Comedy Commentary: The Post American Pie Geek Comedy

Gail Spencer

Talking Pictures alias







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Example of 2014: In Security

American Pie was hugely successful as a franchise but it has been responsible for spawning similar (and better), ilk which is aimed at the funny bone of the hapless male bumbling his way through life and relationships. We are talking here not of the Slacker generation who made an art form out of doing and being nothing but dawdling philosophers. The demographic for the male geek comedy is middle aged (35-55), middle class (educated and professional) with a good wage/income bracket, but with eternal bachelor tenancies, regardless of relationship status.

They have taste, good women - also of professional status, read notable gadget magazines and love good company and porn (usually). The British nods to this phenomenon were encapsulated by the novels of Nick Hornby and in the films 'About a Boy', 'Fever Pitch', The Bridget Jones films, and the wonderful High Fidelity - set to London, transferred successfully to Chicago.  The issues are about maturity, self-discovery and the acceptance of the inevitable but with some gags thrown in. Often, if not always the plotlines are very far-fetched, as with Hot Tub Time Machine - the film that fits within the mould but throws some science fiction in for good measure. The film served as a kinda salute to Back to the Future.
The in jokes are so widely applied so as to assure cult status note the raging success of Anchorman which is one of the best and funniest examples. Using the term 'guns' for arms is inspired and the plot and dialogue SO LUDICROUS so as to ignore the blatant and forgivable sexism in the story. It is one of the funniest films of the last ten years with strong competition from hilarious first cousins Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers and 40 Year Old Virgin.  Kings here are the Ben Stiller vehicles Zoolander and Tropic Thunder which are definitive examples of modern comedy at its best.

The comedies can also include the documentaries 'Jackass' which are extremely funny in spite of being stomach churning and retch inducing (note a character attempting to drink fresh horse spunk in Jackass II).  The Hangover is aimed at the same market but has not got the clout of the examples posed here. The sequel was awful. In Security though shares some of the best elements of its brethren:  good casting, comedy timings, and a funny as hell storyline. It can get violent - but this is absorbed by the comedy.

In Security   

Director (s): Evan & Adam Beamer.        94 mins

The premise is simple: two guys running a home security high street business are in the wrong business in the wrong town. There are no robberies and hence no need for them.  Kevin and Bruce are different men and in reality would find it difficult to run a business together. Kevin (Ethan Embry)has a committed relationship and is feeling the pressure to up the ante a bit by his long suffering and fancy dress costume seamstress girlfriend Lena (played by Clea DuVall). Bruce (Michael Gladis) is different and has no commitments but has an addiction to a video game.

He is though the engine of the relationship and is the most proactive in the story movement. Not surprising as this is the actor of the film with the biggest recent credentials: Michael played the ad executive (Harry) in seven seasons of Mad Men. His character there has the frustrations of being part of the creative team and the sense of demotion from the upper echelons of management. His capabilities are more stretched here with the responsibilities of carrying most of the comedic meat of the film, with the exception of the brilliant turn of Cary Elwes as the torturing villain. Kevin is the developmental role with his friend always being the boldness and bravery until the third act.

The story is told in retrospect/flashback with Kevin on a tropic location explaining his riches to a group of listeners having just listened to the story of Vinnie Jones (sitting with arm broken and in a brace). This is a very redundant part of the story with no reference made to Vinnie again throughout the film. He has a skydiving moment which must have something to do with compromise and money: there must have been a moment when an agent somewhere pitched for his inclusion as a comedy performer of the high jinks variety, otherwise this offensively talentless individual should not be in the same room as the others in the film. Since the ridiculously immature and successful 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' Vinnie Jones has found his nasty way in the most inappropriate comedy vehicles. He is on screen for about five minutes but has top billing. He is one of the few blots on the otherwise flawless landscape of this superior comedy, the other being the near cameo roles of the excellent Adam Arkin and Ed Begley Jr. not having enough to do. Ving Rhames (Marcellus in Pulp Fiction) is lovely as the policeman and the two other heavyweights in the film should have been handed some sub plots with gravitas to make them a little more pivotal than they are.

The sequences where the guys are going around robbing their neighbours are genuinely intense and funny: with the porn snatching very credible. The rival IDT Security firm and their use of the term 'bitch cocks' to describe their competition is right on for the geek comedy of type as is the password to a fenced and resold computer  'cockandballs.' It is impossible to go through a comedy of the Geek variety without references to guys being gay, the slang names of genitalia being used as pet names for each other and without the hen pecked male put under pressure to grow up. The character of Lena is more sympathetic than most, though her irritating use of the term 'family' to describe a couple grates after a while and it is true to form that her character should irritate both us and the unattached male: Bruce. It is always nice in a geek comedy when the central character has a female counterpart as in 40 Year Old Virgin where the girl sold gadgets on EBay to the guy selling in a tech store.

The story is of the same ball park as 'Be Kind, Rewind' the Jack Black feature where the onset of tragedy is averted by delving into dubious illegal behaviours, this being equally as funny and given the right treatment destined to have the cult status of BKR - though 'Sweding' did help that particular Geek Feature pass into the realm of cult iconography.  What helps this is the presence of the cult actor Cary Elwes, (The Princess Bride), looking middle aged after his heyday but turning in a great performance as the killer with a fetish for kitchen gadgetry. The torture sequence is funny in spite of its gruesomeness as we watch a recently chopped finger going into the deli slice.

All the right references are here with all having a ball in the process. Not quite in the same league as the top notch efforts mentioned in this piece but way ahead of The Hangover II, which was a waste of time and money. Let's hope that the franchise ends there.

All films mentioned are available to rent on Amazon.


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