When Jake and I first started dating, we both really wanted to see Dick Tracy again. For me, it was one of those childhood movies I always remembered. Even as an adult, I still carried images of gangsters in brightly-colored suits and a young Madonna in skin-tight black lace. Jake at least carried images of the latter, as well, so we scoured Blockbuster until we found a copy and watched it together on my couch. Surprise, surprise: it was still good—great, actually, and fun to watch.
I caught it again last night, and again, I couldn’t pull my eyes away. It’s like stepping into a vintage comic book. The bright cartoon colors seep into my brain, and I’m hypnotized. I adore the offbeat performances by some of Hollywood’s elite, including Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Dick Van Dyke, and James Caan. Madonna as the hot jazz vocalist is stunning, and Warren Beatty looks dashing in bright yellow. More than that, it’s a simple battle of good versus bad with violence, action, suspense, and a big romantic smooch before the curtain closes. It’s got something for everyone, including a glorious score by Danny Elfman!Then, today I realized … there aren’t any cuss words in Dick Tracy. There isn’t any blood. No nudity. In fact, this gangster flick is rated PG! And it’s still a total blast! Can you say that about any action or gangster movie made in the last five years? I don’t think so, Tim.
Jake brought this up a couple weeks ago after we watched Date Night. Date Night is funny. I was entertained—thoroughly, during certain scenes—and I would recommend it to comedy fans. But Jake made a good point. He was annoyed by the penis jokes. He wanted to know why movies have to push the envelope. Why do we have to take it far and then go just a little further? The penis jokes could have easily been dropped. In fact, they felt forced and not funny. Does Hollywood think we like penis jokes? That we can’t live without them? I’m beginning to think so.
When we discussed Date Night, we went back to a shared favorite, Old School. Yes, Old School is not for kids, but in the vein of Dick Tracy, Old School never went too far. There weren’t any awkward dirty jokes that went on too long. The dirty jokes were subdued, in comparison with recent comedies I’ve seen. The nudity wasn’t crude. The drinking scenes were harmless, and cuss words were made laughable by use of “earmuffs.”
So the question remains: will we ever go back to movies like Dick Tracy, or do we require gore, profanity, and penis jokes to get us through a film? Jake is getting sick of it. I’m getting sick of it. I bet there are other people who are sick of it, too.
The funniest parts of recent comedies are the parts that make the mundane comical. Case in point: the best scene in crude, rude Get Him to the Greek was the “stroke the furry wall” bit. The best scene in Old School is the “you got a dart in your neck” montage. The best part about Dick Tracy is … all the parts, because it hails back to honest movie-making before morality and artistic ability went out the window. It’s like The Sting in fluorescents.
And maybe my love for movies like Dick Tracy does go back to childhood, when my parents showed me immortal classics like Harvey, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Arsenic and Old Lace. These films required no cuss words. They required no blood. And they sure didn’t resort to penis jokes. I hope modern directors soon realize they don’t need to either, because unfortunately modern film is no longer evolving—we’re going in the other direction.