How to pulverize Christie Brinkley. You know, for laughs

June 20, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

There are, I would guess, a hundred ways you could creatively re-imagine a classic scene from a famous cult comedy – let’s say, one from 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation” – when you’ve decided it’s time to “reboot” the flick for a new generation.

Take, for example, the famed scene when Christie Brinkley, adorable ‘80s supermodel, zooms her Ferrari up alongside Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), adorable ‘80s nerdy dad, as the latter pilots his unwitting family down the highway in a ginormous station wagon.

Remember that? Of course you do. It’s one of the most famous scenes in all of dorkball movie history. Do you know why? Because the late director Harold Ramis was smart enough to let Chase’s talent carry the moment.

It’s true. It was Chase’s then-expert comic timing, his reactions and befuddled facial expressions that made it all work; and it was amplified by the simplicity of the setup itself, the ironic sexual chasm between nerd dad and hottie supermodel, between station wagon and Ferrari, to which Chase’s Clark Griswold was, of course, entirely oblivious.

So, you want to remake that scene with the equally hilarious Ed Helms stepping in for Chase, and a new female (swimsuit model Hannah Davis) in place of Brinkley? You want to make it just as funny to a modern (read: jaded, suspicious) audience? Shouldn’t be too difficult, really. If you’re smart, that is.

You could, for example, modify the timing, or the buildup. You could change the location, mix up the elements, the music, the vehicles. Maybe you shift character dynamics, some sort of role-reversal thing. Lots of possibilities, really.

Poor thing. She has no idea she's about to be crushed by a speeding truck. You know, for laughs

Poor thing. She has no idea she’s about to be crushed by a speeding truck. You know, for laughs

Of course, if you’re really smart, you don’t change a thing, and simply let Helms reimagine the scene for you, the same way Chase did: by way of his own expert improv, body language, spontaneous expressions. Should work great, right?

Or, you can just murder the supermodel.

I mean, smash her to bits. Pulverize her. Violently. Brutally. Without warning. Hilarious, right?

Behold, the re-imagined Ferrari scene in the upcoming 2015 rendition of “Vacation” (see trailer below: fast forward to 2:10). Same setup: Clueless dad, hottie supermodel, red Ferrari, ironic, awkward flirtation. Ed Helms blushes and leers. Hottie laughs and waves.

And then suddenly, boom, she’s gone. Crushed. Annihilated. Because this is 2015, right? You gotta slam audiences awake! You gotta have a semi-truck (or some other enormous vehicle – the shot is so fast you don’t have time to register it, which is the whole point) smash the Ferrari head-on and wipe it – and the beautiful woman – from the screen in a crush of tortured metal, as poor Ed Helms can only do a dumb-guy “huh?” double take and check the rear-view mirror.

Brinkley, NOT about to be brutally pulverized by oncoming truck. How refreshing.

Brinkley, NOT about to be brutally pulverized by oncoming truck. How refreshing.

What do you think he sees there? A gruesome accident? Overturned truck, annihilated Ferrari, dead woman, blood and smoke and horrific death? Does he scream, stop the car, call the police? Does wake his wife?

Nah. This is modern slapstick comedy, bro. There are no repercussions. Not ever. Having the pretty female pulverized into a bloody heap (off-screen, of course) is comedy gold! Because women are dumb! And disposable! And men are also dumb! But adorable!

So, are the filmmakers right? Or just cruel morons? Are we really so numbed out, overstimulated, so accustomed to jarring, violent spectacle that nothing but the most monstrous, insulting, over-the-top stunt will get people to cough up 15 bucks for an “extreme” remake?

Of course not. There’s plenty of intelligent, subtle humor afoot, entertainments that don’t indulge in the basest human impulses or the most violent sight gags to yank a laugh. The filmmakers didn’t have to make this nasty, malicious choice – they just apparently don’t have the skill or intelligence to do it otherwise. It is good to know that not everything needs to be louder, crueler, more “extreme” to sell. But the bad news is, a lot of it sure seems to – and, as is so often the case, women usually take the brunt of the abuse.

Next up: A remake of “Breakfast Club,” in which the clever banter is replaced by the kids chasing each other around the school with shotguns. Should be awesome.

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Mark Morford

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