You have unintentional comedy. Can't you have unintentional drama, too?
OK, so "unintentional" isn't exactly the right word, but here's what I mean: Say you're making a comedy. Not one of those intellectual Annie Hall comedies or dark Coen Bros. comedies, either. I'm talking Will Ferrell-esque. So you're making a comedy, and you set yourself up with a pretty ridiculous premise that, essentially, is little more than a backdrop for funny lines/situations/actions of hilarious actors/etc.
Now, if you're making a good comedy, you realize this. Sure, you might complete the plot, but you know the audience doesn't care if Ron Burgundy covers the big story, or if Miles Monroe assassinates The Leader('s nose), or if Billy graduates and inherits the Madison hotel fortune. They're there for funny. Period. As some guy once said, make 'em laugh.
So you treat the plot as such. It's just kinda there.
But if you're making a lesser comedy, you get the silly notion that your story actually matters.
Like in Semi-Pro, which I finally saw recently, prompting this whole rant.
(Pic found at Canada.com)
Semi-Pro shoulda been called Semi-Good (ho ho ho), because its opening third is hilarious. Just hilarious*.
*Best line, on whether a guy who sat on the bench for an NBA-championship team deserves credit for winning a title: "I mean, if you watch a porn movie, doesn't mean you got laid."
Then the story -- about an American Basketball Association franchise trying to earn its way into an NBA-ABA merger -- takes over, and nearly all the funny fizzles.
A message to you comedy-makers:
We. Don't. Care.
Yes, some ... films ... can fit a terrific plot with loads of laughs. But others seem destined for comedy-and-nothing-else glory, yet can't let go of the story. And if you're like me, you're standing up in the theater/your living room, throwing junk at the screen and screaming, "Why'd you take my funny away?!"
Some other offenders:
-Wedding Crashers: Maybe the absolute worst, just for how sickeningly schmaltzy it gets near the end. The final wedding scene is just gag-worthy. Ugh. I get mad even thinking about it.
-Old School: Needed more, um, "wrestling," and less "will they save their frat and show up a pre-Ari Jeremy Piven?"
-Knocked Up: Yes, I know Judd Apatow likes to say things in his movies, but the whole third-act "I'm gonna get my life together" turn is pure comedy killer. Plus, the ending itself is just eye-rollingly unreasonable. Here's hoping Funny People doesn't fall for the same things as it goes for "comedy with MEANING."
... and now for something completely different, the all-time greatest example of a comedy that just doesn't care about its plot and isn't afraid to let you know it:
-Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The end.
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