“Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.”—Will Rogers, actor
When I watched Take the Money and Run on Wednesday night, I could not understand how Woody Allen’s character Virgil could fall into senseless crime sprees so easily. That changed on Thursday night, when I had an encounter with an apathetic security guard who could not answer my questions, had no problem making my night as difficult as possible, and made me 40 minutes late for an event. Now I understand.
While IMDb classifies Take the Money and Run under the genres comedy and crime, I was delighted to discover that it also encapsulates my one of my favorite genres of all time: mockumentary. Defined, a mockumentary is, “a motion picture or television program that takes the form of a serious documentary in order to satirize its subject.” This film’s subject matter is the criminal justice system, and it focuses on a dumb crook named Virgil Starkwell. The variety of interviews include Virgil’s parents (pictured above in their mustache glasses), his therapist, and some government officials. Best of all, the film is narrated by Jackson Beck of the Superman cartoons, whose deep voice could make anything sound like a History Channel special.
I have criticized Woody Allen in the past, but I must admit he was the perfect person to play the main character. The film is relevant today because we have many stereotypes for what criminals look like. The documentary 13th addresses how prison has been turned into a full-fledged industry that is closely tied to race tensions and civil rights. It is important to remember that crime is not partial to one group of people—anyone can be a criminal! Yes, you and I can even be criminals! In this case, it’s a scrawny white man with thick glasses.
I can’t talk about mockumentaries without bringing up the masterpieces of Christopher Guest. My favorites are: Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind. I am a little bitter that none of them made it onto AFI’s top 100 comedies list besides This is Spinal Tap, because they are funny enough to be on there. In AFI’s defense, I believe the list is only for movies before the 2000s, which would only make Waiting For Guffman eligible. If you are looking for something hilarious to watch that you’ve never seen before, please start with those three movies. You will not be disappointed!
(If you are an Angeleno and a fan of Guest’s movies, I just bought my tickets for a live conversation with actor Fred Willard on May 4. The show is called Couch Candy. You can find more information here.)
Fortunately, I did not go on a crime spree after my unpleasant conversation with law enforcement. I prefer to get revenge in more professional ways, like writing a blog post. Next time I won’t be so nice. Next time it will be a mockumentary.