Director Luke Greenfield laughs at the suggestion that the biggest task in his feature film debut, The Animal, wasn’t dealing with a zoo’s worth of animals or an actress whose on-camera experience came from a reality-television program, but finding a way to tastefully portray bestiality.
“This could have so easily been very edgy, very racy,” he says in Los Angeles, “and we did not want to do that. The concept was strong enough and the humor was strong enough that we didn’t need to go there. Hopefully Freddy Got Fingered put an end to the gross-out comedy, and movies are going back to what I feel were the best times.”
For the 29-year-old (who’s been making short films since he was 10), the golden age of comedy was the 1980s, the decade of high-concept yet character-driven movies such as Midnight Run, Risky Business and Back to the Future. Greenfield found that his penchant for grounding humor in real situations helped when he was faced with an outrageous premise.
“I love comedy in a believable, realistic tone,” says the creator of the hidden-camera series, “Go Sick!” “I think it’s funny to take a normal person and put them in a situation that’s insane. It makes you ask, ‘What would I do?’”
Which explains the specific tone of The Animal, which earns its PG-13 rating for “some crude and sexual humor.” Greenfield draws a particular line in the sand, which says, yes, Rob Schneider’s character (who’s imbued with animal characteristics) would actually piss to mark his territory, but no, it’s not necessary to actually show him humping a goat to get the joke across.
“My next couple of projects are going to be dramedies,” Greenfield asserts. “The movies that really rocked me when I was a kid were One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Cool Hand Luke, those movies changed me. That’s a really hard genre, where you can make them laugh and you can really move them.”
No more difficult, perhaps, than making a disposable, one-joke comedy fit for man and beast alike.Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected]