Apparently, Transformers 2
is loud, dumb, stupid and possibly even downright terrible, if you're talking to Roger Ebert
at least. The second installment of Michael Bay's robot franchise made about a bazillion dollars yesterday, and if the box office totals are any indication of what's to come, it should easily outpace Wolverine
as the biggest domestic movie of the year. The divide between critical reception and commercial profitability has always and will always exist, of course, at least in a Capitalist society fixated on escapist, easy to digest entertainment; however, the sheer virulence of some of these reviews is, at the very least, noteworthy.
More often than not, big-budget, light Summertime popcorn fare is condescended by critics who use phrases like “disposable, yet watchable”, “sort of charming in its obnoxious, widespread appeal” and my favorite, “fun, in a juvenile kind of way.” But, you know what, these movies--not necessarily Transformers 2
mind you--need to exist. We can't all watch The Squid And The Whale
everyday. Well, I suppose we could, but that wouldn't be much fun. Whether it be music, film, literature, television, or even women, there's a time for The Beatles, American Beauty
, The Crucible
and the Southern Belle, just as Transformers
, The Devil In The White City
, American Idol
and the floozy behind the bleachers find their place in adding balance and levity. From Mack Sennett's Keystone Cops to Matthew McConaughey's backwoods love connection, movies can provide escape from the cold and pause from the rat race. We all have our favorite guilty pleasures, pleasures we maybe shouldn't feel so guilty about. Here's a look at some of the more popular genres of escapist motion picture and a few of the movies which have come to define them…
The Big Budget Effects-Driven Event Film
Not to be confused with the straight-up action movie which we'll deal with later, the big-budget expensive, hard on the ears and easy on the brain event film, has been wowing audiences like a traveling circus since that chariot race scared the shit out of your grandmother during Ben-Hur
. These visual phantasmagorias are often big on scope and light on details, choosing to do a lot of things decently, rather than a few individual ones well. Since mass appeal is the ultimate goal, the event film often includes romance, violence, comedy and elaborate set design to hook the largest amount of people possible. Think Pearl Harbor
, Top Gun
, Con Air
and, of course, the first Transformers
The Slapstick Comedy
without the subtlety and whodunit, the slapstick comedy was enormously popular in the early 1900s thanks to a tiny man with bizarre facial hair and oversized clothing named Charlie Chaplin. The Little Tramp first appeared in the short Kid Auto Races In Venice
, infuriating a cameraman losing shot after shot as Chaplin found his way into the background of every take. Never worried about being too lowbrow or capitalizing on poor taste, people falling down is usually hilarious. Just ask Mr. Bean.
The Teenagers Growing Up Flick
Sometimes set in the past, Dazed And Confused
, sometimes set in the present, Superbad
, movies about teenagers are sweet because drinking, smoking and getting laid in a basically consequence free environment becomes more and more fun in retrospect. Personally, I'd rather worry about the head cheerleader noticing me than coming up with eight hundred bucks to pay my half of the rent, but then again, I've never really been the responsible sort. And since I can't go an entire article without including a Mean Girls
quote: Did you see a nipple? It only counts if you see a nipple.
The Raunch Comedy
As The Hangover
has proven over the last few weeks, we all still have an insatiable thirst for booze, boobs, and boys-will-be-boys get out of tasering free cards. Occasionally with a little intelligence and heart (The 40-Year Old Virgin
) but usually just with plenty of borderline distasteful sex cracks (Bachelor Party
), the raunch comedy is my personal favorite escapist genre. How else we're you going to spend your Saturday? At the Home Depot? No, get out the beer bong. You'll do one. And if you have a problem with that, I suggest you leave the party and take your acoustic guitar with you before John Belushi shows up.
The Sports Movie
We are the Titans, mighty mighty Titans. Whether it be Rudy making that last meaningless tackle or the 1980 US Men's Hockey Team beating the goddamn Soviets, watching our favorite team win is a great time, right up there with slip n slides and unprotected sex. Often very formulaic and worthy of one to two montages, I suspect the sports movie works so well because of how easy it is to incorporate a wide variety of personalities. The Hanson Brothers might not hang out with Paul Newman during the offseason, but during games, they're forced to interact, often with hilarious repercussions. Now, go fight for that inch, line up for the flying V, and hope to God Danny Glover adopts you and your friend J.P..
The Action Movie
Not to be confused with the big-budget effects-driven event film we discussed earlier, the action movie incorporates the more violent elements, dropping most of the budget and special effects for extra tibia breaks and Johnny Cage one-liners. In all honesty, it's probably my personal least favorite of all the guilty pleasure escapist genres, but based on how many times I watched my roommate watch The Quest
, I know a lot of dudes are down with head butts and explosions. That being said, don't talk shit about 3000 Miles To Graceland
Jackpot, Man Candy!
Jackpot, Man Candy! movies are always romantic comedies, but romantic comedies are not necessarily always Jackpot, Man Candies! It's a subgenre, like bacon into meat or Katherine Heigl into bitches. The only firm criteria, of course, is a man who, in the eyes of at least some women, is perfect. This is naturally more complicated than dealing with hot chicks since ninety-eight percent of men in the world would no-strings-attached sex with Megan Fox immediately, but no more than thirty-three percent of women would bump uglies with Matthew McConaughey, given the choice in a consequence free environment. Still, he gets his own Jackpot, Man Candy! films like How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days
, as does John Cusack (Say Anything
) and Richard Gere (That one written by Nicholas Sparks that wasn't The Notebook
). Hell, Patrick Dempsey even got his own TV show.
Because sometimes it's too damn hot for the seven year old to ride his bike, the free babysitting flick, which is only vaguely related to Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead
, is a classic of not only the Summer but cinema itself. From live action, family-friendly comedies like Night At The Museum
to marginally-passable animated flicks like Madagascar 2
, free babysitting does its job, entertaining adults in the process and occasionally, accidentally shrinking a few kids. Sorry, honey. Rick Moranis was more fun than playing 13 Dead End Drive. (Editor's Note
: The above statement is not true. That game kicked ass.)
What's your favorite escapist genre? Vote in the poll below to tell us your thoughts…