Every once in a while I have to trash a movie that I haven’t seen–on the theory that if I don’t want Inky readers to waste their money on it, why should I? Last year it was Girl With a Pearl Earring, which turned Vermeer’s enigmatic painting into a victimology flick starring Scarlett Johannson looking as though she wanted someone to beat her on her bee-stung lips.
This year, it’s “The Aristocrats.” No, I have no intention of paying good money to watch 100 (or is it 1,000?) famous comedians on the order of George Carlin and Robin Williams tell a revolting sex-and-scatology joke about children having sex with their parents and the family dog, even if Salon says it’s “art.” I don’t even get the joke (I’m told that the punchline is “the Aristocrats”–what’s so funny about that?). Indeed, I’m so naive that when I saw an ad for the film in the newspaper, I misread it and thought it was a re-release of “The Aristocats“–the 1970 Disney cartoon about snooty kitties.
So it was a delight to read, right in the Washington Post, that someone else is not amused by the flick’s obsession with pedophilia/pet-o-philia–and that someone happens to be the Post’s own No. 1 film critic, Stephen Hunter. Here’s what Hunter says:
“What does [‘The Aristocrats’] tell us about show biz?
“Well, it’s simple: They hate us. They, the performers, hate us, the audience. As absolutely no one has pointed out, the joke seethes with hostility and anger. It’s a viper strike, a toxin-laden arrow at its target and like many weapons of mass destruction, it reveals far more about its source than its victim.
“They hate us because that masks something so much deeper: that they fear us. And they should fear us. If they can’t entertain us, we’ll destroy them with utter cruelty and indifference by the simple act of looking elsewhere.
“The joke, as many will know, is based on the sexual and scatological destruction of a family unit. It involves a family man — a dad, usually, but the trick of the joke is the improvisations its tellers invent, and so the point of view drifts — who comes into an agent’s office and offers him an act that will knock his socks off. Then he either narrates or, in some variations, with the full family involved, performs a variety of sexual, scatological, sadistic, masochistic contortions, all described in loving detail (the movie loves the details!), at which point we reach a punch line reported 95 times….
“What you see here isn’t so much sexual neurosis but career neurosis. You see the entertainer’s fear and loathing of that regular place most of us would call the world. He hates the square ideas that are the foundation of such a place: the family structure of parents nurturing kids in healthy, loving relationships, the economic underpinning known as a job, attended regularly rain or shine, sickness or health, out of some wretched sense of obligation, the slow socialization of children so that they can ultimately survive in that same world.”
Thanks, Stephen, for saying what a lot of people must be thinking. I recommend spending your ticket dollars instead on “Valiant.” This is a movie you can take your kids to instead of shield them from. It’s a simply lovely piece of Disney animation about the homing pigeons who flew messages behind enemy lines for the British army during World War II. Adults will adore the lovingly recreated period detail, and children will adore the story. My favorite lines came when one of the pigeons, the streetwise coward Bugsy, decides his military mission is too dangerous and plots to return to his home on Trafalgar Square.
“We weren’t around when they started this,” Bugsy says to his pint-size wood-pigeon pal, Valiant, pointing around to the giant tanks and guns from the human conflict that dwarf the two birds.
Valiant replies: “We weren’t around when they built Trafalgar Square, either.”
Says it all about the brave Brits, doesn’t it?