OCTOBER 1, 2008
In honor of my friend’s birthday, I chose Drowning Mona to kick off October Extras 2. Why get someone a card or a present when you can write a review of a movie you watched together 7 or 8 years ago (a review they probably won’t even read)? Makes perfect sense to me.
It wasn’t until I wrote down the “Last seen” date that I realized it had been so long since I had watched this minor masterpiece. But like most comedies, I don’t watch it very often, because I’d rather still find the jokes funny when I put it on. I love Christmas Vacation, but if I actually laugh once when I watch it now it’s a miracle, due to watching it every day as a kid. I can (and have, apparently*) recite that movie in my sleep at this point. Still though, 6 years is too long, especially for a film as jampacked with little jokes and throwaway lines as this one. I’m still hearing lines said under the breath by off camera characters that I had never caught before, which is pretty awesome.
It’s a shame that the movie tanked in theaters (and apparently never got a second life on DVD; few people I speak to ever remember it), but I can see why it was a tough sell. Black comedy is never easy, and in this case, the jokes simply aren’t “trailer ready”. There’s very little in the film that one would find amusing when taken out of context. And the lines that DO work on their own (“Dude, she’s thirteen!” says the hero. “Yeah, finally!” his dimwit friend replies) aren’t exactly the type of thing that would make a general audience want to see the film. “Hey, let’s go see that comedy about a dead woman and a pedophile!”
But for those lucky enough to have seen it, man, is there a better movie to quote from the past ten years? The following paragraph won’t make any sense unless you’ve seen it.
“No, no, no, no! He’s not a sheriff!” “Yeah well you snooze you lose.” “Shit salad?” “We need milk.” “Peaches ran over Jeff?” “Cuz his name don’t start with P!” “Don’t do it, it won’t feel good!” “Can’t you do a brotherly de-boning?” “One less won’t kill her.” “He said... ovaries?” (and the response: “Oh yeah, all the time.”). “Is that with Kurt Russell?”
And then, my all time favorite: “I’m married?”, which was a line from Tracey Walter’s character (my still unproduced animated series has a running gag that is an homage to this character/line). Walter is one of the many great cast members in the film; another reason why it’s relatively obscure status puzzles me. You got the great William Fichtner in one of his few comic roles, Neve Campbell as white trash (mmm), future Oscar nominee Casey Affleck (in a role he disowned, the fucker), and even Will Ferrell in a rare supporting role (this was back when he would play a character, not just surround himself with sports stuff and yell a lot). A mere eyebrow raise and nod from him here is funnier than anything in Semi-Pro.
Of note to horror fans, it has a couple of Halloween connections. Jamie Lee Curtis is obvious, but also Raymond O'Connor, who played the hospital guard in Halloween 4 (“Jesus ain’t got nothing to do with this place!”), pops up as a priest. And Neve, of course, is best known for the Scream movies, which owe their existence to Halloween (this movie came out right around the same time as Scream 3; it was a good month for me, who harbored a severe crush on the lass until she decided to disappear off the face of the earth.).
If you enjoy irreverent and dry comedy, this one should be in your collection. The DVD is probably like 2 bucks nowadays, and has some nice extras (a good commentary, some deleteds, etc). But if you don’t think an establishing shot that features a car driving backwards (at full speed) is funny, I guess you should stick to the cinematic talents of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.
What say you?
*At a party a few years back, I passed out on the couch while watching Christmas Vacation with a few others. Later, I was informed that I was still mouthing the lines, even though all evidence pointed to me being asleep. Awesome.