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Dumb and Dumber To Is Missing the Original’s Magic Idiocy

In the mid 1990s, self-appointed cultural gatekeepers used to wield Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s Dumb and Dumber as proof of the deterioration of film artistry. Those people hadn’t, of course, actually bothered to see the movie, and thus had no sense of its peculiar, sweet-spirited, un-toilet-trained brilliance. Times have changed, thank God, and today Dumb and Dumber is rightly considered a classic, a number one deserving of a proper number two: In Dumb and Dumber To, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, best friends who share a few thousand brain cells, give or take, between them. They’re 20 years older, if not 20 years wiser, and though their faces have aged appropriately, both look more or less the same as they used to, Lloyd with his chipped tooth and cereal-bowl bangs, Harry with his bird’s-nest mop of hair and half-perplexed, half-disgusted scowl.

But something’s not right. There’s a vague sourness to Dumb and Dumber To, uncharacteristic of the Farrellys — even their Three Stooges movie, for all its eye-poking and nose-doinking, was filled with bratty affection. In Dumb and Dumber To, the moments that underscore Lloyd and Harry’s devotion to each other feel overwritten and forced (even if they do include a few instances of wholly selfless diaper changing). The two spend more time dishing out sharp jabs to the nuts and semi-advertently killing off tropical birds than doing sweet stuff like smelling each other’s farts — although there’s a little of that, too. The plot — in which Harry and Lloyd leave their beloved Rhode Island and set off in search of the daughter Harry never knew he had, a ditzy dish with an overachieving grin (Rachel Melvin) — moves efficiently enough; it’s the movie’s lackluster spirit that lags behind.

That’s a shame, because there are more than a few inspired gags here, exuberant in their go-for-broke idiocy: Lloyd refers to Harry’s long-lost daughter as “the fruit of your loom.” The two phone each other accidentally from opposite ends of a couch. And in a superb reprise of the genius “soup du jour” joke from Dumb and Dumber, Lloyd hears that a bar is serving drinks “gratis” and responds, thoughtfully, “That sounds expensive.” But the misfires, including a strange menstruation gag, far outnumber the hits. Dumb and Dumber To is mostly just a kick in the nuts, and not the good kind — provided there is a good kind.

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Movie 43 Will Be Passed Around Sixth Grade Classrooms for Years to Come

I saw an opening-day matinee of Movie 43 at a theater where they hadn’t bothered to put the title on the marquee, with a sparse audience composed entirely of single men, one of whom was puffing on a no-tobacco e-cigarette throughout. When I got home, I discovered that a pigeon had shit in my hair. These are pretty much the perfect circumstances under which to view this sordid sketch-comedy gang bang, slippery with bodily fluids, from a screenplay that might have been written over an all-night poker game bull session, all loosely strung together by a framing device in which an aspiring, perspiring screenwriter (Dennis Quaid) holds a studio exec (Greg Kinnear) hostage, hoping to get his obscene magnum opus made. Movie 43 was shot over the course of years by a host of celebrity guest stars doubling as guest directors, though official attribution goes to Peter Farrelly, who handled the leadoff skit. Setting the tone of what’s to come, this involves Kate Winslet on a blind date with Hugh Jackman, who unwraps his cashmere scarf to reveal a neck goiter that looks like a scrotum and testes, which he proceed to dip into drawn butter. What else? More stars than It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World! More body horror than the Cronenberg filmography combined with Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies! The blank, shoe-button eyes of Seth MacFarlane! It’s the kind of thing you feel you should laugh at through a phlegmy, hacking cough—and it does get laughs, if inconsistently, predictable given the circumstances of production. And where most movies fade within hours, I see a bright future ahead for this sui generis work, which will be passed around sixth grade classrooms by odd-smelling kids for years to come. Nick Pinkerton

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Vulgaria

According to the industry’s self-reflexive examinations, film is either the golden height of human imaginative endeavor or as profane and crazy as a meth-addicted stripper. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo casts filmmaking as a soft-focus bricolage of Art Deco robots, adventuresome orphans, vaulted ceilings, and soulful, tortured artists. By contrast, Pang Ho-cheung’s Vulgaria documents the industry with a catalog of insane, mule-fucking gangsters, sexagenarian soft-core actresses, inappropriate product placements, and Pop Rocks–augmented fellatio. Wai-cheung (Chapman To), a second-rate Hong Kong film producer, secures financing for a last-ditch, career-salvaging skin flick from a Cantonese gangster with quadrupedal sexual proclivities and fond memories of the previous century’s porn actresses. Meanwhile, Wai-cheung’s ex-wife is trying to restrict his access to their daughter; his improbably dumb assistant is suing him for sexual harassment, and his actress girlfriend might be making time with his film’s lead actor. The broadness of the film’s comedy might be largely attributable to the conventions of Hong Kong cinema, but to American audiences, the film has an exaggerated notion of its own raunchiness. Although bluntly transgressive, it never actually shows anything as gross as the bodily fluids splashed around in Farrelly Brothers movies—not a complaint—and many of the jokes, particularly with regard to the differences between citizens of Hong Kong and mainland China, are dependent upon familiarity with Asian culture. The framing device, in which Wai-cheung is a guest speaker in a college course for aspiring film producers (which, OK, whatever), becomes its own B storyline, concluding with a pretty good callback joke that emphasizes the film’s self-awareness.

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The Three Stooges: The Movie

For Bobby and Peter Farrelly, the low-comic connoisseurs whose brand name-establishing debut was 1994’s Dumb and Dumber, this antic, dozen-years-in-the-making Three Stooges feature must be a labor of love tantamount to Mel Gibson filming his Passion. The Holy Trinity of knockabout numbskull comedy—fritz-haloed Larry, yipping lummox Curly, and bowl-cut fascist Moe—are introduced as they’re ditched on the steps of an orphanage. Twenty-five years later, they’ve grown up to resemble, respectively, television comics Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos, unleashed on the unsuspecting world when the only home the unclaimed foundlings have known is threatened with foreclosure. The trusty old emergency-fundraising plot (see: the Farrellys’ Kingpin) is just a handy rack to hang gags on, and the leads acquit themselves in the physical comedy, resurrecting shtick honed on a thousand-and-one vaudeville stages, and recreated in as many playgrounds. Never accused of being visual stylists, the Farrellys shoot with a straightforward clarity that approximates the rudimentary, slightly-shabby feel of the Stooges short-subjects, while adding a little mushiness that’s entirely their own. Beyond some CGI-augmented violence, the biggest concession to updating the Stooges for the 21st century is a subplot that lands Moe on a reality TV show, identifying the Stooges’ contribution to our pop-culture as part of an ongoing tradition of tone-lowering public jackassery.

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Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s The Heartbreak Kid

More of a re-mix than a re-make of the Elaine May-directed 1972 original, Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s The Heartbreak Kid seeks to rekindle There’s Something About Mary‘s critical and box-office magic by casting Ben Stiller as a newlywed sporting goods salesman and newcomer Malin Akerman (a blonde Diaz ringer with long, loping legs and a wide open smile) as his errant bride. Leaving the Jew/Shiksa conundrum of the original behind, here Stiller’s Eddie Cantor marries the marquee goddess after a brief courtship, only to find she’s a bit of a mess in the fine print. On their disastrous Mexican honeymoon, he meets salt-of-the-earth southerner Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), clearly a superior option because—like Diaz in Mary—she likes sports, cracks jokes, and presumably lacks his wife’s unseemly sex drive. Misunderstandings, misbehaviors and the gloriously hit-and-miss upchuck humor of the Farrellys ensues. Some of the gags seem so desperate to shock that they’re just desperate, and the film ends about four times before it actually ends. The Heartbreak Kid is funniest when it leaves the body-humor behind for something truly subversive: a sequence of Eddie’s repeated attempts to cross the Mexico/U.S. border with a bunch of illegals and get back home is wicked, ticklish and inspired—all of the things the Farrellys should get home to themselves.

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Animal Crackers

The central conceit of Christopher Boal’s new drama could have been lifted from a Farrelly brothers movie: A crazed sister kidnaps her brother’s beloved shih tzu in the hopes of forcing him to confess to murdering her cats when they were children. But Boal approaches this somewhat unlikely situation with utter seriousness, plumbing it not for laughs but for psychological insights into the state of the modern American family. Surprisingly, it works. Director Eric Parness and his able cast oblige Boal with a taut and vigorous production, striking a note of frenzied agitation early on and carefully sustaining it for the remaining two hours. Setting his four characters through a brutal gantlet of reveals and confessions, Boal achieves that most archetypal of American character studies: the emotional unraveling of the seemingly well- adjusted individual. Patrick Melville as the successful, upwardly mobile brother is reduced by play’s end to a desperate, self-loathing child, while Karen Sternberg as his sensitive but high-strung young wife must suddenly question the very foundations of their relationship. The breadth of Boal’s insights are limited by the drama’s obsessive focus on its own contrived scenario, but by play’s end this hardly seems to matter. Long Day’s Journey Into Night this is not, but it is a tight and effective psychological drama.

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Anal Nitrate

I’m obsessed with shitting, so the wicked wake-up track on San Francisco garage outfit the Roofies’ studio debut, Blame It on the Roofies, gets me off (the toilet). Title: “Assorcism.” But what is it, exactly? I wanna put this song on repeat for hours, searching for clues: “It’s like a drug. . . . It moves my bum . . . something inside wants to come out.”

Sounds possibly like normal defecation, yet from the claims leveled by various ladies in the presong slumber-party confessional, it seems assorcism is something a little less quotidian: “I had a girlfriend who tried it,” one lady unburdens herself, and “she hasn’t stopped since.” Hmmm. I guess the good thing is that, finally, as lead singer Jibz Cameron joyously affirms, “It makes me shout!” Well all right! Combine frat-rock à la “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” Farrelly brothers lexicon, and a heavy dose of girl-centrism, and you get the Roofies, whose basically offensive name denotes not their screwy politics, but rather their pervasive, trashy levity. “Would Daddy like it?” Jibz asks her assorcist minions. “Who cares?” they call back. “I am possessed, wanna get undressed, I wiggle and squirm like a feisty sperm,” she screams.

Revamping the Sonics’ “Witch,” the eight members of this band strike out with their own “Bitch,” and they really hate this woman: “You used to be a lesbian, until you started liking men. But you couldn’t get a man, if you could buy him in a can.” Other put-downs: “You got a big-ass nose on a super-ugly face” (straightforward!); “If I was a guy, I wouldn’t let you suck my dick” (hugely insulting—don’t all guys let you suck their dicks?); and “I went to Korea, where I smelled like diarrhea—and you take smelly shit and you’re a bitch!” (The fury mounts—then, as if you’re fighting with your little brother, you finally lose coherence.)

Live, I bet, the Roofies are the kind of band you’d want to play for hours: a soundtrack for your perverted prom, where everyone actually drinks and fucks. On their record, however, the potty-mouthin’ ultimately gets so wacky it waxes dull. But it’s still kinda funny, in that p.c.-backlash kinda way. It’s not hard to feel compassion for tunes with titles like “Fleshy Surprise” and “Frankie the Shoe Fucker.” And Jibz Cameron is to be admired: Her vehement energy; huge, bratty voice; and silly, dirty, romping lyrics (not to mention her cute, comic cover art featuring tiny undesignated animals in underwear) drive the group. “The Roofies have been playing together since we met in 1963 at the Merry Music Makers Camp for Teen Sex Offenders in Pasadena, California,” she writes on their Web site. Yeah, right—actually, the band was reportedly born while the Supremes blasted during a car trip to Oregon.

As Rhino’s compilation Frat Rock explains, “Beer was [the genre’s] unchallenged drug of choice, and sex, the Braille-like subtext of the whole schmeer.” Toss in the pathos of bikinied and beehived girls’ post-Rohypnol mornings, substitute “context” for “subtext,” and you have a party band for the millennium.

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Splendor in the Grass

Cross Rushmore with Cheech and Chong and you might get Outside Providence, an unassuming fish-out-of-water, coming-of-age movie for stoners. Based on a novel by Peter Farrelly (of the Farrelly brothers) about growing up working-class in Rhode Island in the mid ’70s, it’s directed with great affection for the characters and milieu by fellow Rhode Islander Michael Corrente.

High-school senior Tim Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy) lives with his morose, bellicose father (Alec Baldwin); spunky, wheelchair-bound kid brother (Tommy Bone); and a three-legged dog in a weather-beaten house in Pawtucket. He spends most of his time getting wasted with his friends. An unfortunate accident leads to Tim being sent away to Cornwall Academy, a strict boarding school where, much to his surprise, he falls in with some hardcore potheads almost as congenial as the ones he grew up with. The only difference is that these boys are rich and college-bound. And when Jane (Amy Smart), the foxiest girl on campus (most of the time she seems like the only girl on campus), takes a shine to him, prep school no longer seems like jail. Jane likes to get wrecked every now and then, as long as it doesn’t interfere with her studies.

Nothing much happens in Outside Providence, which is one of its charms, the other being its affirmative attitude toward marijuana. I think the message is that it’s okay to party (or at least it was in the ’70s) as long as you’re not driving, but if you’re so stoned all the time that your friends call you “Drugs,” you probably won’t live a long life.

Tim eventually proves himself by standing up for the woman he loves. I guess she knew from the moment she saw him misfire a Frisbee that he was the kind of guy who would watch her back. There’s no other discernible reason for her to be enamored of him— especially not after he takes her home to meet his family and his friends, one of whom gets drunk and barfs all over Tim. That’s the only vomit scene in Outside Providence, which is quite restrained about body fluids. There is, however, one pretty funny sight gag involving masturbation and another in which someone does something truly disgusting with spaghetti.

Hatosy, who’s almost never off the screen, has a refreshingly unaerobicized bod and a broad, mobile face distinguished by teeth that look like he borrowed them from one of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things. Scruffy without being threatening, he’s the embodiment of Corrente’s vision. Originally a theater director, Corrente has a no-frills cinematic style that
relies on performance for energy and excitement. The disadvantage is that the actors, particularly the adults, work too hard. That’s especially true of Baldwin, who’s so determined to do a good job playing a character at some remove from his leading-man image that you can see his acting wheels grinding away. Watching Baldwin slumped in his lounge chair with a half-gallon of ice cream as he tries to get up his courage to say something more heartfelt to his son than “Bye, Dildo” just makes you realize what a great character actor someone like Dustin Hoffman is.

Corrente does have a knack for getting out of a scene at exactly the right moment, which is always a couple of beats earlier than you might expect. Those beats add up. An unassuming 95 minutes in length, Outside Providence doesn’t wear out the small welcome it’s won.

Just as sweet, but somewhat more sophisticated, Rose Troche’s Bedrooms and Hallways is a romantic comedy about twentysomething Londoners looking for love. Leo (Kevin McKidd) and Darren (Tom Hollander) are gay flatmates whose sexual fantasies run in opposite directions. Darren’s current flame is a buttoned-up real-estate agent (Hugo Weaving) who enjoys using the homes to which he has professional access as he would his own. It’s cheaper than doing it in hotels and twice as kinky. The more serious Leo scandalizes the men’s group he’s been attending by confessing that he has a crush on one of the members, a smoldering Irish hunk named Brendan. Much to Leo’s surprise, Brendan, who’s in the throes of breaking up with his girlfriend (the wonderful Jennifer Ehle), proves more than amenable to a new and different adventure. The problem for Leo is that Brendan may not be able to stop at one adventure.

Smartly written by Robert Farrar and performed with considerable panache, Bedrooms and Hallways could be the pilot for a television series (a gay-friendly Friends) except that it’s more chaste than some of what’s on British TV (the BBC series This Life, for example). Troche, who directed the no-budget lesbian romantic comedy Go Fish, shows that she’s capable of a conventional style when the occasion warrants. But Bedrooms and Hallways doesn’t play by the rules when it comes to identity politics, which may be what drew Troche to the material. Like Go Fish, it suggests that there’s nothing as anarchic as sexual desire, and that when it comes to love affairs, nothing is as compelling as breaking a taboo, whether cultural or personal. Bedrooms and Hallways goes a step further by proposing that the common ground between gay and straight identities is that both are mutable. Doctrinaire gays may not approve, but, honestly, c’est la vie.


Outside Providence A Miramax release. Directed by Michael Corrente. Now Playing.

Bedrooms and Hallways A First Run Features release. Directed by Rose Troche. Opens September 3.

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Splendor in the grass

Cross Rushmore with Cheech and Chong and you might get Outside Providence, an unassuming fish-out-of-water, coming-of-age movie for stoners. Based on a novel by Peter Farrelly (of the Farrelly brothers) about growing up working-class in Rhode Island in the mid ’70s, it’s directed with great affection for the characters and milieu by fellow Rhode Islander Michael Corrente.


High-school senior Tim Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy) lives with his morose, bellicose father (Alec Baldwin), spunky, wheelchair-bound kid brother (Tommy Bone), and a three-legged dog in a weather-beaten house in Pawtucket. He spends most of his time getting wasted with his friends. An unfortunate accident leads to Tim being sent away to Cornwall Academy, a strict boarding school where, much to his surprise, he falls in with some hardcore potheads almost as congenial as the ones he grew up with. The only difference is that these boys are rich and college-bound. And when Jane (Amy Smart), the foxiest girl on campus (most of the time she seems like the only girl on campus), takes a shine to him, prep school no longer seems like jail. Jane likes to get wrecked every now and then, as long as it doesn’t interfere with her studies.


Nothing much happens in Outside Providence,which is one of its charms, the other being its affirmative attitude toward marijuana. I think the message is that it’s okay to party (or at least it was in the ’70s) as long as you’re not driving, but if you’re so stoned all the time that your friends call you “Drugs,” you probably won’t live a long life.


Tim eventually proves himself by standing up for the woman he loves. I guess she knew from the moment she saw him misfire a Frisbee that he was the kind of guy who would watch her back. There’s no other discernible reason for her to be enamored of him–especially not after he takes her home to meet his family and his friends, one of whom gets drunk and barfs all over Tim. That’s the only vomit scene in Outside Providence,which is quite restrained about body fluids. There is, however, one pretty funny sight gag involving masturbation and
another in which someone does something truly disgusting with spaghetti.


Hatosy, who’s almost never off the screen, has a refreshingly unaerobicized bod and a broad, mobile face distinguished by teeth that look like he borrowed them from one of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things. Scruffy without being threatening, he’s the embodiment of Corrente’s vision. Originally a theater director, Corrente has a no-frills cinematic style that
relies on performance for energy and excitement. The disadvantage is that the actors, particularly the adults, work too hard. That’s especially true of Baldwin, who’s so determined to do a good job playing a character at some remove from his leading-man image that you can see his acting wheels grinding away. Watching Baldwin slumped in his lounge chair with a half-gallon of ice cream as he tries to get up his courage to say something more heartfelt to his son than “Bye, Dildo” just makes you realize what a great character actor someone like Dustin Hoffman is.


Corrente does have a knack for getting out of a scene at exactly the right moment, which is always a couple of beats earlier than you might expect. Those beats add up. An unassuming 95 minutes in length, Outside Providence doesn’t wear out the small welcome it’s won.


Just as sweet, but somewhat more sophisticated, Rose Troche’s Bedrooms and Hallways is a romantic comedy about twentysomething Londoners looking for love. Leo (Kevin McKidd) and Darren (Tom Hollander) are gay flatmates whose sexual fantasies run in opposite directions. Darren’s current flame is a buttoned-up real-estate agent (Hugo Weaving) who enjoys using the homes to which he has professional access as he would his own. It’s cheaper than doing it in hotels and twice as kinky. The more serious Leo scandalizes the men’s group he’s been attending by confessing that he has a crush on one of the members, a smoldering Irish hunk named Brendan. Much to Leo’s surprise, Brendan, who’s in the throes of breaking up with his girlfriend (the wonderful Jennifer Ehle), proves more than amenable to a new and different adventure. The problem for Leo is that Brendan may not be able to stop at one adventure.


Smartly written by Robert Farrar and performed with considerable panache, Bedrooms and Hallways could be the pilot for a television series (a gay-friendly Friends) except that it’s more chaste than some of what’s on British TV (the BBC series This Life, for example). Troche, who directed the no-budget lesbian romantic comedy Go Fish, shows that she’s capable of a conventional style when the occasion warrants. But Bedrooms and Hallways doesn’t play by the rules when it comes to identity politics, which may be what drew Troche to the material. Like Go Fish, it suggests that there’s nothing as anarchic as sexual desire, and that when it comes to love affairs, nothing is as compelling as breaking a taboo, whether cultural or personal. Bedrooms and Hallways goes a step further by proposing that the common ground between gay and straight identities is that both are mutable. Doctrinaire gays may not approve, but, honestly, c’est la vie.


Split Screen, indie film guru John Pierson’s magazine-style series, is back for another season on the Independent Film Channel. The success of The Blair Witch Project reestablishes Pierson as the numero uno indie rainmaker. Over two years ago, when Blair Witch was still just a figment of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s imaginations, Split Screen commissioned them to make a teaser about the film. Resourceful filmmakers that they are, they used the $10,000 fee from Split Screen as seed money for the film proper.


I can’t call myself a fan of Split Screen,which seems overly enamored of the anti-
intellectual, anti-aesthetic aspect of independent film. Something about the show encourages filmmakers, even those who should know better, to act like they’re applying for membership in a fraternity of fun-loving geeks. Split Screen also confirms the general message of the
indie film world, which is “Women keep away.” (Last season’s segment on Miranda
July was an exception.) This season, the series has already blown a great opportunity by failing to include Sadie Benning in the opening show (September 6 at 8 p.m.) in the segment on Pixelvision. True, Pierson mentions her in his intro, but that’s not the same as having her on screen. I don’t care if she was traveling on the moon; the segment should not have been produced without her.


That said, the program begins promisingly with a segment in which Christopher Walken and Julien Schnabel do their version of a cooking show. It does for food preparation what John Lurie’s Fishing With John does for, well, fishing. Walken, who, when he’s in friendly company, has a smile that can light up a 40-inch TV screen and then some, is in rare form, and seems like he knows what he’s doing in the kitchen. I’d try his exploding shrimp any day.

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Hey There Little JoJo

Any movie whose first shot is Jonathan Richman playing his guitar in a tree—out on a limb, ha ha—is all right sir.


So begins There’s Something About Mary, the giddy new Farrelly Brothers film starring Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller. Hasn’t JoJo always been 20 feet tall in our hearts anyway? He’s a big thinker, a huge presence, a giant loverboy, a man with a vision vast enough to rhyme “Cleopatra” with “I wonder where she is atra” and get away with it. Jonathan and his scene-stealing, deadpan drummer Tommy Larkin pop up all through the plot to serenade, at one point dressed as the sort of hot dog vendors Jonathan would write a song about, like a phantom B side to “Ice Cream Man.” Considering the storyline in which Ben Stiller goes looking for his high school crush Diaz years after the fact, it’s surprising there’s no reprise of Richman’s stalker anthem “Back in Your Life”:


“I wanna be back in your life / Babyyyy / Babyyyy / Babyyyy.”


This little series of ongoing cameos syncopates the film so thrillingly, you want more. Why can’t all the summer blockbusters feature the college radio heroes of the ’80s as their Greek chorus in song? Like wouldn’t The Last Days of Disco have been a lot perkier if Alex Chilton were standing in the shadows every once and a while covering “The Hucklebuck”? The X-Files a smidgin lighter with the B-52’s hanging around whooping “Planet Claire”?


Armageddon less ra-ra Earth if it cut to the Fastbacks asking do you really want to live “In America”? Of course, a trend this satisfying is bound to get out of hand: Cameron Diaz plus Jonathan could degenerate pretty fast into Gwyneth Paltrow with XTC. Shudder To Think.