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DYING IS EASY; COMEDY IS HARD

If you and I were to get together with thirty of our friends, the room would contain thirty-two opinions on what's funny.
    One person will think that puns are the highest form of humor. His neighbor will consign  puns to the lowest level of the Inferno. Another guy will miss the pun entirely, but laugh like a kookaburra at the ethnic joke. (After all, one man's Mede is another man's Persian.)
    One thing we might all agree on, if regressed far enough through therapy or deep hypnosis, is that most of us started our laughing careers by snickering at bodily functions. Remember? There was nothing funnier than a poop reference or a flatulence noise, especially if coupled to a mention of the human hinder parts, when we were between the ages of three and eight.
    After that we began to get curious about sex. Even though it was too early to have any hands-on experience it just sounded funny, and it was what everybody else always talked about, so we made jokes about it until it became deadly serious for us too, at about age fourteen. (It took a few decades before we could laugh at sex again.)
    Hollywood producers are a nostalgic lot. They believe that mature audiences are dying to re-live experiences they had while being potty trained, or while making hideously embarrassing mistakes with the opposite sex, and will pay lots of money to laugh at the reminders. And the producers are not talking through their hat: in our control group of thirty-two, at least a half-dozen otherwise very nice people will be looking for exactly that.
    Fortunately for that puerile twenty-something percentile of the population, Mike Myers (the Dean of Arrested Development) was able to persuade Michael De Luca Productions that it was a pretty good risk to make “The Love Guru.”
    Unfortunately for Mr. De Luca, I fear that a much smaller percentage is likely to show up to watch Mr. Myers burlesque a Hindu spiritual leader from the Beatles era by coming up with many amusing euphemisms for excrement, and sight gags where dessert resembles male genitalia.
    Is anybody up for this? A few well-known stars are, including Sir Ben Kingsley, where one of two things applies: either he is spoofing his Oscar-winning performance as the Mahatma Gandhi by crossing his eyes and peeing in a bucket, or he's thinking of the rupees that are ka-chinging into his retirement account.
    And I've heard enough about Jessica Alba's terrible acting from everybody I know. I think she is an accomplished actress who takes direction splendidly, because the director constantly orders her to gaze adoringly at Mike Myers while he makes yet another limp tumescence joke, and she does that very well indeed.
    I'd say something here about Mike Myers's career being at an end, but I've been saying it since he was on Saturday Night Live, and I keep getting proved wrong. Apparently our hypothetical twenty percent is just enough to keep him going.
    Another example of the nostalgia syndrome is being screened down the hall. There are a few things wrong with “Get Smart,” but the wrong things don't end up making it a bad movie, just a long one.
    First off, I want to have a word with my coevalists, the Baby Boomers, who grew up watching 60s TV: just because it's different doesn't make it bad. No, the movie is not the show we  remember, but we didn't have the underwear jokes.
    To begin with, Steve Carrell is much too likable as Maxwell Smart. Likable, and talented: the guy has comprehension, timing, and delivery, which are the basics of comedy, after the REAL basics of falling down and breaking wind and wetting yourself.
    “Get Smart” has a whole lot of chases and fights and adventure stuff that are very well done, but they belong in a Matthew Bourne movie rather than a Maxwell Smart comedy. Does that bother me? No, it just helps me re-imagine Maxwell Smart as a really smart Agent 86 for a change, who's trying like hell to be cool and attractive to Agent 99, which was the whole point to begin with.
    Anne Hathaway, who is one of my favorite young performers (in spite of the let's-get-famous-by-stealing-a-familiar-four-hundred-year-old-moniker wheeze),  is smooth and svelte as Agent 99.      Alan Arkin, one of our greatest character actors, is along for the ride, so mazeltov to him - even though he has to pilot a plane with no punch lines for most of the last reel.
    The plane shows us some great exterior shots of Frank Gehry's new Disney Concert Hall in LA, and the interior shots are also authentic. And here is a spoiler, one that nobody will complain of:
    How do we know before Smart does that the bomb is under the piano on stage during the Beethoven Ninth?
    Because there is no piano in the score of the Beethoven Ninth.
    A few weeks ago I wrote about preposterous things that are put into movies for fun; here's an example of a preposterous thing that's just unresearched. Who cares? I do, and maybe you do too.
    Is Comedy dead? No, it just keeps shifting. If the joke isn't funny, wait a minute.