What we’re watching: B- and C-grade comedies

by chuckofish

In the past few weeks, DN and I have watched a couple of new-ish comedy movies that have been pretty-OK. Given my lackluster feelings toward most newer films, pretty-OK feels like a win!

The first, The Spy Who Dumped Me, might have been graded on the curve of vacation-viewing. We watched it from an Airbnb bed while on our road trip in Nashville. In other words, we were very relaxed and expectations were low. In whatever context, though, it hit a few key notes: first and foremost, spy movies (particularly spy comedies) seem to be a genre that pleases many viewers in our family.

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Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon together do not add up to the appeal of Melissa McCarthy (who could?), but they are, overall, quite likeable. Mila Kunis finds out that a boyfriend who has recently ghosted her was actually a spy, and he gives her an assignment just before being assassinated. (To give away the first twenty minutes or so.) Novice-spy hijinks ensue. The plot stops making sense around the third or fourth twist, but if you don’t think too hard, it doesn’t really matter, right? Some of the gags are actually funny. I will note: the frequency of f-bombs would probably offend my mother.

We also recently watched Long Shot after I read a review claiming it was the most underrated romantic comedy of 2019. I would make a similar assessment to the above paragraph: the main characters (played by Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron) are likeable. Seth Rogan lands a spot as a speech-writer for Charlize Theron, the Secretary of State, after running into her at a party and realizing they were childhood neighbors. (To give away the first twenty minutes or so.) Political hijinks ensue. The plot stops making sense around the third or fourth twist… you see what I’m saying.

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Long Shot loses points along the way because of its politics, I’d say — with very, very thinly veiled representations of current affairs (a former-TV-star president; a female Secretary of State and president-hopeful), it lost me when it tried to swing from blatantly liberal vibes to a “but everyone is OK” tone. It attempts to challenge some political stereotypes, but only at the expense of doubling down on other stereotypes. The pivot is strange and make you wish they’d just stick to making fun of Republicans (or whatever).

I think part of the mistake of the “pivot” is that it takes place at all. It marks the point at which we began to wonder when this movie would end. At least 30 minutes too long, it sort-of-ends about three times. Such a common problem! I can’t help but agree with this writer who declares that all movies (particularly bad movies) should be 97 minutes long. As I think I’ve suggested, there is a time and place (vacation Airbnbs) for B-grade comedies. But that B-grade comedy shouldn’t go past 100 minutes.

Before the holidays, we considered seeing Knives Out in theaters, because several friends had strongly recommended it. We never found the time, and I do wonder now if it would skew more B-grade or C-grade in terms of some of the appeals (and turn-offs) I’ve mentioned here.

Well, I just checked: the run time of Knives Out is 130 minutes. Sounds like 30 minutes too long to me.