“When I’m lyin’ in bed at night,” Tom Waits sang, “I don’t wanna grow up.”
He’s not the only one. In recent years Cineplexes have been overrun by boy-men: adult males who still act as though they’re 16 years old.
This weekend in the Seth MacFarlane comedy Ted, Mark Wahlberg is John, a man-child who had trouble letting go of his childhood teddy bear who came to life as the result of a childhood wish.
He does everything with Ted — including cower when a storm hits. “Thunder buddies for life, right, Johnny?” says Ted. John replies with an answer we can’t print here.
That’s one of the hallmarks of the man-child movie, they’re raunchy.
Step Brothers is a rude and crude arrested development comedy with enough swearing to make Lenny Bruce blush. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play spoiled, unemployed men thrown together Brady-Bunch style when their patents wed.
They don’t get along at first — they even try to bury one another alive — but soon their shared passion for karaoke brings them together, like two overgrown kids in a playground.
Adam Sandler has made a career playing testosterone-fuelled men who never grew up. In Mr. Deeds, Just Go with It, The Waterboy and Happy Gilmore he plays characters with the emotional age of a Baby Gap customer, but the classic is Billy Madison, where he plays a hotel heir forced to go back to grade school.
As Sandler was throwing temper tantrums on screen Jason Segel was slowly defining his child-man act. I Love You Man, with its Man Cave and Rush soundtrack, was a warm up to his most grown-up portrayal of an adolescent man. In Jeff, Who Lives at Home he plays a 30-something who lives at home and is obsessed with the M. Night Shyamalan film Signs. Overgrown and underdeveloped he turns an outing to the hardware store into a wild day.
Peter Pan with a plan
The common link to many of these man-child movies is one man — producer Judd Apatow.
• If it ain’t broke… Not since Jerry Lewis has one man made so much money presenting the age-old gag of self-infantilizing on screen.
• Big names. He’s worked with Ferrell, Sandler and Segel, and it was his R-rated The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up that gave us Seth Rogen’s brand of prolonged childhood.
• Plans to recruit Paul Reubens? Apatow even recently announced he’s thinking about making a movie with pop culture’s ultimate man-child, Pee Wee Herman.