I let myself get talked into sitting through "Get Him To The Greek" this weekend. I did not, as so many other ticket-buying Americans did, enjoy myself. It may have been that I was distracted by the fact that my son was watching the new "Karate Kid" just a few doors away. That was the movie that I was leaving my house to go see. With my son. But some friends of ours talked my wife and I into going to see the "grown up" movie instead. My son, who is preparing for his orange belt in Aikido, was happy to be left with his buddies and Jackie Chan. Who says we always have to go the movies together, anyway?
I wish I would have gone with him. This fresh assault from the Judd Apatow school of comedy. You know, the comedies with heart, and a lot of other body parts, as well as a very laissez-faire attitude toward drinking and drugs. "It's funny because it's true," is the line that gets tossed around a lot in these cases, and back when it was "Freaks and Geeks," I couldn't have agreed more. Judd's brand name was one I felt I could trust as he moved to feature films and brought his wacky ensemble of misfits with him. I think I was with him right up to "Knocked Up." All the crudity but still all the heart. You laughed, you cried. You left the theater feeling good. When "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" came out, I started getting a little nervous, and so I stayed away initially. When I finally caught it on video, I was happy to see that the formula was still more or less intact, and by the end of the movie I still cared about what happened to the characters. Just not as much.
I skipped "Funny People," since it seemed like a bad idea to stretch that joke over terminal illness. I did enjoy "Superbad," though I was becoming increasingly aware of just how I was being marketed to. It made me think of premise behind the Friday the 13th movies: ninety minutes divided by thirteen means that a teenager gets killed roughly every seven minutes. Don't go get popcorn, or you'll miss something bloody. With the Apatow group, you won't want to leave because you might miss something raunchy.
"Get Him To The Greek" seemed to me to be an exercise for stretching taste boundaries. As Ian Dury once suggested, sex and drugs and rock and roll have always been good to me, but maybe not in the amounts and frequency depicted here. My wife and I found ourselves pining for Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous," a much more sentimental look at the backstage world of rock. There was sex. There were drugs. There was rock and roll. But our noses weren't being rubbed in it.
Maybe I've simply become too old. I didn't care for "The Hangover" either. It made me feel sad and tired. I grew up reading National Lampoon and listening to George Carlin. I have committed every frame of "Animal House" and "Caddyshack" to memory. I am a firm believer in the notion that comedy is all about pressing buttons. I enjoy a good version of "The Aristocrats" as much as the next guy, especially if the next guy happens to be Penn Jillette. But I couldn't find a way to enjoy "Greek." I understood how and why the movie got made, and I hope that Russell Brand continues to have a career that allows him to share his considerable talents for years to come, but perhaps in a setting where he doesn't have to do it "at eleven." After all, even Spinal Tap had their quiet moments. Comedy isn't just loud noises. It's about the quiet noises between the loud noises, too.