Time-travel plots bring out the earthy humor in films

I have not yet fathomed the causal link between time travel and bowel movements.

Then again, I have not yet determined the causal link between bowel movements and Hollywood entertainment _ metaphorical parallels, yes, but not the direct link that other minds (and apparently other body parts) have fathomed.

Two comedies of late, however, have taken the leap across the space-time-sphincter continuum. The first is the Martin Lawrence comedy “Black Knight,” which in one scene pits a knight-turned-self-disgraced drunkard against three ne’er-do-wells who edge him towards a mound of horse manure. The mass of dung becomes a minor character in itself, getting a shimmering, caressing close-up that Norma Desmond would envy.

You might expect retro excrement given Lawrence’s, er, earthy humor. In a Meg Ryan film, though, you’d think fake orgasms at a diner is as far as it’ll go _ until her latest film “Kate & Leopold,” that is. The comedy features Hugh Jackman as a transplanted 19th-century duke who takes a 21st-century canine for a walk. The dog finds his patch of grass in an otherwise concrete landscape, makes his contribution to nature, raises his haunches and trots away_but the camera remains.

The gag is that Leopold cannot fathom a future in which gents must stoop to remove such leavings or risk thwarting the law. The penalty here, thankfully enough, is a ticket, an advance from 14th-century Lawrencian trial by foul.

“Black Knight” positively quivers with glee in tantalizing viewers with the possibility either of its own redemption or fetid downfall. Will the director cut away, leaving the frayed minds of audience members to come up with their own imagined fecal vengeance? Might the camera avert its aperture in a spasmodic fit of belated modesty?

The answer would be no. Two miscreants flee and the third gets his comeuppance when the knight _ with the help of Lawrence _ literally rubs his face in it.

Do we need to see larger-than-life feces? Do we need to ask if we need to see larger-than-life feces? Yes, artistic realism should be applauded. Perhaps in a fair world, it would get Oscar consideration for visual effects. That would be the same world that would cast Tom Greene and Pauly Shore in a film noir about Siamese twins, one of whom secretly plots to kill the other.

Yes, scatological humor goes back to the caveman who stepped into the first evidence that dinosaurs had existed. Medieval literature repeatedly tripped their hapless saps in latrines, toilet humor’s big in Europe, Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo of “South Park” has become part of cable legend, and flatulence is fairy-tale entertainment, thanks to “Shrek.”

The Defenders of the Freedom of Excretion might accuse naysayers of being anal-retentive bellyachers. Perhaps, they sneer, we would prefer to live in an ivory tower, where toilet seat liners are made of silk. Yes, scat has been effectively used in moviemaking. When Ewan MacGregor dove into the most revolting toilet in Scotland to retrieve heroin suppositories in “Trainspotting,” the underwater fantasy sequence that followed was mad genius, diarrhetic visions of an Esther Williams musical that at once marked his addiction as delusional and degrading.

Yes, yes, yes, excrement is a fact and byproduct of life.

But are we rodents who need to redigest their plant matter? No. Unlike cute little rabbits, we produce a killer, bacteria-laden product. Coprophagy goes against all evolutionary and biological instinct, and consuming it via compost cinema doesn’t it make it more palatable.


Vera H-C Chan advocates the use of two-ply in theater restrooms.


(c) 2002, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).

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