There's plenty of studio hand-wringing and noose-tying to go around as movies about the Iraq War yield one box-office bomb after another. But a feature in this week's Village Voice reveals a new strategy for getting over those wartime blahs and rolling back into the black: Make 'em laugh! Not that the heirs to Dr. Strangelove or M*A*S*H are any new breed, of course, but if we can't cash in on grave exposes of torture and failed diplomacy (not to mention Ryan Phillippe's abs), we may as well have fun with them, say filmmakers like Morgan Spurlock:
"It's the Mary Poppins idea that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down," [Spurlock said]. In his latest nonfiction adventure, Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?, Spurlock recounts the U.S.'s long history of backing despots and dictators by showing an animated Uncle Sam drinking at a bar with "our S.O.B.s" like the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein. "If you put these things in a straight historical context," says Spurlock, "you would turn people off." ...
In our highly politicized climate, even Harold and Kumar have become divisive figures, with conservatives calling the new film "anti-war" and "left-wing pan-terrorist pap." But the filmmakers say their movie is ultimately patriotic, neither right-wing nor left-wing. As [H&K writer-director Hayden] Schlossberg says: "In what other country can you write dick jokes and shit jokes for a living?"
That hilarious sense of ironic detachment is definitely killing in Iraq, where at least 54 civilians died Tuesday in four car bombings around the country. We suspect civilian deaths are the next taboo to fall in mainstream American films, with wrenching docs like Taxi to the Dark Side, Iraq in Fragments and Blood of my Brother all supplying more than enough footage for a fake trailer spinning funeral processions and angry rallies as rabid international demand for John Cusack's upcoming imperialism send-up War, Inc. Wait — what? That's not funny, you say? Oh. Sorry. I guess we really are out of touch around here.