort in casting the right people for the roles, but little-to-no work is put into the script, visuals, or direction.
Y'all ever hear the phrase "Dying is easy, comedy is hard"? That's a fairly accurate statement, as anyone can die on screen and make it look convincing and compelling. Well, maybe not Marion Cotillard in The Dark Knight Rises, but most actors can.
Getting people to laugh, on the other hand, takes a lot more than just telling jokes or making silly faces. It involves timing, delivery, body language, inflection, etc. The same goes for movies as a whole: It doesn't require much to bring someone to the verge of tears during one, but to make people cry tears of joy is a borderline science.
My problem with most comedy films today is that very few directors, writers, and actors seem unwilling to study that science and allow themselves to experiment and work towards creating a successful comedic formula. It's all about the money to them; not about the art.
That doesn't go for every major comedy director, of course. You ever watch an Edgar Wright movie? Like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, or my personal favorite Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? If you want a crash course in what a great comedic flick should be, check out all of his work.
Wright's fantastically frenetic usage of camerawork, physical humor and witty dialogue at mach five speed is engaging and entertaining, but most importantly, it's actually funny. Plus, his dedication to getting each scene just right is a testament to how serious he is about comedy (Is that an oxymoron? I can't tell).
For example, check out this outtake from Scott Pilgrim: In the movie, Scott immediately throws a package he ordered from Amazon in the garbage (He only ordered it so Ramona would come to his house). The thing is, the wastebasket is behind him, so he throws it over his shoulder without turning around.
It's hilarious, but also impressive because the toss wasn't achieved with CGI or other forms of cinematic fakery. Michael Cera actually threw the package from over his shoulder and into the garbage can.
Unless you're the Stephen Curry of tossing things into wastebaskets, this is not an easy feat. The 25-plus tries it took Cera to complete the shot is also plenty of evidence to demonstrate Wright's determination to sell the joke.
I don't want to sound like I'm completely jockin' for Edgar Wright, (even though I gladly will whenever necessary) but my point is that more comedy filmmakers should try to approach their work with the same energy, inventiveness, and artistry that he does.
Poop jokes and pratfalling are great in moderation, but if that's what' people expect to keep their movie buoyed above the surface, I'm sorry, but it's probably going to be sub-par – Or in some cases, just flat out suck.
I don't expect my opinion to make any impact on the landscape of comedy films down the road, but as a fan of both movies and laughter, I hope that something changes soon.
After all, I don't know how many more Pixels or Drillbit Taylor's my cheerful disposition can handle.