Here’s a secret about Jason: Despite being a controversy magnet, the guy is a sweetheart. He saw that Nick had challenged me with Grave of the Fireflies, a film I understand to be almost are cheery as Schindler’s List, and opted to cut the depression with a comedy.
Poor Jason. I haven’t seen Grave of the Fireflies yet, but I can’t see how it can be any more depressing than the stale fart that is the poorly titled Funny Farm.
In Funny Farm, Andy (Chevy Chase) is a newspaper sportswriter leaving The Big City with his young wife to start a family and write The Great American Novel. Andy drives a pristine ‘50s convertible that no newspaper writer in the history of forever could afford, and has received a hefty advance from a publisher based on nothing. Either Andy is a very big deal or this is movie indulges in Lord of the Rings-level fantasy.
And so, Andy and Elizabeth head out for The Country. Andy is all earnest excitement and bliss (not exactly Chevy Chase’s strong suits) while Elizabeth is supportive but less than enthusiastic. Why does this seem so familiar?
By the end of the opening credits, the movers have gotten lost. Andy and Elizabeth end up spending their first night in their new house sleeping on the floor (and with Elizabeth hiding the last of the fruit from Andy). The movers attempt to cross an ancient covered bridge, which almost collapses on them. Comedy?
I wrote the phrase “comedy?” in my notes repeatedly during this film. Writer’s block, a sheriff who has to take a taxi because he keeps failing his driving test, the phone company installing a pay phone into someone’s private residence, finding a coffin in the garden, getting a bill for the proper burial of said coffin – I swear, these are the jokes. Even the pratfall gags, something that used to be Chevy Chase’s bread and butter, are weak and half-hearted.
At one point, Andy and Elizabeth try to cheer themselves up by getting a dog. The dog promptly runs away. This isn’t any more or less unfunny as the items I listed above – I just called it out to reiterate my longtime belief that dogs are terrible pets.
For the life of me, I don’t know what Funny Farm is supposed to be about. I can tell you that it’s not a fish-out-of-water story or about life on a farm – there’s no “farm” in Funny Farm (no “funny” either). If the film is about the quirks of small-town living, then it’s pretty insulting and depicts no actual small town in this plane of existence. If it’s about professional jealously, it’s a thread that’s followed for 15 minutes and then completely dropped. I guess one could make the argument that it’s about Andy and Elizabeth’s relationship, but that’s only somewhat applicable in the back half of the film, and even then the resolutions are abrupt and completely unearned.
A perfect summary of Funny Farm comes at the halfway point of the film. It’s Andy and Elizabeth’s anniversary, so Andy has rented a romantic cabin for the two of them so… Elizabeth can read his newly finished first draft. Right now. We watch Elizabeth read – gripping! She turns the page, and Andy says, “You’re not laughing. You didn’t find that funny? There are at least three big laughs on that page alone!”
It was like the screenwriter was talking directly to me.
It turns out that Andy’s “action-adventure-comedy heist” just makes Elizabeth cry because it’s so terrible. You can tell that the filmmakers meant for this to be so very funny, but that just makes the scene even more of a tragedy.
Damn, that movie sucks. Am I feeling vengeful, Jason? Find out next month as you prepare for my KAIJU ASSAULT. I challenge you to Godzilla: Final Wars!