Last night Cody and I watched Radioland Murders for the first time. The movie is incredibly fast-paced, filled with action, suspense, and humor, and truly enjoyable. It was like 30 Rock on speed. What I found myself admiring again and again throughout the film was the dialog. Every line, every delivery was well formed and executed, almost all of it at top speed, too.
Perhaps Radioland Murders isn't as exceptional as it seemed last night. Perhaps it is only by comparsion to today's films that it shines as a well-written script. Much of recent cinema has dulled my expectations when it comes to good dialog. A lot of movies lately seem to rely on explosive action, stunning visual effects, and audience expectation more than they do a well-written screenplay.
All of the exceptions I can think of are older films: L.A. Story, The Princess Bride, even Caddyshack (to throw out one of Cody's favorites). Perhaps the most recent truly well-written movie I've seen is Stardust. Maybe I'd include Up, though I suspect if I read the script I wouldn't have loved the movie as much as I did while watching the visuals. None of the summer blockbusters spring to mind. Not Avatar for sure. In fact, I find myself struggling to remember any other of last year's "big" movies now.
Tons of money, huge special effects, action packed in around the gills, and these films lack that essential appeal that satisfies: they lack good dialog, the meat and bones of a film.
I suppose if you're in it for the opening-day sales, then you're not in it for the dialog; but if you're in it for the story, for the fans, for the audience, even for the sequel, you've got to have good dialog.