On behalf of my gender, I just want to say, sorry about the whole penis thing — the way it’s been the centerpiece of our attention since, you know, time began.
We’re working on it.
Long ago, it was called phallic worship. It was a religious thing. At least, that’s what the high priests told us in every ancient civilization from Ancient Greece to Japan. But now that we live in a highly secular and cynical era, in which we couch everything mythical, truthful and sincere in self-referential, knowing and quippy code, well, things have changed.
That means we have to practice our faith by watching Judd Apatow comedies such as “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “Superbad.” And I have no doubt my fellow dudes will flock in numbers to watch “Funny People,” Apatow’s latest, starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and others.
We’ll be encouraged by the high priests of our time — movie critics — who will assure us this movie is a moral allegory about male vulnerability. Or something. But we know what it really is — and let me pretend to quote Joseph Campbell: an encounter at the altar of our own personal obelisks.
In the movie, Sandler plays George Simmons, a highly successful comedian and moral burnout who has let Mr. Happy rule his life. He has used his celebrity drawing power to bed any woman who feels the need to have a personal encounter with a star. But he’s left without a family. And the doc just told him he has cancer.
There’s your moral allegory. George learns what a bad guy he’s been. But luckily for the audience that sure won’t be coming to this movie for life lessons, he gets way worse before he gets slightly better.
That includes hiring gag writer Ira (Rogen) whom he treats alternately like dirt and his best friend, and using his diagnosis to get some pity — not to mention something else — from Laura (Leslie Mann) an old flame who is now married with children.
And because Ira not only plies his trade as a standup, he lives with fellow comic Leo (Hill) and sitcom actor Mark (Jason Schwartzman), so there are jokes galore about that bulging pocket elephant in the living room of their daily thoughts.
The real point of the movie? You guessed it. Major jokey worship of the Thing That Stands Tall — or the thing we wish stood taller. There are many jokes, too, about feelings of physical inadequacy, most of them coming from George.
If Apatow lived in the age of Osiris, he’d probably be a high priest in some phallic cult. Picture ancient followers coming from miles around to hear him expound on the sheer mastery and procreative wonder of … you know. And imagine, also, the Egyptian equivalent of Beavis and Butt-head — both eyes on one side of their heads like the paintings — har-har-harring somewhere in the back row.
Unfortunately, those chortle hounds are the ancestors of the pimply masturbators who are the consumer mainstays of the Hollywood industry. And there’s my gender again. This constituency might be easy to dismiss as part of a seamy sub-world of humanity. But bear in mind we are talking about the same people who, one day, will become the adults, parents, friends, co-workers and even captains of industry. We don’t even have to remind you that also includes the president.
Scared by all this? Well, so are we. That’s why we’re working on it. Honest.