Friday, June 22, 2007

God Almighty, make it stop

Now that I'm gainfully unemployed, I get to watch more television. Not that there's usually anything worth watching, but still, there are a lot of channels. And every single goddam one of them is now pimping this fucking Evan Almighty movie in some way or another. I hate that movie. I will not see that movie. Morgan Freeman is not God; he's Easy Reader. I hope God makes him pay. George Burns, too. The movie's trailer, which is supposed to show the funniest parts of the film, isn't even funny, unless you find bird shit funny, and it isn't, unless it hits a helpless person. Stupid movie, and if you go see it, you're stupid. Dummy.

And yet the publicity machine grinds along. The lowest of the many low points was a segment on Dateline NBC, in which NBC short-timer Stone Phillips pretended that the "upcoming NBC/Universal release" was newsworthy enough to merit a cringeworthy interview with Steve Carell (here's a transcript and video clips). For the segment, Phillips inserted himself into the role of Carell's Buddy No. 1, riding around with him in a golf cart on the Universal lot and clumsily ribbing him whenever Carell made the mistake of revealing any trace of his true personality.

For example, Phillips brought up the scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, in which Carell's character has his chest waxed. Carell explained why he submitted to an actual, painful waxing rather than let the effects crew set him up with phony chest hair:
"I thought the chest-waxing scene would be funny only because of the guys in the scene watching me do it. Because I figured, 'If I was really having it done, they’re gonna laugh. It’ll be horrible. It’ll be horrifying to watch.' I didn’t think the actual ripping or me screaming was the funniest part. To me, the funniest part is watching them squirm because they know it’s real."
That's a kind of insight that you don't often get. Most people would think the scene is funny because a guy is getting his chest hair pulled off, when in fact the humor comes from watching people watch someone get his chest hair pulled off. I hoped Phillips would follow up, and we could have a brief discussion of what "funny" means to Carell. But Stone's head -- so big on the outside, so empty inside -- had moved on to other things, and he decided that he was going to tease Carell about having played a middle-aged virgin "incredibly convincingly." The man has a good-looking wife and two kids, douchebag. Back off.

Later, Carell says nearly everybody can identify with the Virgin character because everyone has inhibitions of some kind. He then goes on to talk about his own greatest inhibition. As he speaks, he gets that middle-distance stare you get when you're really looking inside yourself. It's really quite moving:
"Honestly, talking about myself, because —- I think down deep or not so deep, I don’t think I’m a very interesting person. I don’t think this will be ..."
... at which point Canned Ham Phillips jumps in with "Are you being serious now?" For just a second, a who-is-this-asshole? look flashes in Carell's eyes, then he remembers who's paying him, and he goes along with it. Again and again, stuff like this would happen. Carell described an embarrassing incident from childhood -- one that you can tell sticks with him to this day -- and Phillips treated it like a "bit."

Another exchange demonstrated just how dim Stone Phillips can be. Carell joked that Evan (fucking) Almighty will be "the best motion picture in the history of the world" and predicted that "this movie may make $1 million. And that’s a lot of money." Phillips, apparently having never seen Austin Powers, blunders in:
"Well, I hate to break the news to you. You know, Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey pulled in $240 million in this country at the box office."
And you realize that Stone Phillips has no idea what's funny, or why it's funny. If Carell had said he thought the movie would make "$999 trillion dollars," Phillips would have laughed his big pussy head off. Because that's such a big number! There's no way! But going with a ridiculously low number? I don't get it!

Eventually Carell himself wearied of Phillips' act. The breaking point came when Stone Phillips, in a line of reasoning I have no doubt he wrote down for himself, suggested that Carell had some insight on the story of Noah's ark because, I shit you not, he'd once been a mailman:
Phillips: "You know, I read that before you became an actor you were a mailman."

Carell: "I was."

Phillips: "Now, if any job could prep you to play Noah, it’s gotta be delivering the mail. I mean, what mailman has not had to deal with some ornery animal?"

Carell: "Stone, I would say that’s a stretch. I would really say that’s a stretch, connecting the whole mailman thing with Noah. I don’t know, what are you reading?"

Phillips: "Well, I was thinkin’ ... I was looking through your bio ..."

Carell: "Noah and the mailman? Come on. OK, all right, all right. I’ll go with you. Yeah. Being a mailman was so much like being Noah because I had to deal with -- I had to deal with lots of animals. Yeah."

Phillips: "Now, you’re getting the hang of this."

Carell: "And I remember one time I was delivering the mail and it rained for 40 days. And my mail truck floated away. But luckily, all the dogs in the neighborhood had climbed onboard. And I saved them. So there really is a direct correlation."
Leave the comedy to the professionals, I say.

What does this have to do with football? Nothing! It's the offseason. You want something about Pacman Jones? Fine: If the charges stick and he goes to prison, then, just like the strippers he loves to watch, he's gonna wind up with his ass wrapped around a pole. Good enough?

As for Stone Phillips, all I can think of is what Klaus Kinski wrote about Werner Herzog in his memoir nearly 20 years ago:
"I despise ... Herzog. ... He should be thrown to the crocodiles alive! An anaconda should throttle him slowly! The sting of a deadly spider should paralyze him! His brain should burst from the bite of the most poisonous of snakes! ... Big red ants should piss in his eyes, eat his balls, penetrate his asshole, and eat his guts! He should get the plague! Syphilis! Malaria! Yellow fever! Leprosy!"
Klaus Kinski wouldn't have liked Stone Phillips, either.

UPDATE! David Plotz takes down Evan Almighty as the anti-faith, pandering, cynical piece of shit it is at Slate. Required reading.

No comments: