Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Seth Rogen -- today's Cary Grant (well, sort of)














It all started with Steve Martin – the doofas who thought he was really cool. Will Ferrell has since made a career out of that persona (what’s his next venue, the world of cockfighting?). Steve Carell plays this clueless guy to perfection on THE OFFICE. Ben Stiller has also found comic gold in the character. So has Jay from Silent Bob &. The character has even crossed over into real life with George Bush.

I’m always intrigued by what's the latest trend in male comic leads. The gold standard is still Cary Grant but no one has come along who can fill those funny boots. In the 60’s there were the Grant knock-offs. George Segal leading the parade, James Garner right behind.

In the late 70’s Woody Allen’s neurotic Jewish nerd was popular for a minute and a half. The rest of us neurotic Jewish nerds were hoping it would last at least until our second dates. No such luck.

Then Robin Williams with his brilliant ability to take everyone else’s material and make it his own. He was the flavor (flavors?) of the month.

After Robin there was just a hodgepodge of different styles. Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Martin Lawrence, Rob Schnieder (dear God why?), Hugh Grant (at least he shares a name with Cary), Adam Sandler, the cast of FRIENDS, and a few others chased that comedy spotlight. Even Robert De Niro tried (his Fearless Leader in ROCKY & BULLWINKLE was grounds for giving back his Oscar).

Today we have a new comic persona topping the charts – the sloth. The slacker with more body hair than charm. Seth Rogen. As unlikely a leading man as you’ll ever find. No ambition. No money. No style. No looks. But you know what? He makes me laugh. I loved him in KNOCKED UP. Loved that he got the girl. Loved that he wasn’t a doofas who thought he was cool. It was refreshing to see a “regular guy” who was comfortable with who he is…even if who he is is, well…Seth Rogen.

For my money screen comedy is going in the right direction when Seth Rogen is the romantic lead and Paul Rudd is just the boring sidekick. How long will this trend last? I dunno, but if you’re one of those guys – judging by how long the Woody Allen window lasted – get your ass to the club TONIGHT.

32 comments:

wheatgerm said...

This is quite the contrast

Anonymous said...

Good news for guys, terrible news for women. From Cary Grant to THAT... I was about to launch into a few digs on Rogen's person, but the side by side photographs Ken posted render that unnecessary.

There are two parts to the romantic comedy. And while Rogen may have a handle on the comedy, he doesn't have this woman convinced about the "romantic". Grant was HOT. Sexy as hell. He could charm you without opening his mouth once--although what fun would that be?...

Rogen has to play the one that the girl settles for and finds out maybe is not so bad after all. That can't be the point of every movie he's in. And if it is, how often can that be good film? How soon before people realize what a depressing idea that is and decide to watch something blowing up instead?

And unlike Ken, I spent my whole time in "Knocked Up" wishing for more focus on the Paul Rudd-Leslie Mann relationship. Partly because it was by far the more believable pairing, better scripted, based on issues which Apatow has some first hand knowledge. The other reason was that Rudd is just a more charasmatic onscreen presence than Rogen. I was always happy to see him. He's hot. He's not Cary Grant, but he'll do in a pinch.

--SD

la guy said...

Cary Grant was one of the best, His Girl Friday is one of my all time favorite comedies.

Although everyone you named has done some great work, I think Mike Myers is in a special class because he alone actually created two cultural icons and brought them to life.

I'm sure this is heresy to some people, but to me his work in the Austin Powers films where he is very convincingly playing multiple characters, frequently in the same scene, is just as good as anything Peter Sellers did.

Oh behave...

VP81955 said...

Cary Grant once said even he wished he were Cary Grant. I'm not sure how many men wish they were Seth Rogen, and that might include Seth himself.

And I doubt the lady in my avatar (who, unfortunately, never made a comedy with Grant, though she did work with him in the drama "In Name Only" and whose comic leading men included John Barrymore, William Powell, Fredric March, Fred MacMurray and Robert Montgomery -- not a bad bunch) would have found Rogen "HOT. Sexy as hell." With Seth as competition, even Ralph Bellamy would get the girl.

Anonymous said...

George Clooney was being groomed in the Cary Grant style, and got the closest in a way, he even ages well like Grant did. He didn't do badly with comedy and of course, the action genre, and is even a director as well as Oscar winner. Is he Grant - of course not, those days are over. But he did introduce a recollection of male Hollywood stars who were more than just stupid.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I might just be in love with Seth Rogen. Anyone remember Freaks and Geeks?

Eric said...

I think I agree with anonymous. Stars forgive me, but I think your modern day Cary Grant is George Clooney. Good enough to be a romantic lead, strong enough to carry a film, quirky enough to be funny enough (if you recall "O Brother Where Art Thou?") and handsome enough to make it work without, as noted, opening his mouth once.

The part that Cary Grant had was an actor who could do comedy (or drama.) I dread that most of the modern crop are comics who try to act. There's a significant difference...

Lizbeth said...

I too love Seth Rogen. And yes I loved "Freaks & Geeks." As I commented in Ken's last post, I've given up on summer blockbusters and am now sitting home and watching my "Freaks & Geeks" DVDs, as well as reading "The Complete Scripts of Freaks & Geeks."

Ian said...

I don't think Seth Rogen is treading anywhere near Cary Grant territory, nor do I think he'll do so in the future. He's more the affable, reasonably inoffensive slob your sister brings by one year for Thanksgiving dinner, never to be seen again.

That was just the part he was playing in "Knocked Up" - it's integral to the premise. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of him, but I doubt he'll ever emerge as romantic leading character. I can't imagine legions of female fans being set all a-shiver seeing Seth Rogen cocking an eyebrow.

Katherine Heigl, however...
Gawd, she was beautiful in that movie.

Anonymous said...

One guy who belongs on the list is Tom Hanks. He was a great comedic actor when he first started out in stuff like Splash & Big (and who could forget Bachelor Party?)

Too bad he seems to have given it up to play Mr. Serious all the time.

mrgumby2u said...

In addition to what others have said about George Clooney being a successor to Grant, I'd like to throw Will Smith's name into the conversation. Tall and handsome, he can pull off the suave as well as Grant and Clooney, then immediately seque into charming goofiness.

Anonymous said...

Also, with Will Smith you get the feeling that the charming nice guy isn't an act, and that is really how he is. He seems (much like Clooney) to be the type of guy you could just hang out with and do whatever.

Tom Hanks dosn't have that, nore does Robin Williams, they are both always 'on' and you can't get away from that.

Anonymous said...

How refreshing it is for a working, unfamous standup to see that Robin Williams' shameless thievery--upon which he's built his entire career--is finally being recognized outside the Standup fraternity.

All the clubs he's been blackballed from.

All the less-than-famous comics he's ripped off.

They'll all come back to him if there's any justice.

I won't hold my breath.

I do love this blog a little more, though.

-Dean from Seattle

Paul Duca said...

This may have relevance...a famous quote said about Cary Grant:

"He was a man when we were boys...now that we are men, he is a boy"

kcorner89 said...

yeah, he's hilarious. the movie was great.

Missy said...

I've never actually heard of you Mr. Levine, and actually I just happened upon your blog from randomly selecting a link. But you my friend are hilarious.

Anonymous said...

It's sad that modern Cary Grants are so few and far between: I can only think of George Clooney and maybe Clive Owen. Instead, the new leading men are the Will Ferrells, Seth Rogens, and these type of men: http://www.bside.com/films/outdoorsmen

Where have all the class acts gone?

Anonymous said...

Bill Murray's characters are similar to Seth Rogen in that they were slackers, and they didn't really care that they were.

Julie Goes To Hollywood said...

Isn't doofus with a u? I don't even know if it's a dictionary word, but yours reads more like doof-ass.

Anyway, what about Matthew McConaughey?

addy said...

A young Richard Dreyfuss sure did it for me. But certainly he was no Cary Grant. I agree with the folks above that Clooney and Smith have the looks charm and talent.
The question is, which handsome man can you picture tumbling over his own feet and still be thought of as suave?
I don't think of Hanks as suave. I can't imagine Sean Connery falling over his feet. Clooney and Smith though, yes to both.

Anonymous said...

jvous conseille d'aller la, c'est vraiment pas sympa !!!

John said...

Well, you'll notice that the explanation for Seth being the leading man in "Knocked Up" is that a lot of alcohol was involved in getting him the hot chick. Works in a comedy up to a point to allow opposites to attract -- if I remember right, that's how Hawkeye and Margaret shacked up in that Season 6 two-parter on M*A*S*H -- but as mentioned earlier in the thread, if you go to the well too often with that plot device will produce diminishing returns at the box office.

When it comes to slacker/goofy guys and hot chicks, the ending of "The Last American Virgin" from 25 years ago is way closer to the truth.

retail1 said...

Want a funny comedy idea? Try working in a maternity clothing store and listening to women bitch all day long about how they went from a size 0 to a size 2. Pls!

The Crutnacker said...

Got to agree with the George Clooney comment. My wife loves him, and I told her, if he ever comes calling, I'll understand if she runs away with him.

Sadly for me, I'm more like Seth Rogan. Except without the full head of hair.

As for the comment about Mike Myers, am I the only one who thinks the first Austin Powers movie was the last thing he was even remotely good in?

Ian said...

Speaking of the first Austin Powers movie, has anyone noticed that it's funnier to reminisce about than to watch? And is there a term for that?

Anonymous said...

Will Smith is artificial, that is an important difference to Cary Grant. Smith mugs constantly, smiles like a politician, and has a hard time resisting being an entertainer from Philly days. When he "acts", outside of "Ali" that is, it always has that feeling he is aware he is acting, it isn't convincing. And really, Grant was suave and debonair, even his accent wasn't easy to place: Smith? please.... TV level at best. Had you said DENZEL, now there I may have listened, but his comedy side isn't up to speed.

Dhppy said...

This is really a strong post, Ken.

I don't agree with you on the pro-Rogen leading man for all front. Not that I have anything against him, but I do like my RomCom leading men to be hot.

Still a funny post, though. And very insightful. I never thought about how the latest trend is the dork who thinks he's cool, but it's true. If this trend is indeed coming to an end, then I think it's young mister LeBeouf who needs to get his ass to a club.

Anonymous said...

The last guy that made me laugh until tears rolled and my stomach cramped was Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction.

So what if he has that cold distant look of a psychotic killer, I love the guy - he makes me laugh.

HOB

DH said...

No one wants to be a Seth Rogen on film--we all wanted to be a Cary Grant. Man, those were the days.

Anonymous said...

Clooney certainly looks the part but he doesn't have nearly as much gravitas and manliness as Cary Grant. Though, a shift more towards Clooney's direction and you'll have the likes of Jude Law and Orlando Bloom (as pretty as they are). I know, Clooney might still be Grant's closest successor but I don't think so. Our definition of leading man has changed too much. Would yesterday's Cary Grant be todays? Would yesterdays Newton be today's Newton? No, he'd be Einstein. Maybe, Johnny Depp might be our version? Brad Pitt?

Anonymous said...

I almost fell off my chair and into a pool of, pardonez my French, le vomit. No offence Sir, but don't you think you've honestly lost some, if not all your "marbles." Notice no question mark there - because you did ... lose at least a few marbles somewhere in that long road of your life - probably at a bar or something?? I won't even dignify this blog with the name of that no-talent, no-name, no-looks stand-in you posit is an actor, let alone an actor of the caliber of Mr. Grant. For God sakes, have SOME class. This is not ZOOM (the children's show). I assume you're over 18, and supposed to be able to reason as an adult?!?! Please retract this blog and repent for your blindness - call it temporary insanity or whatever, but you really do need therapy. And what's more, for the other blinds following the blind on this blog who actually agree - even partially - please do your homework and at least watch some Cary Grant films. Lastly, Mr. Cary Grant was about looks, first and foremost - and those looks can only be cultivated through an amalgamation of varied life experiences that require fearlessness, courage and the trials and tribulations of a boy becoming a man (w/out any help mind you) in this world and not merely the wholely unsatisfactory "adult boy" whose spine is still supported by mom and dad and which seems to be the modern plague our of "zombie" society today. Assemble your thoughts with logic BEFORE articulation, and you'll find a world that isn't "...well, sort of ...."

In case of dire emergency said...

In his day, Cary Grant set the standard. Today no one comes close. At least, not on the silver screen.