Chaplin-City Lights

Chaplin-City Lights: The assignment: Please watch any modern comedy, say starring Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, etc., and compare the comedic styles and lead characters of the modern picture to the Chaplin formula as seen in City Lights.

You will want to particularly address the principles of pathos, save the cat, and the rule of three in your post.   An explanation of pathos: The clear sign of pathos is an underdog going against the odds and fighting the good fight for a noble cause. “To save his mother’s house against the big bankers” or “win the girl away from the evil boyfriend” or even “save mankind from the deadly, all-powerful aliens” would be easy examples you see all the time.

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Because the goal is noble you root for that character and because they are less powerful than their adversaries you admire their courage. You follow them willingly and share their ups and downs; it is very effective as a movie technique.   An explanation of save the cat: Save the cat is an EVENT that is separate from pathos. It does not have to be tied to the plot, it could just be a scene thrown in there solely for the purpose of making someone look like a good guy. It is a device intended to manipulate the viewer into liking and rooting for the lead character and it comes at the beginning of a movie almost always in the first ten minutes.

Take minute five or so forward in Mr. Deeds where Adam Sandler does about every good deed imaginable except perhaps saving a cat. It has nothing to do with the plot of the movie, occurs in the first few minutes, and is solely intended as a device to get you to like his character and cheer for him as he embarks on his adventures   An explanation for the rule of three: First what the rule of three is NOT.  It is not three buildings or the three statues in the beginning of City Lights.  In comedy, it is a gag that is run three times for maximum effectiveness. 

Consider some of the comic relief moments in the Star Wars movies:   The Millenium Falcon trying to jump into hyperspace three times and failing. First they’re being pursued by a Star Destroyer away from Hoth; Han attempts to jump into hyperspace but nothing happens. Then, after leaving the asteroid field and having supposedly repaired the hyperdrive, they try again and again it fails. Later, with Lando now at the controls, and with the hyperdrive supposedly fixed by Lando’s mechanics, they try for the THIRD time and it still fails to go into light speed because the Empire had deactivated it! C-3PO spelling out the ridiculous odds against whatever they trying to do. First he says that the odds of Han and Luke surviving a Hoth blizzard are 725 to 1. Then he says the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are 3720 to 1. (Prompting Han to reply “Never tell me the odds!”)

Finally, he tries to tell Han the odds of surviving a direct assault on a Star Destroyer, but Leia interrupts and tells him to shut up and shuts him down.   An example from the slapstick comedy Airplane! During the landing sequence, Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) steps into the cockpit three times and says “I just want to tell you both good luck. We’re all counting on you” in exactly the same way: once as they begin the descent, once in the middle of the landing, and once after the plane is on the ground   It is used in drama as well all the time: In Pan’s Labyrinth there are three challenges, just as there are in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.  In Run Lola Run there are three endings.   In modern comedies with dialogue the rule of three shows up in verbal jokes. 

The system for using the rule of three here is to use the first two to set up a pattern and then use the third to throw in the twist punchline.  Consider: In National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Clark asks his cousin-in-law, Eddie, “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out into the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?” Cannot use:The Mask, Happy Gilmore, Just Go With It, Overboard, Big Stan, Blades of Glory, Murder mystery, blended, Mrs. Doubtfire, Talladega nights, ace Ventura, the internship, Idiocracy, elf, super bad, bridesmaids, the hangover, yes man, grown-ups, Pitch perfect, meet the Fokker’s, 21 Jump St., Monty python, Aladdin, semi pro, the interview, game over man, being, father of the year, hitch, crazy Rich Asians, when we first met, school rock, legally blonde, 51st dates, or Bruce almighty

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