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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

July 29, 2010 at 10:46 AM

For comedies, how long is too long?

Went to “Dinner for Schmucks” last night, and while it’s not bad (some very funny performances, including two scene-stealing turns by “Flight of the Conchords” alums Jemaine Clement and Kristen Schaal), it suffers from a common problem in Hollywood comedy these days: It’s too long. There is, of course, no prescribed length for a movie, though most of them tend to be more than 75 minutes and less than three hours, and I’m not about to say what length “Dinner for Schmucks” should have been. But it felt long and a bit padded, despite the charm of Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, with stretches that just didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Same has been true, in recent weeks, of “Cyrus” (which was otherwise quite good), “Grown Ups” (less so), “Sex and the City 2” (also less so) — a vague sense that the movie needed tightening-up, a sharper editorial eye. I don’t know if we blame Judd Apatow here (many of whose movies notoriously need a 20-minute trim), or self-indulgent filmmaking, or maybe a sense that, with movies as pricey as they are, audiences want something close to two hours. (Do you?) I’ve no objection to long movies necessarily — I think David Fincher, for example, does wonderful things with nearly three hours (“Zodiac,” “Benjamin Button”) — but I think, in general, comedies should err on the side of being snappier. Better to leave the audience wanting more than to wear out your welcome, no?
The always wise Roger Ebert has written (I may be paraphrasing a bit) “All bad movies are too long. No good movie is too long.” He’s right, but there’s a category in the middle: the mediocre movie that could be better if it were more tightly paced. What do you think? Seen anything lately that just felt like it would have been better if it had been shorter?

Carell and Rudd, eyeing a book of “mouseterpieces.” (Photo credit: Marie Weismiller Wallace, copyright 2010 DW Studios LLC)

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