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Monday, March 7, 2016

A Wealth of Humor & the British Museum

A Greek temple in the British Museum

Last month, I went out to the cinema to see "Zoolander 2." Although it was completely silly, I enjoyed the original "Zoolander," starring comedian Ben Stiller and was really looking forward to the sequel. Unfortunately, like "Night at the Museum 3," which was set in the British Museum, the nonstop gags were so completely over the top that I could never believe in the underlying reality of the story. The movie should have had a lot to make me love it. Like "Night at the Museum 3" and "Paddington," "Zoolander 2" was set in places I would like to visit someday, such as New York City and Rome. Instead, I merely watched it, and laughed with (or at) it.  But I was never into "Zoolander 2." The sequel was just a lot of gags to me. 

Sadly, the movie didn't even make me believe in the places where it was set. After seeing "Zoolander 2," I feel no greater desire to travel to New York City or Rome than I did before. That seems like another missed opportunity for the filmmaker. For even if you don't particularly bond with a character or a story, a TV show or film can often make a viewer want to visit a given location, based on how the place is presented. A person can even fall in love with a TV series or movie they initially disliked, simply because they believe in that particular place, and have come to love it.

Filmmakers set out to make a movie that everyone will want to see, and work hard to cram in as many laughs, or explosions, or dramatic moments as they can. Yet undergirding everything must be a good plot, and believable characters and situations. Sometimes a filmmaker needs to sacrifice a few gags, a few laughs, a lot of visual dazzle, or great dramatic moments in order to tell that story. Otherwise, it's just fake, and falls flat, no matter how much you like the lead actor, or the idea behind the story. 

This becomes especially important when you've got a movie featuring a star comedian, and other big name comedians in secondary roles. Everyone wants to get their jokes, gags, and silliness in the movie. Yet too much humor can stop a plot cold, and knock the viewer out of the story, as proved the case, at least for me, in "Zoolander 2."

If a filmmaker can restrain himself (or herself), and cut out everything that's good that doesn't service the story, he has a chance of doing what "Paddington" did for me: draw me into a live-action story centered entirely around an animated bear who can walk, talk, eat marmalade, illegally emigrate from Peru to England, fight off a malicious taxidermist, and find an adoptive home there. If he can do that, he can probably do one more thing that "Night at the Museum 3" and "Zoolander 2" failed to do: make me want to see the place where the film was set, such as London's Natural History Museum in "Paddington."

Do you agree with me? Have you ever found yourself re-watching a TV series or movie in which you didn't like the characters or the story because you found the place where it was set appealing?

Dragon Dave

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