DID YOU READ

Disc Covering: “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It,” an Apatow spoof, allegedly.

Disc Covering: “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It,” an Apatow spoof, allegedly.  (photo)

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Last week, the New York Times commemorated the 30th anniversary of “Airplane!” with a slideshow by Matt Zoller Seitz. After three decades, the spoof movie should be reaching, if not maturity, since that seems a poor choice of words in this case, then at least a refinement of form and style. But it just hasn’t happened; I’d argue the spoof movie is in a worse place now than at any point in its 30-year history.

Exhibit A of my argument: the new straight-to-DVD Judd Apatow parody “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It,” which may be the single worst spoof ever, worse than “2001: A Space Travesty” and “Meet the Spartans” combined. Anyone who thinks imitation is the sincerest form of flattery has never seen this movie.

06292010_virgin6.jpg“The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall And Felt Superbad About It”
Directed by Craig Moss

Tagline: Extra Virgin Unrated: Better Than Regular Virgin!

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: A send-up of Apatow movies, and by send-up I mean 75 minutes of recycled jokes and a bunch of gratuitous nudity and pop culture references.

Salable Elements: In the films of Judd Apatow, a clearly defined movie brand to make fun of; a cast that of lookalikes convincing enough to make you do a double take as you walk past the box in the video store.

Biggest Success: The producers found an actor who looks and sounds exactly like Jonah Hill (Steven Sims). And, uh, the title’s kind of clever, I guess. It’s even spelled correctly.

Biggest Failure: It’s not that the movie has a single biggest failure, it’s that the movie itself is the single biggest failure in spoof history. A spoof is supposed to have fun with the clichés of a particular genre. “The 41-Year-Old Virgin” simply repeats scenes from Apatow’s movies with more nudity, vulgarity and a smattering of racist humor. So a guy who looks like Seth Rogen and a guy who doesn’t look like Paul Rudd reenact the “You know how I know you’re gay?” scene from “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” with some extra dildo jokes. And a guy who looks like Steve Carell gets his chest waxed. And there’s a guy who looks like Christopher Mintz-Plasse in “Superbad” and he’s got a fake ID with the name “McAnalovin” on it. And so on. Director Craig Moss doesn’t make fun of Apatow’s movies so much as he makes use of Apatow’s jokes.

06292010_virgin4.jpgWorst Moment: Sarah Marshall (Mircea Monroe) thinks that Andy (Bryan Callen) has impregnated her. For a while, they seemed like the perfect couple; they both enjoy Shirley Temples and farting (note: this is not a joke, neither by me nor the movie). But their relationship takes a turn for the worse when Andy’s friend who’s aging in reverse like Benjamin Button has sex with Sarah in his place (don’t ask). Eventually, Sarah confronts Andy at a Hawaiian resort where they’re both taking a vacation. Even though she thinks Andy impregnated her just one day earlier, Sarah has an enormous prosthetic baby bump. Andy is understandably confused. So how’d she get so big so fast? “Oh, I’m half-Mexican,” says Sarah.

Poor Mexico. As if poisoning their Gulf wasn’t bad enough.

Special Features: The “Virgin” disc’s sampling of extras includes a featurette on the film’s special effects department, in case you ever wanted to know how to make a vomit cannon, and a short making-of doc, where Moss and co-writer Brad Kaaya defend their work. While considering the project, the pair took a meeting with David Zucker who, they claim, explained how modern spoof movies work. Says Kaaya:

“[Zucker] takes a simple storyline and then makes fun within that storyline, whereas a lot of the newer movies are just a bunch of pop culture references grabbed from everywhere…so what Craig and I tried to do was sort of combine those two. And that’s where the Judd Apatow throughline kind of made sense. We’d use his storylines as a thread and then we can make pop culture references outside of that story for the comedy.”

First, if you need David Zucker to explain what a spoof movie is, are you really qualified to make one of your own? Second, his explanation, at least as relayed by Kaaya, makes absolutely no sense. It implies that the newer spoofs don’t have storylines, but, of course, they do; they’re just not any good. What really sets the ZAZ spoofs apart from their lesser progeny is the fact that the characters in their movies were people we cared about and sympathized with instead of simple walking gag factories. Also, they were funny. Maybe Zucker was so offended that two guys were making a movie off his legacy without even bothering understand his work that he gave these guys bad advice on purpose.

06292010_virgin2.jpgWorthy of a Theatrical Release: No. Even though “The 41-Year-Old Virgin” is an Apatow spoof, at least half the jokes are random grabs from the pop culture landscape that have nothing to do with his movies: there’s the aforementioned “Benjamin Button”-esque character, a “Dr. Phil” look-alike, a Yoda with giant green testicles, and, naturally, an extended “Twilight” ripoff.

Like those new spoofs Zucker warned told Moss and Kaaya about, these “jokes” don’t even have punchlines; simply recognizing these famous characters and celebrities is apparently entertainment enough. This creates what we’ll call The Friedberg/Seltzer Paradox: the only way to get any pleasure out of these spoofs is to be extremely movie literate. But if you’re extremely movie literate, there’s no way you could possibly be fooled into thinking this so-called comedy is any good.

Maybe the most annoying fact about “The 41-Year-Old Virgin” is that it feels like a missed opportunity. There are spoofable elements in Apatow movies, Moss and Kaaya just don’t take advantage of them. Instead of having the Seth Rogen character start talking like Daniel Plainview for one random scene, why not make fun of the fact that Apatow casts him in all his movies, by having that actor pop up in a dozen different roles? Or consider “The 41-Year-Old Virgin”‘s parade of bimbo stereotypes. Instead of delivering even one female character that works as a critique of Apatow’s often negative depictions of women, they’re all underdressed hooter delivery devices.

The film reeks of desperation, and not simply because its protagonist hasn’t gotten laid in decades. Most parodies try to add humor to overtly serious genres; “The 41-Year-Old Virgin” starts with funny source material and proceeds to suck all the comedy right out of it. What’s left is a parade of tired gags, rehashed material, and a lot of gratuitous nudity. (It takes the movie only 41 seconds to hit the We-Don’t-Know-What-Else-To-Do-Throw-On-Some-Naked-Breasts Button, a possible non-porno record.) If Moss and Kaaya wanted to know how to make a spoof, they didn’t have to go ask David Zucker. Instead, they could have watched one of Apatow’s own movies, 2007’s ingenious mock-biopic “Walk Hard,” the only sign of life this once proud subgenre has shown in years.

For Further Viewing: Watch a small sampling of outtakes from “Pineapple Express.” These guys throw away more laughs in three minutes than “The 41-Year-Old Virgin” manages in 75.

[Photos: “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It, 20th Century Fox, 2010]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.