Raunchy, vulgar, adult puppet comedy. You’d think it’d be right up our street. But The Happytime Murders is incompetent, embarrassing and infantile, with almost no comic instinct – the couple of moments that drew laughs from us did so primarily through sheer insistence and excess. Mike tries to reckon with what the difference is between the likes of this and something like Team America: World Police, which he likes but is superficially similar. José can’t comprehend how simply bad the filmmaking is. A conversation about Melissa McCarthy ensues, with differing opinions on her talent, but her box office appeal is not in question – at least until now.
The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.
With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.
Ghostbusters does have some laughs. But it’s so bad it’s exhausting to watch: everything seems out of kilter, mis-timed, the gags obvious and over-elaborately set up; and one just looks at one’s watch, thinks of leaving, but the charismatic performers and the occasional laughs keep one hoping. It’s the worst-directed comedy I can think of. The movie relies for its energy on the editing, terrible in a comedy. And one just ends up tired and with a headache. Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth were standouts; and I do love Melissa McCarthy. Even in this.
The twitterstorm over the reboot has been ridiculous. I saw the original when it came out and liked it. It was a fun summer film with a truly great comic performance from Bill Murray – wry, slobby in appearance, cutting in attitude, smartly knowing and totally endearing. He’s what was great. As a film, the original Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, USA, 1984) has been fetishized beyond all comprehension.
The reply to the sexist reception of the reboot has been that a lot of women seem to like the film. Part of the reason has to be Melissa McCarthy. She’s got warm eyes, seems human in her gestures and responses, and has crack timing. She’s really the biggest female star of the moment, practically the only one to have a star persona so defined as to be deployed in high concept films. The only thing many of her films have going for them is her; it’s not as if she’s the weak element coasting on the success of the other aspects of her films. They’re not much to speak of and yet she turns them into hits: audiences like her.
But she’s not enough in Ghostbusters (and perhaps to the film’s credit and as validation of it’s feminist politics, she’s not the best thing about it either: everyone has their moment in this ensemble). I liked the buddy aspect of the film, and the interaction between the women. But some of the rah-rah sisterhood stuff felt really forced and the last shot of the four women hugging…well…Add to that that the whole supernatural aspect of the plot seems pointless, undramatic and uninspired and one isn’t left with much. On the other hand, and to be fair, one can’t deny that it creates a fair share of laughs; and to paraphrase Lubistsch, I wouldn’t sneeze at such laughs, especially in a comedy.
Everyone is so happy to have a comedy that isn’t ugly, gross, adolescent, and stupid that they’re falling all over themselves to praise The Heat. Except The Heat is pretty ugly: do even comedies have to look like the side of a warship now? It’s also ugly in spirit: If Melissa McCarthy’s family in the film were Black or Hispanic instead of Irish, activists would rightly be up in arms; it’s one nasty stereotype of Boston Irish after another; and all put there to get you to laugh at their expense: aren’t they stupid, uneducated, vulgar, etc. etc. The film’s also pretty gross; it’s all body humour — small nuts, things falling out of vaginas, etc. – except we’re supposed to praise Allah because it’s women being gross. As to adolescent, the film’s emotional moment is that Sandra Bullock was so unpopular in high school that only a teacher wrote on her year-book, so by the end, warm, ebullient, ‘down’ Melissa McCarthy writes something nice in it and claims her as a ‘sister’. But, you know, Sandra Bullock is old enough to be a grandmother several times over and she looks every year of it, face lifts or no. Isn’t she a bit old to still be worrying about, well the film says 1982, but there are doubters; and really, if at her time of life the only relationship in her life is her neighbour’s kitty…well I won’t go on. We can and do suspend disbelief. The Heat is another of Bullock’s transformation narratives: she goes from being the kind of snarky, friendless, controlling person who’s always right to being soul-sister to Melissa McCarthy, ‘earthy’ and ‘real’ but without having to get fat — neither the film nor Bullock is stupid. It’s a high-concept female buddy film that works; it does have plenty of belly laughs; and it does pass the Bedschel test with flying colours. Moreover, Bullock’s timing continues to be ace, Paul Feig times knows how to direct the gags, and Melissa McCarthy is the most joyous presence in American cinema today. It’s not a great comedy but as a wise man once said, perhaps in Lubitsch’s To Be or Not To Be, ‘oh, I wouldn’t sneeze at a laugh’. The Heat offers plenty of reasons not to sneeze.