Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The South rises again ... in comedy

I've never considered myself much of an elitist (which would be pretty friggin hard to do since I see at least half the movies that come out, even sometimes when I'm fairly certain they're gonna just be really bad), but one thing I've never been able to bite on is the "Blue Collar" comedy crew.

Now, I can appreciate in at least small doses Ron White, who - staying true to his character - called in from the road a few years ago just about blind drunk at 2 in the afternoon on a weekday for an interview with our former entertainment writer Maggie Large. But I've been waiting for some time for a brand of Southern comedy that paints things a little less broad and a lot more askew.

And thanks to Jody Hill, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green and Ben Best, I'm convinced it's finally here. It started, of course, with Tyler Perry, whose mix of humanity, hilarity and drama just hooks me every time, but he's really an empire unto himself and probably best left apart from what I'm talking about here today.

The latest example comes with the very welcome news that veryfunnymen James Franco and McBride will be reuniting for something to be called "Your Highness," and from the premise alone I can tell it's gonna be right up my alley. Green, who last directed the duo in "Pineapple Express," will direct the comedy about two "spoiled and arrogant" princes (Franco and McBride, I'd have to assume) in medieval times who are forced to go on a quest to save their family and kingdom from the spell of an evil wizard. I'm laughing at that already.

The production will begin shooting July 20 in Ireland, from a script by McBride and Best, a very funny guy in his own right. I'm not sure you can call it fall-down funny (although that "Myrtle Beach drunk" line just made me howl out loud), but I unconditionally loved what Best, McBride and Hill came up with their first flick, "Foot Fist Way." More a portrait of a guy struggling with life than a straight-out comedy, it's still just a really entertaining little flick (and if you rent it and don't like it, which is entirely possible, please remember before you complain to me that it's only 82 minutes long.)

And you can still watch all six episodes of the recent series the trio cooked up for HBO, "Eastbound and Down," online for free without too much effort (I'd try to find a link, but I don't want to risk steering anyone to anything that might fry their computers.) Like "Foot Fist Way" it takes as its hero an extremely hard-to-like guy, a former Major League ballplayer (McBride) forced to return to his North Carolina hometown and none too happy about it. Again, this certainly isn't for everyone, and it got mixed reviews at best, but I just like their very funny but not insulting view of Southern life.

And Mr. Hill, of course, will try and hit the big time next week with "Observe and Report," but I have a feeling that like "Foot Fist Way" that one's gonna have too much of an edge to make a whole lot of money, even with Seth Rogen and the always-thoroughly-welcome Anna Faris in the leads. Here's hoping I'm wrong, and that this new Southern comedy wave continues to ride high. Peace out.

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