- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

Unromantic comedy

In the recent comedy ‘Along Came Polly,’ Reuben Feffer (Ben Stiller) endures a groom’s most dreaded nightmare. No sooner have he and his new bride, Lisa (Debra Messing), touched down for a St. Barts getaway than he finds her [committing adultery] with a well-muscled scuba instructor. … Then he bumps into Polly, the kooky, free-spirited gal of the film’s title. As fate would have it, she’s Reuben’s true soul mate. Being cuckolded on his honeymoon, it turns out, was the best thing that ever happened to him.

“‘Along Came Polly’ is the most recent example of a subgenre that’s proliferated of late: what might be called the ‘Thank you for saving me from my evil hag of a fiancee’ movie. …

“These aren’t comedies about characters being saved from marriage to the wrong person. They’re comedies about characters being saved from marriage itself. They play to a distinctly modern anxiety: that while fairy-tale love may still be desirable, a wedding no longer counts as a happy ending. Quite the opposite — for the guy, at least, the wedding marks the end of being happy.”

Adam Sternbergh,writing on “The Devil Wears Pearls,” Wednesday in Slate at www.slate.com

Campus Kremlin

“An old joke used to ask, Where are the last bastions of Marxism? Answer: the Kremlin and the Duke University English department. But now that the Soviet Union has dissolved, the last defenders of Karl Marx’s ideas may indeed reside on a pretty, Gothic-style campus in the pine woods of North Carolina.

“[L]iterary traditionalists … have long bemoaned the effete nature of postmodern literary theory, calling it as hopelessly out of touch with both reality and literature as was Lenin with real-life economics. …

“Large numbers of the last two generations of English majors have been instructed not to experience novels and poems directly, but rather to view them through the lens of some kind of theory — Marxism being one of the most popular. …

“Postmodern literary theory is now transforming itself so rapidly that Marxist, feminist, deconstructionist, and psychoanalytic critics (and others) are flocking back to the drawing board in droves as they search for new approaches to writing and teaching. …

“The problem is that by the time theory’s anticapitalist, antibourgeois assumptions became standard fare in colleges and universities, the consumer revolution was in high gear.”

David Kirby, writing on “Theory in chaos,” last Tuesday in the Christian Science Monitor

Kid’s captain

“Bob Keeshan, best known by generations of children as Captain Kangaroo, died Jan. 23 at the age of 76. … Mr. Keeshan came up with the idea of the Captain, based, as he said, on ‘the warm relationship between grandparents and children.’

“With the help of his sidekick Mr. Green Jeans and personality-rich puppets like Mr. Moose, Bunny Rabbit, and Grandfather Clock, the Captain’s Treasure House delighted children as it was teaching them about kindness, sharing, and honesty. Mr. Keeshan also made a point of reading to his audience a low-tech book every week as the camera looked over his shoulder.

“Even at the time, Captain Kangaroo was an alternative to frenetic cartoons and noisy audience-participation shows for kids, and he paved the way for Mr. Rogers, another kindly adult. Despite the razzle-dazzle of most children’s entertainment, kids still have the most fun with a grandparent.”

Gene Edward Veith, writing on “Captain of kids’ TV,” this Saturday in World

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