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Happy Happy Joy Joy

January 9, 2008

In the midst of the writer’s strike, I’ve tried my best to boycott the studios who are locking out the writers. I’ve missed a lot of movies I wanted to see theatrically (such as I Am Legend) trying to support the writers. I haven’t done a perfect job of it (I saw The Golden Compass on Christmas Eve — I didn’t have anything else to do since I usually spend it with my grandparents) but cold turkey is hard, dammit, and it’s not like the studios are getting any closer to making a deal. 1

Anyway, as I mentioned, my roommate had a birthday this weekend and she has been wanting to see Enchanted for quite some time, and really so have I. So instead of lecturing her on the ethical quandries, I went with her, as did Ryan and his girlfriend.

Anyone who’s seen the trailer knows it’s about a traditional (one could almost say “stereotypical”) Disney animated princess who gets transported magically into our modern world, shortly after becoming betrothed-at-first-sight with the prince of the kingdom. She meets a “real life” man in modern New York, she learns from him, he learns from her, hearts are warmed all around.

Now, this isn’t an Enchanted review so I’m not going to go through it very much, suffice it to say that, like the Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz team, they’ve managed to make a film that simultaneously makes fun of and has great affection for its genre. There are a lot of subtle winks to Disney’s other “Princess” movies, such as cameos by a number of the voice actresses, and Alan Menken‘s music.

It’s a relatively predictable film, competently made but not a masterpiece. Still, I really came out having loved the film.

The musical aspect of the film quickly disappears as the princess becomes, well, three-dimensional as a character. The final musical number2, “That’s How You Know,” is a balls-out (to use a delightfully inappropriate colloquialism) celebration of love, done in the style of a 50s musical where suddenly everyone knows the song, drops what they’re doing, and storms Central Park in a spontaneous-yet-intricately-choreographed dance celebration. Being postmodern, the male lead of course questions how it is that everybody but him knows the song and dance.

It’s a cheesy movie, but I had a smile on my face all through that scene, and through most of the movie in general. Because cheesy or not, by God, everyone just looked like they were having FUN on that screen.

And I realized: a lot of movies aren’t fun anymore. They’re plenty mindless, they’re plenty cheesy, but so many of them take themselves so SERIOUSLY that they’re just no fun — and without a message or a story or any fun, they’re worthless.

I realized that this was what I loved so much about Transformers, which while visually brilliant had plot holes large enough to drive an alien robot disguised as a Mack truck through. To the extent that it should be an affront to my every sensibility as a writer. But I didn’t mind, because I was having too much goddamn fun while watching it.

Compare that to something like the Matrix sequels, which while equally visually stunning and filled with obtuse bullshittery masquerading as philosophy, were NO fucking fun at all. They were somber and brash and painful to watch. No sense of humor (aside from the Andy Kaufman-esque way that I’ve come to suspect that the Wachowskis were playing a prank on us all, intentionally making senseless films to see how far people would go to justify them), no joy, just a string of video game cutscenes. I hate those movies and I’m kind of mad at myself for even bringing them up just now, but I needed to make a point.

Transformers made me laugh, it made me cheer, and it made me forget that it makes no sense for the good guys to decide their best option is to take the fight into the middle of a city to maximize collateral damage. I’m already forgiving the alien-robots-become-trucks thing, I figure I’ll go all the way as long as I’m having fun. And Shia of course brings such a great energy and humor to the film that, frankly, makes it work.3

I really realized that a lot of movies which aren’t explicitly comedies don’t have much fun in them — and frankly, even most recent comedies (excluding Shaun/Fuzz) aren’t much fun either. Too many of these comedies and “parody” films have way too much teeth and are too mean-spirited with their jokes. They’re insulting to their characters, their genre, and their audience more often than not.

And don’t tell me 9/11 changed everything, because you’re an asshole if you do. Besides the fact that destroying our ability to enjoy our lifestyle and freedom is EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO, I can see it making comedy a little tough for a while, but nearly 7 years on? It’s time we started enjoying life again.

Ultimately I think that was the main message of Enchanted — which, thank God, was not explicitly a message movie. But you’ve got the world of perfect fantasy colliding with harsh reality, and what the princess teaches the single father is: the “real” world may be hard, things will never be perfect, but that’s no reason you can’t be happy and share your happiness around.

I walked out of that theatre feeling happy, glad that I’d seen the movie and not manipulated like a lot of feel-good movies leave me feeling.

I’m glad to see that message finally starting to get out there. It’s time to get some real joy in the air again.

  1. I’m totally seeing Cloverfield at a midnight showing whether the strike’s over or not. Sorry guys, but there’s only so far I’m willing to sacrifice without being a produced screenwriter.
  2. It’s “final” in terms of being the last song in the film, although it is only a third of the way into the film.
  3. It’s still not funny to have Bumblebee take a piss on John Turturro, and anyone who thinks it is needs their funnybone checked.

From → personal, philosophy

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