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Review: Goofy Movies, Summer 1999

Corliss, R. (1999, June 23). Going goofy at the movies: What will save the world this summer of 1999? Wacky films with dogs, dudes, dick, dads, and mom’s apple pie. Time, pp. 64-65.

Summary

All right class, pencils down, lighten up. It’s summer. Summer movie-time. And that means you can have your brains cryogenically frozen till fall. You won’t have to take Cliff Notes to any movie, unless its Dick, the comedy about two 70s teenagers who were supposedly Watergate’s Deep Throat-and that movie boasts giggling girls, a fart joke and a Chief Executive who serendipitously shares his nickname with the male organ. As for mega-serioso drama, the main one is Eyes Wide Shut, and that has Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman making weird woopee, so it shouldn’t be a chore to sit through.

Most of the other pictures are minds wide shut. Their only aim is to make you laugh yourself sick. As Eddie Murphy, playing a star actor in the inside-Hollywood comedy Bowfinger, says, ” ‘We’re tryin’ to make a movie here, not a film…’ “

This is what the Time critics see funny about summer films in ’99:

  • “Big Daddy” released June 25. Adam Sandler’s “acting” in the big emotional climax and the whim of the gods that made this meager talent a top star.
  • “American Pie” (July 9). Starring Jason Biggs and Chris Klein, what’s so funny is the sock, the beer, the Internet grope, the pie-but nobody’s laughing at the idea that this will be a monster hit.
  • “Inspector Gadget” (July 23). Matthew Broderick stars and Gadget’s talking car is funny; it tells the reconstituted superagent, ” ‘Seat belt, baby.’ “
  • “Mystery Man” (July 30). The stars, Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, Greg Kinnear, William H. Macy, and Janeane Garofalo, are the cast of indie-film smarties playing not-so-super heroes.
  • “Dick” (August 4). Starring Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams, this film will bring laughs at the Brezhnev-Kissenger duet of Hello Dolly and the girls’ giddy scream when they learn what Deep Throat really means.
  • “Bowfinger” (August 13). Laughs about the two roles that Eddie Murphy plays and the coolness of Steve Martin’s lunacy as well as the dog in high heels.

For Hollywood, too, these movies come as a relief. “Action extravaganzas with computer generated special effects can run up a $120 million tab…” In contrast, “Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me” and Adam Sandler’s “Big Daddy” cost about $30 million.

Eddie Murphy has some thoughts on the comedy he knows and does so well:

People just want to have a good time at the movies whether it’s a science-fiction movie or just a comedy they trust. A science-fiction movie doesn’t have to succeed as well a comedy; you just need some aliens and some special effects. But with a comedy, you think, ‘If I don’t laugh, I’m gonna die. I hate that I came in here.’ The audience has to trust it.

And the author of the Time article concludes:

There’s a sweet scene at the end of “Bowfinger”: the bootleg film has been completed, and all the perpetrators are at the premiere. The movie they’ve made is probably irredemable junk…Yet the producer and his cast stare in wonder at the big screen. However feeble the images, they move! And they move those who watch them.

Comedy, raw or refined, can do that to ordinary moviegoers, can create the community of strangers that Snider speaks of. The next months should reveal whether the genre can sustain a whole summer. If not, it’s back to the killer asteroids.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What is humor? What do you consider funny? How important is humor?
  2. Are you ready for summertime comedy? What is your favorite type of film?
  3. Do you think comedy and other kinds of movies can bring people together? If so, is it a “community of strangers” and, at a deeper level, what does that phrase imply?
  4. How do you need humor in your life? How do you use it in youth work or teaching?
  5. Is some humor indecent and injurious? What do you consider to be the principles of positive, healthy humor?

Implications

  • Many if not most people need movies; they dramatize life; they give meaning to, and provide relief from, the tragedies and drudgeries of our secular lives.
  • Humor, too, provides relief from the tedium of life. Human beings have a need to make fun of the awkward and frustrating aspects of their lives.
  • There are so many awkward and embarrassing aspects of adolescence; teenagers flock to comedy that lightens up their own and adult lives.
  • Humor and movies can be healthy or sick-or somewhere in between. Discussion about the difference is needed in hopes of a healthier society.

Dean Borgman
© 2017 CYS

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