Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Taking out laughs can make a comedy funnier
Movies, for sure.
Comedies in particular.
Sceen comedies should run about 90 minutes. Once you drift into two-hours a feature comedy becomes indulgent, bloated, and needlessly self-important. This is always my complaint with Judd Apatow movies. They’re always too long. Always. He knows this; even acknowledges so in his book. But he still insists on keeping his movies over two-hours. They are that difficult to cut? Uh… I could take at least twenty minutes out of every one of his films and still make it to Nate & Al’s for the Early Bird Special (assuming I don’t also have to chase kids off my lawn).
Here’s the truth: he could edit them too. Judd has a keen eye for comedy. The jokes in his movies work because he knows what’s funny and he knows how to construct humorous moments to get the most bang for his buck. He also knows story and story structure. But somewhere along the line he just falls so in love with everything that he can’t bear to part with it.
Yes, I’m sure the first cuts of his films are three-hours and he did a lot of trimming already, but as the other expression goes: “Sometimes you have to kill your babies.”
The comment I hear the most about TRAINWRECK is “really funny but too long.” It would be even FUNNIER if it weren’t too long. That's absolutely how I felt. I could have cut 45 minutes from that movie without missing a beat. 15 of those minutes would have come from the last half hour.
Audience viewing habits have changed. This could be due to emerging technology, new shorter forms of entertainment, or simple human evolution – our bladders apparently are getting smaller. But whatever the reason, we have little patience these days for filler, red herrings, sweeping panoramas, and more than six semen jokes in any one film.
Here’s the bottom line – for comedies or any genre, ask yourself this: Is the story big enough and strong enough that you need two hours (or more) to tell it? “Need” being the operative word here. The minute the moviegoer checks his watch the answer is “No.” Even taking out laughs can make a comedy funnier.
Now, in the spirit of fairness, I welcome all opposing views. If you feel movies are too short, that seven battle sequences are not enough, that diarrhea scenes must be played out in their entirety, that Adam Sandler doesn’t get enough screen time, that there are still one or two structures in Metropolis still left standing after a Superman altercation, that BOYHOOD should have been over a twenty year span, that there was too much still left unsaid in TRANSFORMERS then I want to hear from you.
I’d say more but… well, why not follow my own advice?