Egon, my hero…I know the kind of movies I’ve done, and I know the kind of movies I’ve been doing, but when people have asked me the kind of movies I want to do, I’ve always had a hard time putting the genre into words.
I’ve called it “smart stupid movies” or “comedies about something” or “thematic idiocy”. None of those phrases comes close, however, to the accuracy of a line I read in an interview with the most excellent Harold Ramis.
He calls a movie like Groundhog Day a “madcap redemption comedy”.
Not all of his madcap redemption comedies are great. One is kind of bad, actually. One is good. Groundhog Day is absolutely brilliant. Frankly, I’d happily put my name to a thousand bombs if only to be associated with one Groundhog Day (Ramis shares screenplay credit with Danny Rubin).
What I love about the phrase “madcap redemption” is that it shines a light on why I love comedy so much. While I love a good spoof movie (duh), comedies that allow us to laugh at the tragedy of our own existence…and then give us hope that idiots like us can win…well, that’s my kind of story.
It’s nice that William Wallace can paint his face blue and white, kill a field full of Englishmen and then get his guts ripped out and die for our sins, but there’s something more illuminating about Bill Murray learning that just because life is meaningless doesn’t mean we are, individually, without purpose.
Why? Because he’s not a superhuman. He’s an all-too-human. He’s us. The heroes of comedies are shlumps like me and you. That’s why I love Tootsie and The Ref and There’s Something About Mary more than I like, say, MASH or Being There or Dr. Strangelove.
Don’t get me wrong. I like those last three movies a whole lot. It’s just that I’ve always found good satire to be thought-provoking, good spoof and farce to (hopefully) be gut-busting, and good madcap redemption comedies to be just…wonderfully satisfying.
Granted, this is all personal preference. On the other hand, I’ve been lucky enough to work on some madcap redemption comedies in the past (all yet to be produced), and I’m working on one right now that is getting made (no, not Scary Movie 4…if you bug me about which one, I’ll tell you in the forum), so I hope this begins a trend.
More to the point, I hope that Ramis’ definition actually catches on as a genre-definer. These kinds of comedies should be made more often.
Next up…a belated report on that WGA East/West compromise. Following that, a bunch of Q&A’s, and then hopefully another production-related article or two, as I’m now back in Vancouver.