Saturday, January 31, 2009

A theory in comedy – Hot Fuzz [2007]

Hollywood likes to believe that there are simple formulas for creating a good movie. If you splash something up on the screen featuring X, Y and Z – you’ll have a box office success. Sometimes it works – usually I find those movies are the kind that I tend to roll my eyes at. Like the current box office champion Paul Blart: Mall Cop – it doesn’t look like it’d be very good – but for whatever reason it is a big successes at the box office and Hollywood believes that we want more of that particular kind of film.

And I believe the formula for this kind of film to be: Funny character + Funny situation

The jokes should write themselves, right? What can’t you do with someone who takes his boring job too seriously – and uses little kitty band-aids to bandage the little nick on his arm?

The only problem is – this film will not gain any following after it has left the theaters. People will have heard of it by the big marketing campaigns – and make snap judgments on it from the initial trailers. The people who will want to see it – will have seen it – and the people who want to buy it will buy it – but no gains. And I argue the studio will be selling the DVD at a hefty discount by Christmas time.

The actual formula for making a lasting comedic film I believe is: Serious character + Serious situation

Hot Fuzz – another film where the main character takes his boring job too seriously – but this time – the boring job is a serious job. Nicholas Angel is trapped in a serious situation in the small town of Sanford where the murder rate is so low but the “accident” rate is so high. Of course the situation he’s stuck in becomes more absurd – but the premise never is.

Nicholas Angel is also the straight man in the film to the eccentric townsfolk who are the comedic foils. He nary cracks a joke that wouldn’t be found in a serious or respected action film – and that’s giving him too much credit. The funny thing about Hot Fuzz is the situation becomes more absurd as the characters around him become more serious – and that creates even more comedy.

Hot Fuzz is the kind of film that people will point out in the movie store proudly and say – “hey, have you seen that one?” – because it’s overlooked. There’s no big marketing campaign behind it – and it didn’t become a blockbuster (at least not in the States). And outside of Timothy Dalton - someone who doesn’t follow movies will wonder where they’ve seen certain actors from Hot Fuzz before. It’s sneaky that way.

Hot Fuzz is the kind of film that picks up more fans as it hits DVD – and potentially becomes the bigger moneymaker. Okay, now I’m probably in my own little dream world with that statement – but that’s how I think it should be.

Am I off my rocker about this one – or did I mess up my whole theory? If anyone is reading this – what do you think about the: serious character + serious situation = lasting comedy theory?

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