A few nights ago, we had "man-movie" night at the old homestead. Man-movies almost always tend to involve gratuitous violence, hot babes, lots of blood, and some incarnation of Arnold Schwarzenegger. And I must confess, they're usually fun.
First up was the latest Rambo, which franchise seems awfully dated. Was there ever a time that John Rambo's interminable silences, punctuated by the occasional grunt, were entertaining? The beginning of this one was reminiscent of Ahnold in Conan: the Barbarian. Remember, that's the one where he doesn't speak the whole first half of the movie, and when you spent the rest of the movie begging him not to. Well, he and his movies got better, and this one does too.
Anyway, it does perk up. First of all, the formula has been updated. The villains are now the Burmese generals. In a sign of the times, Rambo grows in self-understanding. But don't let that stop you: there's violence and gore aplenty with clots of unidentified body tissue galore at points, including an evisceration we had to watch twice. And by the end of the movie, a chord is struck. By the way, no babes here, just an earnest missionary.
In an age of moral relativism, there is something pure and noble in Rambo's simplistic adherence to his code: rescue the good, the oppressed and kill the evildoers, even if it means facing unrealistic odds and dying in the process. I'm not suggesting that killing is good in any fashion, but I'd like to posit that Rambo was so successful in its day because it appealed to that part of us that wanted to believe that Americans were good and noble people. Watching him now evokes nostalgia.
To shake up the evening, the next one was a variant of the man-movie in which bathroom humor, farts, and belches are considered hilarious: Witless Protection, the latest Larry the Cable Guy opus. I had really enjoyed his Health Inspector. This one wasn't as hilarious, although it does have its moments. Here, too, there's a message. The clueless, bumbling Deputy turns out to be the hero who outwits the millionaire villain and corrupt FBI types. (Sorry if I gave it away.)
It's interesting really. These unlikely fellows are in fact very much in the tradition of the archetypal hero, called from their conventional lives, journeying to the abyss, battling the darkness, facing themselves and returning transformed. They are also truly American- the quirky everyman, the underdog, taking his life in his hands to fight the evil establishment in the name of truth and justice.
Nothing wrong with that. At least it was a break from the artsy foreign stuff that we usually watch around here.