The Most Useless Dorian Gray Arrangement Ever

I felt kinda bad for posting that snotty multiple choice bit about Steve Martin yesterday, like I backstabbed an old beloved teacher or something. I mean, when Steve Martin was at the top of his game, he was awesome. The Jerk is still one of my favorite Funny Ha-Ha flicks. If you can find a copy of the criminally out-of-print Cruel Shoes, please do so. It is more than worth tracking down.

But damn it all, the man refuses to make a good movie anymore. Or to do anything remotely funny at all. What makes it even worse is that I don’t think he’s enjoyed selling out. At least now that Robert Deniro and Al Pacino have totally given up, they look like they’re having a blast in the horrible, horrible movies they make. Maybe because they spent so many years being intense, they feel relieved from the burden of all that art and integrity they carried around for so long.

Conversely, every time you see Steve Martin, he looks miserable. Like there’s some guy standing behind him at all times with a loaded gun pointed at the small of his back. “Yeah, see? You just keep makin’ shitty remakes of stupid movies no one remembers and everything’ll be just fine, see?”

He doesn’t need the money, I hope. I don’t think he requires an expensive operation, or has ex-wives whom he must support. But there has to be some reason he keeps doing these awful flicks, right?

Right! And the reason is: Banjo inspiration!

Martin says five of the songs on “The Crow” [his new bluegrass album]…date back to the late ’60s and early ’70s, while others are
more recent. “Tin Roof” came along while he was filming 2003’s “Cheaper by the Dozen,” and “Pretty Flowers” was conceived while filming 2006’s “The Pink Panther” in Boston.

I’m not gonna rag on Martin’s banjo playing, because I’m not qualified. I like to think I’m musically educated, but I don’t think I could discern between good and bad banjo pluckin’. And it obviously makes the man happy, so let him play all he wants. Let him record 17 album-length banjo solos for all I care. Good for him.

But I wonder if Martin feels that his banjo playing is now his real art, that the whole “being funny” thing is just to pay the bills so he can pluck ’til his heart’s content.

Because he cites some pretty awful flicks when pinpointing the muse for his banjo tunes. And not just flops, but totally venal, bottom-feeding, imagination-free remakes of crappy movies no one remembers (except Panther, of course). Maybe he wants to devote all of his creative energies to the banjo. And in order to do so, his day job must be as mindless and soulless as humanly possible.

The dumber, more pandering the movie, the better his banjo music. In exchange for his movies being mindless garbage, he gets to thrive at what he really loves. It’s like the lamest variation on The Portrait of Dorian Gray ever.

That’s how you wind up with a comedic genius making under-the-bottom-of-the-barrel junk like Bringing Down the House: Blame The Banjo.