THE POPCORN REEL EDITOR'S DESK - a weekly word about the movies                      

Monday, June 26, 2006


It's not a new phenomenon, but lately several theatrical releases in North America feature a distinct trait: that of an American man as a lazy as he wants to be.  Not that this isn't done with humor and charm, but it recalls the "slacker" mentality previously present in Richard Linklater's film of the same name, except with one crucial Clark Gable difference: these new slobs "don't give a damn."  In the film "Art School Confidential", a burned-out aging former artist played by Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent (from Britain) slums around in a dark living room, with alcohol and vomit-smeared old newspapers surrounding him.  You half expect him to relieve himself right where he sits.  Thankfully this does not happen, but one thing that is likely to occur is that this Archie Bunker-like caricature will virtually ensure Mr. Broadbent an Oscar nomination next January or February.  "Art School Confidential" is not really a comedy, but Mr. Broadbent's great performance is a comic-relief of sorts. 

Even less of a true comedy than "Art School Confidential" is "The Break-Up."  Universal Pictures slyly marketed this film as a comedy but the truth is that the only comedy in the film comes from pain and humiliation.  Jennifer Aniston stars a hard-working art gallery employee who has had it up to *here* with boyfriend Vince Vaughn's slobbery and laziness.  After a day's work as a Chicago bus tour guide, Gary Grobowski (Mr. Vaughn) comes home and slouches in his favorite couch, watching ESPN sports cable on his large widescreen television.  He cannot even accomplish the task of buying a dozen lemons.  "Baby wanted 12 lemons," Ms. Aniston's Brooke tells Gary, who has bought just three.  Gary gives little thought to whether he is inconsiderate and uncaring.  He ridicules Brooke when he says that "you're suggesting to me these are just show lemons?"  Gary just wants to be left alone in his idyllic slumber, while Brooke does all the dirty work.  At one point Gary incredulously asks, "why would I want to do the dishes?"  Gary's bottom line is that he simply wants Brooke to accept who he is, and love him for who he is.  This is a challenge that Brooke decides would be best left to someone else, and she promptly breaks up with him.  ("The Break-Up" is the second film in three months in which Ms. Aniston is faced with a lazy guy who is content to watch her work.  In "Friends With Money", Ms. Aniston's character is a housemaid who reluctantly shares her earnings with a personal training gym instructor (Scott Caan) who doesn't lift a finger to help her while she cleans people's houses and apartments.)

The current North American box-office chart-topper "Click" features a hard-working family man whom, while not lazy, enjoys the simplest of simple things when it comes to navigating the household appliances and appendages.  Adam Sandler plays Michael Newman, an architect working all hours to make partner at David Hasselhoff's company.  All he wants is peace and quiet at home and for the appliances -- namely the television -- to turn on with the right remote.  In a living room dotted with several remotes, Michael does not directly get to turn on his television with the right one.  Fed up with this inconvenience, he heads to Bed, Bath and Beyond and gets a universal remote that does much more than turn on his television set.  Michael works so hard that he even uses the new remote to fast forward parts of his life, and his future.  Michael isn't necessarily lazy, he's afraid to face his life and endure what ups and downs it may have to offer.

Finally, next month, Owen Wilson, who voiced the speed demon car character Lightning McQueen in the smash hit "Cars", will appear on screen as Dupree, in "You, Me and Dupree."  The film, which stars Matt Dillon, Kate Hudson and Michael Douglas, is about Mr. Dillon's character's long-time best buddy Dupree, who is suddenly out of work and out of luck and whose only choice is to inhabit the house of Dillon and Hudson, who play a married couple.  Dupree is a slob who parades around in his underwear, and brings some of his temporary girlfriends to the house for some recreational adventures.  From the trailers for this film, Dupree seems to be an approximation of Gary Grobowski: a lovable mensch. 

Who knows why the lazy boy mentality is coming back now in some American films?  With actors like Tom Cruise doing the heavy-lifting and all the action stunts he can handle in the recent "Mission: Impossible III," (and let's not forget Brandon Routh flying around the planet as Superman in "Superman Returns,") perhaps this string of current films is a counterbalance for all those who like to take things easy -- just a little too easy.


Omar P.L. Moore
The Popcorn Reel