Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Movies I Should Have Seen By Now, Vol. 1: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

I love things that attempt something new. This may sound silly, but let's consider for a second all the media that we get every day that attempts absolutely nothing:

Reality Television attempts to make money and attract viewers. Innovation is a tertiary, at best, motivation.

Pop Music - for all the praise that Lady Gaga gets, she is really making formulaic pop music. Her presentation might be edgy, but her music is boring as fuck.

Sequels are the most lucrative and most easily green-lit type of film. With the ultra-rare exception that pops up once a decade or so, sequels try and do the same thing as the originals.

I say all of this to say that It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (Mad from here on out) is a pretty bad movie, but a movie that tried something.

At the time of its invention, television was beating the cinema in the battle for people's time and attention. Veteran director Stanley Kramer attempted to buck this trend by making "the ultimate comedy film," one that's scope (literally and figuratively) could never be attempted on television. For that, he succeeded.

A huge amount of top comedy talent was assembled for the film, from contemporary stars to "classic" comedians, and a huge, sprawling story was constructed around finding $350,000 buried under a "giant W."

Now, maybe at the time the comedy was cutting edge or didn't seem cliched, but to my eyes, this movie was nearly 3 hours (yes, 3 hours) full of hackiest comedy ever assembled. I expected the film to be bloated, but it was morbidly obese - every scene was just a bit too long, a bit too on the nose, and a bit too predictable.

Half of the fun for viewers during its initial run was missing for me, and that is the endless cameo spotting. Sure, i recognized Jimmy Durante and Andy Devine (and who could miss the Three Stooges?), but most of the other cast members were either totally lost on me or a case of "who is that guy?" syndrome that left me wondering what was so important about a guy driving a car that the camera wouldn't pan away for a second?

But watching the movie mad me realize that it has been a long time since a movie that was even this successful was made at such a large scale. In 2001, Rat Race was supposed to be the next Mad, but much of the talent was not A-list, and the film wasn't eagerly anticipated by fans of, well, anything. It was pitched as a family friendly film, and therefore couldn't go too blue, too weird, or, ultimately, too funny. That being said, there is a scene involving Jon Lovitz inadvertently channeling Hitler that is very, very funny.

Skip to 5:00 for the part that is actually funny.

But then i got to thinking: what would a grand-scale comedy made up of the Sid Ceasars, Milton Berles and Buddy Hacketts of today look like?

Would it be a Judd Apatow production? (Yay) Or would Happy Madison tackle it? (Boo) Who would star? Could it be anything less than a hard-R? Would you want to see it?

Let me know in the comments.

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