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February 20, 2012 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-02-20

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, February 20, 2012 -

- 7A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday, February 20, 2012

Slapstick still relevant

T he Colbert Report."
Uncyclopedia. Col-
legeHumor. Both late-
night television and the Internet
are filled to the brim with the
sweet sounds
of satire, cari-
cature and
parody. The
business of
comedy in the
ing age of new
media seems LAUREN
set on cou- CASERTA
pling laughter
with social
- and son, business is booming.
But does their rise herald
an end to a simpler comedic
era? Are the antiquated antics
of physical humor obsolete? A
slapstick routine from the Three
Stooges may have cut it with our
parents, but is it still enough to
entertain the socially savvy chil-
dren of Generation Z?
Superficially, things look grim.
Nowadays, the word "slapstick"
tends to invoke a mental image
of the latest B-movie disaster.
Physical comedy is traditionally
easier and cheaper to film than
a fantasy epic or crime thriller,
though extravagant amounts
of money and effort are by no
means a guarantee of quality
(I'm looking at you, "Avatar: The
. Last Airbender").
But even though physical com-
edy seems to attract more atten-
tion when it's done poorly than
when it's done correctly, a true
fan knows that slapstick is by no
means headed for the Graveyard
of Genres Past. There's some-
thing about seeing another per-
son land on their ass at exactly
the right moment that triggers
an instinctive chuckle from even
the most serious satirist.
So do audiences of the 21st
century still enjoy watching
slapstick? Ask the cast members
of the School of Music, Theatre
& Dance's "Noises Off," who,
as of this moment, are tearing
down their lovely two-story set
and reminiscing about what was
probably a kickass cast party. A
description of the show's prem-
ise could never do it justice, but
its flawless exploitation of physi-

cal cha
show t
net wh
gets its
up phy
way in
If you I
safe for
one sla
stick is
effect i
of Erro
years a
ern Lo
his shoe
a polic
in a on
I thi
edge of
I will b
a trip t
my fing
If I affe
first ra'
the Nor
catch r
to what

os under mental pressure appear to do through movie
it's no surprise that the magic and theater technology,
ends to be an awards mag- it's actually disappointingly easy
enever a talented group for us to hurt ourselves.
hands on it. Slapstick and other avenues
though Hollywood does of physical comedy give us a no-
e to pump out and screw strings-attached way to enjoy
sical comedies with watching people get what they
essness, a genuinely funny deserve - or don't deserve - in
does manage to sneak its a world where the laws of phys-
to production sometimes. ics and your local government
had the good fortune of don't apply. Your brain is smart
"The Hangover" in a enough to know that hitting peo-
i theater, that muscle you ple with cars is bad, while simul-
laughing probably still taneously recognizing that the
when rain is on the way. stoner who just tumbled hilari-
comedic style may be ously over the windshield of that
r now, but what keeps the sedan will not only be fine, but
er coming? If you've seen will probably be genuinely tick-
p, kick or pistol-whip, led by the experience.
t you seen them all? Slap- Animation takes the element
older than Shakespeare of guilt-free enjoyment one step
f, who used it to great further, distancing us through
n plays like "The Comedy context and medium. Our grand-
rs." But that was 400 parents may see us as a genera-
go - and he was enter- tion of violence junkies, but did
the masses of pre-mod- they forget all those times Daffy
ndon. So why do we still Duck had his beak blown off
when James Franco rams with a shotgun?
e through the window of But our acute awareness of
e cruiser in "Pineapple what safely qualifies as "laugh-
s" and proceeds to engage able" also explains why the
e-footed car chase? "Jackass" movies are so difficult
to watch without wincing - and
why they don't fall within slap-
hakespeare- stick's parameters. You know
the movie magic is gone - you're
bawdy as the watching a group of shitfaced
guys with no sense of self-pres-
ree Stooges' ervatiss capitalize on genuine
pain atissue damage. There's
their antics. no guarantee you aren't going to
see something you can't unsee.
There's a very thin real-world
line between something you
nk a better question can laugh at and something that
be, "what makes physical requires a trip to the hospital -
y, even violence, funny?" and physical comedy capitalizes
of our proclivity tobe on the comfortable relief we feel
ined by this kind of in knowing that we are never
is a subconscious knowl- accidentally exposed to the lat-
our own unfortunate ter. Slapstick combines an act we
al limits. If I punch a wall, wouldn't see off the stage or the
reak my fingers and earn screen with permission from our
o the hospital. If I punch brain to view them in context as
ne in the face, I will break consequence-free. It's this time-
cers and earn myself a less pairing that makes slapstick
neanor assault charge. entertainment relevant amid
ectionately embrace the the age of satire - and keeps us
ccoon I encounter after laughing harder than ever.

Sloppy bro-antics
misfire in War'

Witherspoon and
company can't pull
this film together
For the Daily
"This Means War" is a feeble
stab at a rom-corm, intended for
couples still riding that Val-
entine's Day
high. While it's **
not a complete
trainwreck of This Means
a movie like War
some of Reese
Witherspoon's At Quality16
past romantic and Rave
comedies, it
tries way too 20th Century Fox
hard to be a
film that boyfriends won't mind
being dragged to. McG ("Char-
lie's Angels") delivers another
underwhelming, action-packed
flick - this time with a bit of
romance mixed in.
Chris Pine ("Star Trek") and
Tom Hardy ("Inception") play
two hardly covert but highly
stylized CIA agents named FDR
and Tuck, respectively. After
they both fall for Lauren, an
uptight product tester played
by Reese Witherspoon ("Walk
the Line"), these best friends
make a gentleman's agreement
to respect the other's attempts
at winning the girl. The "gentle-
man" part soon falls to the way-

side, as they employ tranquilizer
guns and prop rain to one-up
each other on their dates with
Oh, and there's some other
storyline that involves a bad
guy out to avenge his brother's
death at the hands of FDR and
Tuck, but it's never really more
than a distraction. Til Schweiger
("Inglourious Basterds") plays
the villain, a guy with a German
surname, an unplaceable Euro-
pean accent and stereotypically
Russian henchmen. Just what
exactly does this guy do? The
most the movie ever gives us on
him is that he's mean and just a
little trigger-happy. His story
is skimmed over pretty quickly,
but every so often he pops in
and stirs up some trouble so
that McG can include some of
his typical, over-the-top action
sequences in the film.
Both storylines are seriously
underdeveloped, making this
a lackluster and unsatisfying
movie. But it does have some
highlights, particularly the bro-
mance between FDR and Tuck.
Most of the humorous scenes
sprinkled throughout the movie
show them throwing quips back
and forth and pulling CIA-level
pranks on each other.
In fact, Pine and Hardy have
more chemistry with each other
than either has with Wither-
Unlike her male counterparts,
Lauren would be an easily for-

gettable character if she didn't
keep appearing to tell her friend
Trish (Chelsea Handler, TV's
"Chelsea Lately") how stressed
she is from dating the two hand-
some leading men. Handler, who
essentially plays herself (but
with a kid and a Cheeto-loving
husband), is more memorable
than the usually captivating
Witherspoon in this one-dimen-
sional performance.
Everything in this movie
moves just a little too quickly.
Timothy Dowling ("Just Go with
It") and Simon Kinberg ("Mr.
& Mrs. Smith"), who wrote the
screenplay, made it so rushed
that by the end, it's not really
even understandable why Lau-
ren chooses one of these men at
After all, they basically stalk
her for the entire movie and then
adjust themselves to be more
like what Lauren wants so they
can get her into bed. And despite
dialogue that namedrops Gloria
Steinem, both female leads heav-
ily define themselves through
the men in their lives.
For a movie that's made purely
for entertainment (and certainly
not for its realism or substance),
"This Means War" barely pass-
es. It has its moments, but it's
probably best saved for a night
when you're bored at home and
looking for some mindless enter-
tainment that's just a cut above
"Keeping Up with the Kardashi-

ng to New York City from
rth Pole, Iam going to
abies and die. Compared
t we can make humans

Caserta is practicing her
Chevy Chase routine. To assist,
e-mail caserta@umich.edu.

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