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September 6, 2007 |

By Daniel Carlson | Miscellaneous | September 6, 2007 |

I have a penis, and that’s OK.

That was one of the overarching themes this summer at the movies, a season at the box office that spans the beginning of May through Labor Day weekend. The summer moviegoing season is always packed with event films that are never short on testosterone, but this summer kicked things up a notch by serving up movies about boys who find themselves reluctantly growing up, and about the challenges that inevitably come with the territory.

Spider-Man 3 kicked off the summer, and more than just setting an opening-weekend record with an unholy $151 million in three days, the film also established the tone of the summer’s big films: It was about a guy trying to get his life together, take responsibility for his past, and grow into the manhood set before him. It’s fitting that Spider-Man 3 was overlong and a little bloated compared with Spider-Man 2; while it made for a less entertaining movie, on a meta level it’s at least a nice coincidence that the movie about becoming a (super)man was itself flawed and not immune to stumbling. May was also the month of Waitress, a movie that set the fragile hearts of more than a few Pajiba staffers on edge with it’s winning — and you know I mean it when I unironically use the adjective “winning” — combination of humor, quirk, and honesty. The late Adrienne Shelley’s final film never went wider than 707 screens, but still managed to bring in a respectable $18 million based largely on positive reviews and word of mouth. It’s a funny, cute film, and not without the technical flaws of a young filmmaker (a few mismatched eyelines, etc.), but it also mines its humor from its heroine’s deep unhappiness.

Comedy derived from deep pain was another constant theme over the summer, and no movie better represented the glorious possibilities of that mix than Knocked Up, which opened the first weekend in June and went on to gross $148 million domestically. Judd Apatow’s latest film was a fantastic look at what it means to be a boy in your 20s on the verge of the new manhood, one that mixes the responsibilities of our fathers with the often crude camaraderie of our own youth. I won’t presume to speak for the rest of the Pajiba staff, but Knocked Up was probably my favorite movie of the summer, and will last longer than other comedies of its time simply because it carries an emotional heft not usually found in movies of its kind.

July’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix continued the theme of growing up, but then everything got terribly sidetracked with Captivity. You could almost feel the mood of the season shift: Everything had been going along pretty well, the movies weren’t too bad, and it wasn’t too hot yet. But then After Dark Films, headed by the disreputable Courtney Solomon, had to foist the sodden, poisonous mess that is Captivity onto American screens, as if to balance out the emotional high some of us had felt in the final beatific moments of Knocked Up. But I’m happy to say, America, that you really came through for me: The film opened to $1.4 million and petered out not long after at $2.6 million domestically, and I like to think that we here at Pajiba were a part of the force that stemmed this bloody tide. I love all kinds of movies, including thrillers and horror films, but there’s a million miles between a taut, suspenseful story and a movie where a girl drinks a smoothie blended from human organs. It’s my fervent hope that the poor showing for Captivity is a sign of the subgenre’s diminishing hold on the hearts and minds of Hollywood producers; like the career of Dane Cook and the temporary presidency of Dick Cheney, I say we pretend it never happened.

Then I Know Who Killed Me came out.

Well, moving on: The Simpsons Movie came out at the end of July, and though it was consistently funny, it still necessarily fell short of the transcendent glory of the TV series’ glory days that began in its fourth season and ran for five or six years. But it was still a good movie, for all its faults and the creakiness of the characters’ joints, and it’s appropriate that even in its success it stumbled a little by being just a little weaker, a little duller, than the best moments of the show that gave it life.

Although the summer moviegoing season technically ended right before Labor Day, it effectively stopped with the release of The Simpsons Movie, because in the entire month of August, only two movies — two — came out that are worth seeing or remembering in any way. The first was Stardust, a sweet, sentimental fairy tale for grownups that’s just the right mix of funny and sad and romantic to get some of us here cranked up. After all, it had been a long summer already, and the low-key charms of Waitress has all but been eradicated in the wake of the cinematic dreck through which we’d waded. Stardust came along at just the right time, serving as effective counterprogramming for those who didn’t want to watch Rush Hour 3, and it’s grossed a fairly respectable $32 million so far. The only other highlight in August was Superbad, the teen sex comedy produced by Judd Apatow and co-written by Seth Rogen. It was crude, twisted, overlong, and the first film I can remember to use menstrual blood as a comedic plot point — I’m a little terrified of how Apatow will try to top that, if he can — but it was also weirdly sweet, buoyed by a sense of genuine friendship between leads Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. The boys in the movie were reluctantly pushed by circumstance to make the first of many tough decisions that would come later, and the story’s tension derived from their desire to stay together and the inevitability of growing up and growing apart. That’s the ultimate twist: In a film about getting laid, the boys had the strongest love of all.

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a low-level employee at a Hollywood industry magazine. You can visit his blog, Slowly Going Bald.

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