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A Bad Case of Summer Movies

Not that you can hear it. That's because another sign that you're in a bad summer movie is that . . .

4.You notice it's not loud enough. It's never loud enough.

Why do they play these things so softly? This is a real puzzle. But it seems in movie after movie, the actors are muttering, the plots are lost in the mumbles and make no sense, and this is particularly a problem with the big summer films when a single plot detail can make the difference . . .

Oh, sorry.

Actually, No. 4 crept in from tomorrow's Top 10 list, which is Top 10 Signs You've Gotten Too Old to Be a Movie Critic.

But back to Top 10 Signs You're in a Bad Summer Movie.

3.When the star was on Letterman, he came on after the woman who thought she'd found a Rembrandt in her aunt's closet.

Hmmm, yes, the talk shows, which play a major part in publicizing the summer pictures, really are the first part of the winnowing process and by watching them carefully and mastering their semiotics, you learn a lot more than you do by reading the typical critic. It's actually kind of sad-funny, watching these poor stars lug their shticks from network to network, trying the same jokes for Jay as they do for Dave, then rerunning them for Conan before they work them on Larry, who never gets them anyway or to Jon who always gets them, then tops them.

But if you watch carefully, you can see signs that the enthusiasm displayed isn't quite genuine. The event above actually happened, more or less (maybe it was a Jackson Pollock at a yard sale) and the poor star was the new James Bond, Daniel Craig. He is a formidable Bond, a formidable talent, although he didn't appear until about Minute 46 in the show. That's not typical. Usually, star is first guest. Star and host chat, as assisted by professional comedy writers for each. In the second segment, the star sets up the clip, and it plays, to wild astonishment and pleasure of audience. Star and host shake hands and exchange insidery gossip in whisper as we go to commercial.

Now look carefully: Maybe the star gets only one segment. Or, the star really doesn't seem to want to talk about the movie. Or, Dave or Jay don't really want to talk about the movie. Or, the star makes like she doesn't know anything about the movie. Or, they don't run the clip. Or, the pre-guest comedy routines go on and on and on.

I predict that come the first week in August when Chris Tucker is flogging "Rush Hour 3" all over the place, Letterman will go to a Top 15 List or even a Top 20 List just to keep him off the air until the show is almost over.

Which leads -- well, no it doesn't, but it's a tough segue -- to:

2.Not enough drunken-sailor orgies of taboo words.

Is it because I like drunken-sailor orgies of the taboo? Well, yeah, kinda. Is it because as an older male, my favored form of communication is alcoholic rage? Sure, it's that. Is it that nothing feels better than saying "**** ***" to someone who truly deserves it? Yes, of course. But mainly it's that movies with the bad words are R-rated, which few summer movies are. I think that's bad. Sorry, I do. If it's PG-13 or PG, that means: no truly bad words (you know the ones I'm talking about), no good ideas (alas, R doesn't mean: bad words, good ideas). The big summer doozies are designed to appeal to everyone, which means they'll tend toward the generic, the polite, the safe, the unsurprising. I know, it's summer entertainment, but whoever said it had to be so intellectually drab? You can wander in them for hours and hours awaiting a novel insight, the jab in the ribs, an arresting image, a moment of high drama, a surprise. But no: all the rough spots -- like the rough language and too much gore, the intermingling of limbs and other units of the physical plant -- have been milled out of them by industrial- strength grinders and you know that in them lurks . . . safety. So do you go to the movies to feel safe? I don't.

And finally, the No. 1 Sign You're in a Bad Summer Movie:

1. Two words: Adam Sandler.

I refer you to "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," July 20.

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