Every year on or about my birthday, my wife and I go out to dinner and a movie of my choosing. If that sounds boring, you don't have two young kids (and are thus still sane).

This year we went and saw Mad Max: Fury Road. We both had a great time and felt like our $10 tickets and $5000 bucket of popcorn were a good investment (after all, they put extra butter on the popcorn). This isn't redlettermedia.com, so I'm not going to analyze the movie or give any type of detailed review, but I am going to comment on the one major flaw I found with the plot. I will say though that if you like action, MM:FR is a nearly non-stop injection from your adrenal glands. Both of us walked out of the theater actually feeling exhausted from the experience. No joke...we actually felt physically drained, like we'd just wrestled a yak while climbing K2 after HALO jumping from the ISS as it passed over Tibet.

Yeah, it was just like that.

Humor is an important part of storytelling. You need to sprinkle it on like...well...sprinkles. Humor adds a little delight and relaxation among the goings-on and mayhem. Take the mayhem and insanity from any action-packed blast fest like, oh I don't know...Ordinary People. When Judd Hirsch whips his pen out to scrawl notes or when Mary Tyler Moore sits there like the "Can't Understand Negative Thinking" kind of person her character is, I can't help but feel overwhelmed at the mental and physical tension I'm asked to endure. Well, mental at least.

The term 'comic relief' means just that. It usually refers to a specific character who embodies the story's humor and allows the writer to interject said humor at convenient moments. But more broadly, 'comic relief' is the relief of tension that has been built up due to suspense, drama or action.

It doesn't have to be silly. In fact, in can be something ordinary, but light-hearted. Take the movie Apollo 13 for example. At the darkest hour, when our astronaut heroes are rocketing home and their fate is questionable to the entire world, the head astronaut's (Jim Lovell's) wheelchair bound mother comments that if 'they could get a washing machine to fly, my son could fly it'. It's a moment that makes everyone chuckle because the mom's love and trust in her son is very identifiable and her single comment puts to bed all the pessimism circling her once and for all. We laugh because she's just like our mom or what we'd like our mom to be like.

Humor can be hamfisted as well. Like one of the two-minute lame-ass vignettes from the '70s show Night Gallery, the humor can leave us groaning at the writer's own self-indulgence and lack of respect for his audience. If you have to hit your readers (or viewers) over the head with a dumb joke to make sure they 'get-it', you need to lose the joke. Otherwise, you lose readers.

Sell something that's funny and realistic.Don't bend the story around just you can sneak in a joke. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy punches out the guard and slips on his uniform only to find out its three sizes too small. That was a hilarious moment because it would absolutely happen in real life. The moment would be terrifying for Indy and to him not the least bit funny, but for the audience, the moment skewers an overused trope while winking at us with a smile.

Oh, and puns should be avoided. They are something unique to the written word as I don't think they generally translate well to visual medium (except for those old Bullwinkle bits about the Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam and the Kerwood Derby). Puns are frankly a little dorky and not usually handled well, with the only exception I can think of being David Gerrold, and he even goes overboard at times.

Now...what was writing about? Oh, yeah. Mad Max. This newest Mad Max was lacking in humor. There were some small pieces floating around: a hilariously sheepish look from Max or a bit of dumb-luck-of-real-life physical gag or two, but it needed more to release some of the tension. The movie was great and I would recommend it, but oddly sitting through it again is not something I want to do. I felt too much like work. Not ditch-digging or toilet-scrubbing kind of work, but yak-wrestling-on-K2-after-HALO-jumping-from-ISS work. It's fun once, but not something you'd want to repeat.

Have a great week, everybody!

P.S. -  As for the feminist angle of the movie, here's my thoughts: if interpreted a certain way (which is the way I think George Miller was aiming for), the movie could be summarized as 'men broke the world and now women are going to save it'. I think this was intended, but I think it utterly fails because for all its glorious carnage, the plot is pretty thin. At no time did I feel suckerpunched by couched politics or preached to. I looked at the main 'tough-girl' (can I write 'tough-girl'?) along the same lines as Ripley from the Alien franchise. She was a physically capable person put in a bad situation and did the best she could. She wasn't superhuman or written in an unrealistic fashion. Oddly enough, I came away sensing a 'men are more logical and dispassionate and women are more impulsive and emotional' bent. If you watch it, you'll know what I mean.

P.P.S. - Can I hire the dude with the flame-thrower guitar for a party?