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Tuesday, July 6, 1999 Published at 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK

Hollywood gets raunchy

Mike Myers gets lewd and crude (courtesy of New Line Cinema)

By BBC News Online Entertainment Correspondent Tom Brook

Hollywood seems to have reached a new low with a whole raft of summer movies packed with extremely lewd and crude subject matter.

Mike Myers' blockbuster, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, has dozens of gags which revolve around vulgar lavatory or sexual humour.

It features everything from Austin Powers imbibing liquid stool to a gerbil inexplicably emerging from someone's hindquarters.

The new, just released Adam Sandler movie, Big Daddy, has the film's hero teaching his adopted child to urinate wherever he chooses.

[ image: Stan demonstrates South Park humour]
Stan demonstrates South Park humour
Opening on 30 June is a film with the suggestive title of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. It too contains a hefty dose of scatological humour.

Also coming soon is the highly explicit American Pie which charts the desperate efforts of a group of high school boys to lose their virginity.

It includes a scene in which a hapless teen drinks beer which has been laced with the same bodily fluid that graced Cameron Diaz's hair in last year's crude extravaganza There's Something About Mary.

In fact, it is largely thanks to There's Something About Mary, which made more than $175m at the US box office, that American moviegoers are currently being inundated with raunchy product.

[ image: Something About Mary: Broke the rules on crudeness]
Something About Mary: Broke the rules on crudeness
There's Something About Mary proved there was a large audience willing to embrace extreme vulgarity. It also changed the rules of what was permissible.

The President of the United States, and the national news media, also helped lower the crudeness threshold.

The relentless dissection of the relationship between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, with lurid descriptions of that infamous stained blue dress on national news programmes, elevated discussion of sexual details once considered taboo almost to the level of acceptable dinner table conversation.

As with everything that emerges as a trend in Hollywood the driving force is the pursuit of profits.

The presence of these crude movies most definitely reflects the film industry's efforts to target young adolescent males, who with their disposable income constitute a highly coveted moviegoing group.

Hollywood knows that films brimming with lewd humour strike an extremely resonant note with these hormonally-charged cinemagoers.

[ image: American Pie: Virgins on a mission]
American Pie: Virgins on a mission
Paul and Chris Weitz, the two brothers who made the low-budget American Pie, think this new wave of Hollywood bawdiness is nothing to be concerned about.

Chris Weitz, the film's producer, said: "This kind of humour has been around for thousands of years and it is a popular sort of carnivalesque form of humour that has a really long blood line, so I would tell (my critics) to take it easy."

True, crude movies are not new, but this latest outpouring of Hollywood crudity appears unprecedented in terms of its intensity and explicitness.

Ted Baehr, who evaluates films from a Christian perspective and publishes his findings in Movieguide, is clearly dismayed.

[ image: Austin Powers: R-rated]
Austin Powers: R-rated
His guide described Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me as having "a strong pagan worldview of sexually libidinous spy" which contained "28 obscenities, eight profanities and many euphemisms for the male sexual organ". It should have been rated R for "randy and raunchy", he added.

Mike Myers would probably welcome this endorsement, but large sections of the American moviegoing public are offended by these films.

To my mind the main problem with much of this humour is that it is symptomatic of a creative laziness.

The new Austin Powers movie has brilliant gags that deal with bodily functions, but they often become a convenient way of getting a laugh with a film that does not, unfortunately, offer any new inspired satirical vision.

Early word on Big Daddy and South Park suggests that they too may be over-relying on gross humour.

With many of these new crude films Hollywood seems to be pandering to our baser instincts, giving us second rate material knowing that it can win a laugh with a good lavatory joke even if the underlying script isn't up to snuff.

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