Between the vulgarity of current-day Sausage Party’s and the sincerity of last night’s Home Alone, Middle Man strikes a timeless comedic balance that will appeal to both Bad Moms and Mrs. Doubtfire’s alike.
The directorial debut of Ned Crowley, Middle Man follows the comedic pursuits of Lenny Freeman, an accountant who dreams of becoming a famous stand-up comedian. After the death of his mother, Lenny hits the road to Las Vegas for an audition where he picks up a mysterious hitchhiker that leads him down a path of murder.
Despite the film’s harrowing description, Middle Man is first and foremost a comedy. However, what separates Middle Man from most current comedies is its cleverness and depth. Dark issues such as murder, rape and sexism are utilized in a comedic fashion to reveal their underlying absurdity. The film doesn’t rely on punchlines, but rather excels on its ability to reflect the ridiculousness of real-life circumstances which prompt these real-life issues.
Central to the film is the discord between classic comedy and a new crass of comedy. Lenny, played Jim O’Heir, is an earnest man who wishes to make people laugh the way Burns and Allen did. However, it becomes apparent that dick jokes are all the rage now. Yet, despite the demeaning nature of these jokes and the characters’ acknowledgement of it, they continue to be drawn towards them, as if they are all a part of the same abusive relationship.
With nearly every comedy in 2016 rated R or PG-13 for crude humor, this abusive relationship continues to fester. Like an angst-ridden teenager, the film-going audience has fallen in love with Bad Boys, rebelling against the clean and innocent predilections of its parents. This, however, is not just a phase. The number of crude comedies continues to increase each year, worsening the polarity between Uncle Buck and Bad Grandpa.
Dick jokes aren’t inherently tasteless as evidenced by the biggest dick of them all, Biggus Dickus. However, most dick jokes today lack substance. Every dick joke in Sausage Party is flaccid, with the film’s humor relying exclusively on the concept of food being profane. In contrast, Monty Python adds a layer of self-control as well as a Roman historical narrative to its dick joke. As such, comedians should do as the Romans do: if going dick, make it thick.
A return to form, Middle Man is as thick as they come. The film tributes the past while thriving in the present, finding the sweet spot between Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters (2016). With a concept that could have easily turned into another Tammy, Middle Man has the balls to go hard and make its dick jokes thick.