33. Everyone’s A Critic
The Slippery Slope To Conformity
So, Jezza has been read the riot act.
Hardly surprising really. After last week’s ‘slope’ controversy the BBC had to be seen to act given the rapidity with which this new storm has brewed. This despite the fact that Top Gear earns them bundles round the world (there must be hundreds of millions of boring wankers who like nothing more than to drone on about cars all day and take pot-shots at the French), and that the mumbled nursery rhyme was never actually broadcast. I have several issues with this.
Firstly, if you were the subject of two exposes, days apart, painting you as a massive racist would you not wonder what it was you’d done to upset certain sections of the media? After all, Clarkson said neither of these things recently, and the N-word video is over a year old. That’s a mighty long time for someone to be sitting on a piece of video, restraining their indignation until (purely coincidentally) their temper snaps just after he is reported for another racial slur and they simply have to leak it to the papers. A more cynical mind than mine might conclude that they were out to get them.
Secondly, Clarkson has made currency of his anti PC stance. He and his legion of fans maintain that you should be able to say anything you like if it’s a joke, and if people don’t have a sense of humour then fuck them. Which is fine I suppose, as long as you do it from the safety of a tv studio or behind a keyboard, or are really good at fighting.
The trouble is when you set yourself up as a rebel being slapped down by your employers is even more humiliating. He either said the word or he didn’t (I’ve seen the video; it’s nigger all day long*) and a few days ago he was denying it, issuing forth with bluster and self-righteous indignation. Now suddenly he is being carpeted and forced to produce a humiliating selfie video apologising for the fact that, in his words, it might sound like he used the word but he loathes it.
Hmm, well I loathe many many racial epithets, and that’s why I never say them, whether embedded in a nursery rhyme or not. Plus the PC version of it is ‘catch a tiger by the toe’ and if he really loathed the word that’s the version he’d use. Plus he says he did everything in his power to make sure that the word wasn’t broadcast.
Everything except not saying it in the first place of course.
The fact is that this has left his libertarian freedom of speech hard man persona in tatters. A real believer that you can say what you like wouldn’t apologise. Either he didn’t say it, in which case why say sorry when you haven’t done anything? Or he did say it and so what? It was a joke; lighten up you PC bores.
He’s bowed down to his bosses and the media, leaving his gang bereft of leadership. Who will they evoke when listening to Talksport, or supping from the tankard they have kept behind the bar at their local? When they do a Paki* or poofter* joke who will they use to justify their boorish outdated attitudes?
Because now that Jeremy has apologised he’s just like all the rest.
And Why Not?
Release Date: 3rd May 2014
(Previewed at Odeon West End, Leicester Square, 16th April 2014)
Directed By: Nicholas Stoller
Screenplay By: Andrew J Cohen, Brendan O’Brien
Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne
Dave Franco, Jake Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Roberts, Ike Barinholtz, Hannibal Buress, Halston Sage
BBFC: 15 – Contains very strong language, drug use, strong sex, crude sex references, nudity
You could be tempted to dismiss this as another Hollywood by numbers crude comedy, an Animal house for the corporate globalised homogenised world. You would be wrong. Yes, it won’t change your life or win any Oscars, but it does have one thing in its favour that you need in your life.
It delivers more laughs than you’ve any right to expect from a film.
Here Rogen has taken his familiar slightly bemused twenty something Jewish slacker character, and aged him a few years. Now Mac is married to Kelly (Byrne, giving her natural Aussie accent an airing) and they have a young daughter. They are settling into their new house, gladdened by the fact that a gay couple are viewing the house next door (this seems to guarantee them peace and quiet), but their happiness is about to be rudely disturbed.
To their dismay a fraternity end up moving in next door. Teddy (Efron making the step from on screen teenager to young adult he started in That Awkward moment recently) is the president of Delta Psi; it’s implied that he’s not a studier, and this is his last year, so as his college time winds down he is determined to write his name into the fraternity’s folklore with some epic pranks, parties and escapades. At his side is Pete (Dave Franco, James’s brother, late of Superbad and soon to be seen in 22 Jump Street).
Things seem to start well; Kelly and Mac introduce themselves, and like thirtysomethings the world over try a bit too hard to be cool in the face of youth. As the inevitable partying begins they try the Nice Guys approach to noise management, politely asking for the noise to be kept down and even accepting an invitation to party with the students. It doesn’t work, inevitably, and the resort to calling the police to get a nights’ sleep.
Unfortunately for them when Officer Watkins (Burress, fresh from tearing up the small screen on the brilliant Broad City) arrives he immediately fingers them as the originators of the nuisance call. Teddy and the boys are not amused.
That’s when things turn nasty.
Each ensuing prank and stunt provokes a more intense (and hilarious) response, the pace begins to pick up at this point. We’ve had the preamble, and now we’re into the meat of the piece. Already on thin ice with the university the Dean (played brilliantly by Kudrow) places them on probation after Kelly and Mac produce a move plucked straight from the plot of Othello, and they are forced to respond.
The mayhem ratchets up and up, Stoller, miraculously unscarred by two projects with Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek), deals out gut punch after gut punch of laugh out loud moments. This is the least intellectual you will feel all year, but you WILL love the DeNiro party and the dildo sale, and the airbag sequence will leave you gasping for breath. There’s even, to misquote Oasis, sex in the bushes.
The ending is fairly predictable, but the second half of the film is a technical delight. Music that helps the story pick up speed without intruding, wonderfully lit and photographed scenes, particularly the party set pieces, and a script that is so polished there is no more room for more jokes than you see.
Efron has picked well in his attempt to transition to more grown up (in age anyway) roles. This isn’t his film to carry alone, and he revels in not being under pressure. His comedic skills need honing but are definitely there. He will still struggle to escape his tween/gay fantasy status for a while yet. I overheard some people debating where to sit at the screening. One of the men decided he wanted to sit at the front, to be “close enough to get a good look at his abs” *sigh*.
Byrne is wonderful. Most of her screen time is obviously with Rogen, and it would be easy to just let him drive every scene, but she matches him toe to toe all through the film. She’s occasionally demure (wheedling help from the Dean in a meeting) and often throws out barbed taunts (“You Jews and your mothers!”) and wields her power over Mac like some kind of Bondi Lady Macbeth to get her own way.
Rogen himself is right at home as the lovable screw-up trying to do the right thing but getting completely overtaken by events. His perpetually bemused facial expressions as his world caves in are a joy. He can do this kind of thing in his sleep, but you find yourself loving watching him do it.
The other thing this film has got so spectacularly right is the cameos. As in The Lego Movie the audience is given no chance to rest on their laurels before another familiar face from the world of US sitcom or stand-up rides into view to either maintain or improve the momentum. Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin’ from Superbad) makes an appearance, and just as you’re enjoying that Ike Barinholtz (who steals almost every scene in The Mindy Project) pops up as Jimmy, the gross, borderline sex pest best friend. This just goes on throughout the movie, until you realise that a generational shift has happened, and people who were considered underground are now invading the mainstream of American show business (never a bad thing).
As these people are the standard bearers for this film’s target audience their presence, plus the star power at the top of the bill should ensure this film cleans up at the box office. Judging by the post screening buzz and the general tenor of other critics’ impressions it will be well written up too, and it deserves to be. Multiplexes up and down the country will be doubled over as Teddy and Pete brilliantly profess their (man)love for each other with variations on ‘Bros Before Hos’…
Hang on, you’re thinking, he’s going crazy for it but he’s only given it 4 stars. Well, for a start while the usually cynical Hollywood casting and production system has got so much of this wonderfully right there is one sequence that grates. Towards the end there’s a scene outside Abercrombie and Fitch that seems, well, wrong. It’s not necessary to the plot and frankly looks tacked on hurriedly in post-production. It only seems to exist because it features Efron without a shirt on. It’s as if early test audiences asked for more shirtless Zac, and the eager to please executives ordered an extra scene. It really doesn’t work, and it really jars.
In reality it’s a minor quibble though. Essentially if you’re a fan of laughing a lot in an hour and a half, and can handle seeing Seth Rogen’s hairy back, you will be richly rewarded. It’s perfect post pub Kebab Movie fodder too.
To summarise, go, enjoy. It’s wonderful.