This whole business is a symptom of a broader culture in which things that are funny can’t possibly be good, and vice-versa. Think of this year’s Oscars. “The Squid and the Whale,” Noah Baumbach’s wonderful serio-comic film, received the only comedy nomination in any of the major categories. The only one! Out of like 30! If you want to find any other comedy at all, you have to look at the animation category. I guess if it’s funny, it isn’t art.
Of course, this is self-reinforcing. If a funny prestige film gets no prestige, then why try to make funny prestige films? Even the best comedies of the last few years, films like “School of Rock,” “Rushmore,” and “High Fidelity” are ignored. “Sideways” slipped through, but it was about hoity-toity stuff, which pretyt much gives it a pass. I remember watching the good-but-not-great “In Good Company,” and being shocked. Not because it was a shocking film, but simply because I realized I was watching a comedy that was trying to be a good film.
When no one’s trying to make something good, the cream of the comedy barrel ends up being semi-improvised mish-mashes like “The Wedding Crashers.” There’s a place for movies like that, don’t get me wrong, but the pile-of-jokes thing gets old after a while. I mean, I liked “Old School,” too, but I feel like I’ve been watching it over and over for five years.