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A Brief Review of "The Beautician and the Beast" (1997) / Things We Don't Want To Remember

A little while ago I watched The Beautician and the Beast.  Why?  Because I hadn't seen it yet.

The world has gone for almost twenty years without me weighing on in its merits, so we're probably okay in this particular area of film criticism.  I'll keep it brief.

TBatB is a totally innocuous comedy that got shat on when it was first released because it didn't bring anything new or inventive to the table.  While I can't really defend it (or even think of too many good reasons to recommend it), I can't bring myself to trash it, either.  TBatB is just a formulaic, run-of-the-mill, Plain Jane comedy starring a comedic actress who happened to be peaking at the time and wanted a slice of that TBS daytime movie rotation pie.  Nothing wrong with that.

As usual, the aggregate sites paint too narrow a picture.  The 17% on Rotten Tomatoes is unfairly low.  (So it goes.)  Realistically this should be a 2.5 / 5 at worst, but more accurately a 3 / 5.  It exists.  It has an audience.  Its audience likes it.  And there is nothing so despicable or grotesque that it should earn your ire.

Almost nothing.

Y'see, I bitched in my Week in Review awhile back that they made at least three "Talk To the Hand" jokes.  And somehow, that's sticking with me.

I know I should let it go.  They amounted to less than 60 seconds of runtime from a movie that nobody's been all that excited to talk about since it was first released.

But I can't let it go.

Maybe it's because TTtH just sucked in general, and they made it figure into the climax of Timothy Dalton's character arc.  In other words: it wasn't just a turd, it was a turd in a spotlight.

Maybe it's just that they were particularly bad TTtH jokes.  (Is there such a thing as a good TTtH joke?  I guess if somebody did it and then a shark jumped out of nowhere and bit their hand off?  While they were in a parking lot?)  TTtH was bad enough on its own, but to implement it poorly just gives me a whole new level of anxiety.

Two of the three don't even have any proper context.  They just kinda happen.  Like somebody starts talking, and Fran Drescher gets annoyed and just does it.  Let's not pretend TTtH had any substance in the first place, but there was at least a process to it.  Like this:

Guy 1: Didja see the latest Harry Potter movie?
Guy 2: Yeah, I loved it!  What did you think about it?
Guy 1: Eh.  Didn't like it too much.
Guy 2: You didn't?  You must be crazy!
Guy 1: It was really long and I hated the part where....
Guy 2: Agh, I can't even listen to you!  [Holds up palm] Talk to the hand!

You said it as a way to put a cap on an argument or insult somebody's opinion while being an uncreative dick.  You didn't just say it.

Guy 1: Didja see the latest Avengers movie?
Guy 2: Yeah, I loved it!
Guy 1: [Holds up palm] Talk to the hand!

What's that all about, Guy #1?  Are you having an off day?  Have you lived your whole life in backwoods Nebraska and you have no ability to decipher social cues?  Do you want to sit down with a cup of tea and talk about this?

Maybe it's that TTtH was just such a wretched mark on American culture that I'm immediately reminded of some of the worst days of my life.  Back then I was in middle school, dodging shitty Austin Powers impressions and failing to understand the punchline of that stupid "blower's cramp" gag.  Those were some dark, dark days.

Also, some assholes were still imitating this.

Or maybe it's just that I'm stunned speechless by the flagrant disregard for the passage of time.  How does somebody as intelligent and talented as Fran Drescher allow a fad phrase like "Talk To the Hand" to become not only part of a movie she's producing, but also one if its centerpieces? Drescher was 40 when the film was made.  Surely she was old enough to realize that stupid sayings and impressions have the shortest of shelf lives and very quickly turn from "kind of annoying" to "unbearable."

Or maybe...

Maybe I'm just terrified by what this could mean for my own work.  What if something I write is one day repeated and celebrated as a quick sound-bitey blurb of "fun?"  And after about two months of everybody loving that one stupid thing, everybody starts to get tired of it?  But their dumb friends at the office can't stop saying it, so it just gets hammered dead into the ground, making its way to Hell and back?

And then, just like that, I'm no longer a writer / blogger / film critic.  I'm "the guy who came up with 'kiss off your crank'" or whatever the hell stupid thing it is. My entire career is upstaged by a four-word bumper sticker / T-shirt / pog / coffee mug / novelty cell phone skin that is not only stupid, but maligned.

Ugh.  That's a sea of endless cruelty.