Rich Cicci

WILDLY FRUSTRATED: The good, the unfunded, and the Paul Blarts of the movie business

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There is a certain nuance that can be found in small or independent films. Yes, the budget may not be as much as a larger movie would receive from bigger studios, but then those filmmakers can create the type of movie they want to make without interjections from producers and higher-ups. Their story doesn’t have to be watered down or shoehorned in an attempt to satisfy a mass-market fan base.

Kevin Smith’s “Clerks” became such a success because of how it was shot, how it was written, and how it was directed. James Gunn’s “Super” is a superhero film like no other. Its unique story, stylized visual cutaways, and graphic content ensured that no major studio would touch it. Filmmakers like these and others need those smaller studios to help get their movies out to the public, but what happens when that isn’t the case? What happens when a film has already been made but it doesn’t have a studio distributor?

Jemaine Clement, the creator of the acclaimed HBO series “Flight of the Conchords,” and Taika Waititi wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the comedy/horror mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows.” What they did not do was find a studio to distribute the film in America. Two articles ago, I wrote about how Hollywood doesn’t want to take risks on films that aren’t guaranteed moneymakers. This is one such example. Knowing their finished product was entertaining, and after being rejected by distributors not wanting to take a chance, Jemaine went to the one place he knew he could find support: the Internet. Clement and Waititi started a Kickstarter to bring “Shadows” into the light. *rim shot*

To make a long story short, Clement and Waititi were able to hit their goal, but even that limited their movie’s release to a few major cities. The one positive to this story, besides that it was funded, was that it made its way into the Top 20 after playing for five weeks in the U.S. and Canada. I, for one, will be waiting for its Blu-ray release with a fistful of money to throw at it. It’s a shame that this movie will not be seeing a nationwide release; however, the burden of this blame falls on Hollywood.

Why is Hollywood to blame for this? Five simple words: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2!” Yes, my friends, the sequel to 2009’s reviled “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” is upon us, and it’s seeing a nationwide release. In this rehash of the original abomination, the aforementioned mall cop relocates to Las Vegas. This should come to no surprise to anyone who has turned on a television or stepped foot into a movie theater in the last two months as its studio has spent millions of dollars on advertising this shit-fest!

From what we can see in the trailers, this film appears to be another farcical fart-romp starring Kevin James. I feel that it needs to be said that I have nothing against Kevin James. I enjoy his stand-up, and he has done some really funny work – and who am I to deny a man a paycheck – but why does it have to be this one? I just cannot understand why a Hollywood studio would sink so much money into a film like this (which it will probably never recoup) instead of financing more creative and original films for less. Remember Clement’s case – he was only seeking money to distribute a film which he had already completed. All a studio would literally have had to do for his film is advertise and send copies of it coast to coast.

Another thing I cannot wrap my head around is why such a sequel even needs to be made. Does the average movie-watching public truly want to see James, or any actor for that matter, debase himself by falling down repeatedly and be subjected to continuous fat and buffoon jokes? I love good old-fashioned slapstick! I was raised on reruns of the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and Abbott and Costello. This is not slapstick. True slapstick comedy was practically an art form in and of itself! None of those comedic teams ever lowered their standards that much for the sake of cheap laughs from the audience. Now, if that’s what the audience really wants to see, then they might as well start drinking Brawndo because the “Idiocracy” truly has begun!

However, I went to the movies recently and the trailer for “Paul Blart 2” began playing. There was not one single laugh, chuckle, or chortle in that packed theater. Do you know what that tells me? That tells me that there may still be hope for humanity. Hopefully enough people will buy a ticket for any other movie besides this celluloid vomit on its opening weekend (or ever), sending a message back to the studios. A change in Hollywood needs to happen. Chances and risks need to be made.

In this current climate, the legendary films of yore would never be made because they would be too much of a chance to take. If “What We Do in the Shadows” is too risky a movie to merely distribute, what chance would “Blazing Saddles” or any other famous comedy have in ever being made?

Wildly Frustrated is a recurring column that takes a lighthearted look at rage-inducing and blood-boiling topics focusing on, or surrounding, various forms of entertainment, media, and possibly the world around us. It’s unleashed on Thursdays on NEPA Scene.