Sunday, February 7, 2016

Michael J. Tresca gave 3 stars to: Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth

Michael J. Tresca reviewed:

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth: And Other Pop Culture Correspondences by John Moe
3.0 out of 5 stars The cruelest joke of all..., February 6, 2016
On the one hand, John Moe's book is filled with so many pop culture references that it's surprising it hasn't been written already. On the other hand, it's already been written, just not in book form -- it's called the Internet. Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth would be much better as an instagram feed.

This book is filled with hilarious anecdotes that are hit or miss depending on your familiarity with the subject. Some of the essays are riffs on songs you might not have heard of -- funny to your uncle who's a Bon Jovi fan, not so funny to everyone else -- others are pieces of art unto themselves, scrawled on chalkboards or typed like message boards or written like a Captain's Log. It's a book that's meant to be shared, and in printed form it feels curiously outdated.

The humor ranges from really funny to really uncomfortable to surprisingly prescient. "Minutes from the meeting of Jurassic Park on how to open the facility" is even funnier because the absurdity of trying to reopen the park by a bunch of dinosaurs is just as ridiculous as the most recent installment in the franchise (cue park opening anyway, dinosaurs eat everybody).

"Bulletin Board notice of Muppets not invited to participate in movie and television projects" postulates Muppets that aren't fit for TV -- but now we have the new Muppets show in which they make drink booze and make sex jokes.

"E-mail from Fox Mulder to Dana Scully concerning the lost X-Files" is a rambling diatribe that encapsulates the current series: Mulder revisits the entire mythos of his past, doubts it all, and starts over with an equally ludicrous new set of theories.

"Harper Lee's letters to her editor after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird" is uncomfortably close to the reality of the sequel, "Go Set a Watchman" that casts the original in a controversial new light.

Even "Darth Vader's unsent letters to Luke Skywalker as found in the trash can" echoes Kylo Ren's serious daddy issues with his father. It's funny and sad at the same time.

The rest of the entries are hit-or-miss. Sometimes what's supposed to be funny turns into a horror story: Dora the Explorer's mother and Charlie Brown's teacher are vaguely aware that something is horribly wrong in their own realities. Gilligan's Island is a sad story of a brilliant man driven slowly insane. The Popeye cartoons are a horrible tale of drug abuse and anorexia. The Pac-Man ghosts are trapped in their own special hell. That Home Alone kid is still at home and not doing well at ALL. And the Goofy/Pluto dog conundrum is just wrong on so many levels.

Sometimes, Moe just doesn't know when to stop beating a dead horse: the Superbowl proposals run out of steam fast, Jay Z's 99 problems stop being funny after the first 20, and the 25 rules of Fight Club are 24 too long.

There are moments of brilliance too. The tale of a henchman and his travails as each new employer/villain fails could easily be its own TV show. Gunther's theory about why Friends is so implausible would make a funny comic. The story of how the Batman TV show's theme song was created is a fine example of the frustrations of writing for hire.

For the most part, the song jokes fell flat. You really need to intimately know the lyrics to appreciate the humor, which drags on far too long to make a point. That sums up the book too: it's way too long at nearly 300 pages.

It's a shame. This is a book chock full of humorous anecdotes that would make excellent memes. The cruelest joke of all is that they're all locked in dead tree format.