With the exception of The Baxter, which comes out this week and has thus been appropriately relegated to the end-of-summer sloppy seconds, the comedies released this summer have been distinguished by three qualities. To wit:
1. They are unabashedly, almost histrionically male. (An unshocking fact; pedestrian even)
2. They are dirty: chock-full of eff words and plastic titties and swollen cocks. (This is less pedestrian on the heels of the born-again malaise that’s swept the nation.)
3. They are funny. (Distinctly unpedestrian; shocking even)
Wedding Crashers, particularly the first 30 minutes, is genuinely amusing. It may be fratty as all-get out, but count on marble-mouthed, swarthy (part Lebanese, according to imdb) Vince Vaughn to tromp all over the bleached-out DC status quo, with his Bluto-boy cake-stuffing, wildly effusive back-slapping subversions of age-old WASP esthetics. In the grand tradition of Hollywood comedies, Crashers falls off like a bad wig in the last 20 minutes, but I still saw it twice. I’ve always had a soft spot for lanky, funny boys, and ham-handed V.V. may be my new boyfriend. The movie is unabashedly male, of course: shot from an unremittingly masculine perspective and all about the maddeningly overdocumented struggle of American boys fighting maturation.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin takes the cake when it comes to slavishly documenting that struggle. It’s also funny as hell and highwater, its plot doesn’t merely serve as the necessary filler between gags, and it doesn’t fall out the end. It actually ends on an insanely high note; Paul Rudd wiggling his always surprisingly silly body to “The Age of Aquarius” is a high note to me, anyway.
It’s both a relief and terribly frustrating that all good-boy pretenses have been dropped in this summer’s batch of comedies. The chief example of this is that comedians’ valentine to themselves, The Aristrocrats, a deft exploration of the ultimate meta joke. I’m glad Hollywood has returned to its Caddyshack and Meatballs era of gross, rated-R, naked titty comedy. Concept comedies like Zoolander and Dodgeball go but so far (although Stiller’s scent, Eau de Hack, lingers forever). That’s why the loser-takes-all clunker Baxter stinks so badly. It’s refreshing for films to shed their Disney-approved handcuffs to take their innuendos to their natural, uh, extensions. Furthermore, the chief conceit of all of these films is to stand those white-boy antics on their heads. Crashers’ chief message can be translated to mean, “Even if you’re white and male and straight, it’s impossible to pass if you have an iota of taste or humor.” Virgin’s major selling-point is its overt assumption that men are babies, least of all the 40-year-old virgin. But self-installed criticism or not, it’s still all about the boys. That’s part of why Whoopie Goldberg and Sarah Silverman shone so bright in their renditions of the Aristocrats gag; fresh perspectives make old hats new. The other reason was because they both, especially Silverman (every smart guy’s sloe-eyed fantasy), are high-larious. Hi. Vagina jokes are high-larious. They are!
I’m waiting for a good old mainstream comedy written by the likes of SNL molls Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Mean Girls was not only snarky in the best of ways but so very smart. While watching it, I didn’t feel the least bit like I was clamoring to be something I wasn’t — didn’t feel, in other words, like I was pretending to be a forever-adolescent male who, um, runs a studio or something.