Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows (2014; dirs. Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi) is amusing and witty. Its humor is similar to that of the short-lived HBO series Flight of the Conchords, about a New Zealand musical duo seeking to make a career in the United States.  The comparison isn’t arbitrary because one of the writers and actors in that series, Jermaine Clement, is a co-writer, co-director, and lead actor in this film.  Flight of the Conchords used as a premise the idea that New Zealanders are silly, clueless, and awkward—they don’t fit in with American culture and therefore can be objects of ridicule. (Self-deprecation is supposedly an aspect of New Zealander humor).   It was a more sophisticated attitude towards international visitors to the US than we used to see in the “wild and crazy guys” skits of Saturday Night Live in the 1970s, where Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd played East Europeans trying to navigate the American dating scene.  It is certainly tamer than the humor of Borat.

We have the same sort of humor in this film, a mock-documentary about a group of vampires who live in Wellington, New Zealand.  The film could be seen as an extended comic skit, which it is, fairly successfully, until the jokes grow old.  The vampires argue about washing the dishes, their social lives, their personal conflicts.  They have run-ins with a local band of werewolves.  There’s a lot of comedy here, much of it fairly broad, some of it predictable, but the scene is novel enough, the situations silly enough, and the jokes frequently funny enough, that the film is entertaining, though I can’t imagine choosing to watch it again.

No comments: