The Gold Standard: How the movies -- past and present -- changed our lives

Barry points to the “futile and pointless” gesture in “Animal House” as a turning point in his evolution from immature adolescent to immature adult.

“That movie so relentlessly glorifies juvenile guyness,” says the author and syndicated columnist. “And I knew that whoever made that movie believed it. It wasn’t just a joke. There is no redeeming moment.”

Which is what spoils it a bit for Barry with today’s “Wedding Crashers”-style movies. “There’s always some poignant moment, and in the end they fall in love and settle down.” On the other hand, ” ‘Animal House’ just ends badly, as well it should.”

Even though he grew up on a steady TV diet of Three Stooges films, Barry doesn’t count those violent goons as comic inspiration. “They were like old guys trying to be funny,” he offers. “They were trying too hard. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck. My dad was a huge fan of Robert Benchley and P.G. Wodehouse, so those were my influences.”

For Barry, the second funniest movie on Earth is 1966’s “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” which provides the link to his 2006 best, “Little Miss Sunshine,” since both featuring Alan Arkin.

“He’s brilliant. I’ll watch any movie with Alan Arkin,” says Barry. Although he enjoyed “Sunshine” from the get-go, fear set in when Arkin’s cocaine-addicted grandpa expired halfway through the movie. “I was cringing at what they’d do for the ending. I thought they’d give us a Hollywood ending, and when they didn’t, I was so proud of them. The movie remained true to itself to the bitter end.”

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