For this list, blame The Hangover Part III. It was whilst walking out of that movie that I got into a chat with someone, who was bemoaning the lack of genuinely funny movie comedies. Certainly, big budget Hollywood comedies have no end of problems right now – with the occasional exception – but I couldn’t help thinking of the many neglected gems that had gone through my DVD player over the past decade or so.
As such, I started to put this list together. It’s inevitably subjective, as one person’s comedy is another person’s snore fest. But I’ve tried to dig out a mix of comedies from the past three decades that have either flown under the radar completely, or simply failed to ignite in the way they should have done. Some of these are well known, and some didn’t do badly at the box office. All of them, however, deserved more. So, without further ado, my choices of the underappreciated comedies of the last 30 years…
I’ll kick off with the ones that just missed the cut, for a range of reasons, but still deserve a mention:
Hocus Pocus, George Of The Jungle, Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy, Dude, Where’s My Car? (the one joke when they’re ordered drive through food gets it a mention), Without A Clue, Lucas, The Stupids, George Of The Jungle.
And now, on with the final selection…
Eddie Murphy’s career, not for the last time, was in the doldrums when he teamed up with director Reginald Hudlin to make Boomerang. Reportedly, Murphy put in a proper shift too, attending rehearsals and turning in an underappreciated performance opposite Robin Givens in a chucklesome comedy.
Murphy’s had one or two others that flew under the radar too – The Distinguished Gentlemen has its moments – but it was Boomerang that kickstarted the second successful phase of his career. A good, solid, funny comedy, that showed why he became such a strong comedy leading man in the first place.
49. Zack & Miri Make A Porno
Kevin Smith’s final self-penned comedy to date, as the man himself has charted, severely underperformed at the box office. It kickstarted a period of his life that would see him change his approach to movies, and eventually take a step back from making them altogether.
Yet lost in the midst of all of this was the fact that Zack & Miri Make A Porno is a far funnier movie that it’s often given credit for. What Smith does, better than most comedy directors, is pull together not just compelling leads, but a collection of cameo and supporting characters that are enormously fun to watch. It’s crude, but comfortably one of Smith’s funniest films.
48. The Road To Wellville
Alan Parker’s lost movie, this. The Road To Wellville‘s weaker second half belies the sheer joy of the first. It’s a movie that tells the story of cereal inventor Dr Kellogg (played by Anthony Hopkins), and his bizarre early 20th century health facility.
Hopkins is great value in the lead role, and the lively supporting cast – Matthew Broderick, John Cusack, Dana Carvey, Bridget Fonda, Colm Meaney – are good value too. Check out too the fun score from Rachel Portman. It’s brief, but has the best track of laughing ladies you’ll ever want to hear.
47. Jack And Sarah
Lost a little mail-Four Weddings And A Funeral, Jack And Sarah is a charming and funny movie that gives Richard E Grant a rare and very welcome lead role. Samantha Mathis – so excellent in Pump Up The Volume, which we looked at here – plays a young American who takes on a nanny role in a British man’s house. Said British man, Jack, is played by Grant, and his character is recently widowed. From that premise, Tim Sullivan’s movie delivers good laughs, a lot of heart and precious little schmaltz. It’s an overlooked gem.
46. Over The Hedge
If you’re looking for some of the best big screen comedy of the past decade, then check out the animated films. One that seems to have got lost in the midst of the assorted franchises and clutter and DreamWorks’ wonderful Over The Hedge. It never found quite the mass audience it needed for a sequel, but it’s often exceptionally funny, and scores bonus William Shatner switch. DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg has admitted in the past that he has a soft spot for this one, and he’d like to have done another. We agree with him.
45. The Parole Officer
Off the back of the success of Alan Partridge, Steve Coogan took to the big screen in this British comedy that saw him playing a character with about 20% of Partridge’s DNA (not least in a glorious rant of sorts near the end). Directed by John Duigan – the director behind the brilliant Sirens and particularly Flirting – Coogan’s parole officer finds himself framed for murder, with often very funny results. It’s not vintage Coogan, perhaps, but it certainly deserves to be far more than bargain bin fodder. It’s a good, solid British comedy.
Here’s a great little British black comedy, about a group of disparate, neurotic characters and their experiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Stephen Mangan puts in a great performance as an arrogant and wildly successful comedian, while Chris O’Dowd and Lucy Punch are similarly fun as the less popular funny people attempting to make an impression on apathetic audiences. One of those UK films that was barely marketed for some reason, it’s well worth seeking out on DVD.
Laced throughout many of Gore Verbinski’s films – from The Lone Ranger and Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, to Rango (although perhaps not The Ring) – is a real adept comedy touch. Not surprising, though, to those of us who sat through and enjoyed Mousehunt. It’s the kind of movie that looks garbage on the packaging, but it’s a real delight when you sit down to watch it. Nathan Lane and Lee Evans are an excellent comedy double act, and Verbinski basically compiles as close to a live action Tom & Jerry as you’re likely to get.
Plus: Christopher Walken.
42. Bhaji On The Beach
A British comedy from 1993 from director Gurinder Chadha (who would go on to make Bend It Like Beckham, amongst others), Bhaji On The Beach is a funny and intelligent piece of work from the pen of Meera Syal. Its central plot concerns a bunch of British Asian women going on a daytrip to Blackpool, but where the movie has plenty of fun is exploiting the age – and attitude – differences between the seasiders. Witty, sparky dialogue and some real depth to the characters help too, and Bhaji On The Beach doesn’t shortchange on laughs either. A little gem.
In spite of its problems, there are lots and lots of things to like about 2004’s Eurotrip. The music, one particularly excellent gag about the value of international currencies, and an ensemble cast who have a whale of a time with the idea of a road trip movie across Europe. Predictable? Yep, it’s pretty guilty there. Funny? Very.
Did the 90s have a better ensemble cast in a comedy than the one Soapdish attracted? There’s an argument for the movie we’ve listed at number 26, but Soapdish pulls together Whoopi Goldberg (who had solid comedy hits throughout the decade, notably Made In America and the Sister Act films), Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr (and just how young does he look in this?) and the hugely underappreciated Cathy Moriarty. It’s a gleeful comedy too, taking place behind the scenes of hit TV soap opera, with everyone concerned willing to send themselves up a treat. Lots of good laughs, too.
Fascinating trivia time: PCU is directed by the man who played Ellis in Die Hard, Mr Hart Bochner (we interviewed him here). Bochner also helmed the comedy High School High. PCU is the best one though, and it’s also a movie that’s not particularly well known outside of the US. Understandably perhaps: it’s a campus comedy, in the style of Animal House, where you’ll find a young Jon Favreau in the midst of the ensemble cast.
38. Addams Family Values
A surprise box office disappointment, this was comfortably the best of the Addams Family films, and Christina Ricci’s performance as Wednesday is the best comedy work by a then-child actress in recent memory. Her trip into the happiness hut remains the comic highlight of Addams Family Values, but Barry Sonnenfeld’s sequel packs in more laughs than he squeezed out of three Men In Black films. It’s a real delight, and a surprisingly overlooked one. With extra switch too for excellent supporting work by Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski (who we’re going to talk about later)…
37. Stiff Upper Lips
The Merchant Ivory period drama was prevalent in British movie theater in the 80s and 90s, and this fun spoof gleefully pokes fun at it all. Stiff Upper Lips, from Leon The Pig Farmer director Gary Sinyor, plays with class differences, snobbery, posh costumes and Britishness, and mines the genre efficiently for laughs. A sequel, in the Downton Abbey era, would be very welcome.
36. The Man Who Knew Too Little
Three Bill Murray projects next (and there’s a case for his sole directorial effort, What About Bob, as well). The Man Who Knew Too Little is a movie that works precisely because of Murray’s careful, excellent performance as a man mistaken for a spy. Rowan Atkinson covered similar ground in the fairly shitty Johnny English movies, but The Man Who Knew Too Little manages to put a solid movie around a great central performance. That’s the key difference. It’s no classic again, but it’s a lot of fun.
35. Osmosis Jones
A belter, this one. A mainly animated movie that bombed at the box office, Osmosis Jones is a comedy set inside the human body, where the race is on to stop a virus from killing the person that the movie is set inside. It’s from the Farrelly Brothers, and the switch to animation serves them well. Bill Murray plays the human concerned, and the mainly voice cast is rounded out by the likes of Chris Rock, Laurence Fishburne and The Shatner. It’s a hugely underrated movie this one, full stop.
34. What About Bob
Frank Oz’s comedy joins Bill Murray with Richard Dreyfuss for a movie about a psychiatrist who, on his vacation, is tracked down by one of his more obsessive patients. But whilst Murray’s performance as said patient is suitably strong, much of the delight with What About Bob? comes from the brilliant Richard Dreyfuss. Furthermore, the interplay between the pair of them is excellent, and for a movie that simply pairs two brilliant actors on strong form, What About Bob? would earn a recommendation alone. That it’s also very, very funny helps enormously.
A quick tip of the hat too for another Murray project that we couldn’t quite squeeze onto the list, Quick Change. That one has its moments as well…
33. Funny Bones
Director Peter Chelsom has made some strong films – Hear My Song is a real standout – but it’s the delightful Funny Bones we’re giving a nudge to on this list. The story of a man after a comedy partner, the movie’s not strictly a full-on comedy – Jerry Lewis’ role is a straight one here – but it’s a wonderfully quirky piece of movie theater. Plus, Lee Evans is excellent, and Oliver Platt – in a rare lead role – is strong too. With Oliver Reed and Leslie Caron helping round out the cast, this is a fascinating oddity, and an amusing one.
32. Death Becomes Her
Robert Zemeckis doesn’t do much in the way of comedy now, which is a shame, given that his CV includes the likes of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Romancing The Stone. Perhaps the commercial disappointment of his effects-driven comedy Death Becomes Her was partly to blame. Uniting Bruce Willis, Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn, truthfully, this wasn’t a movie I warmed to a lot first time I saw it (nor did lots of reviewers, it seems), but it stands up, and there’s screwball fun and black comedy to be had. It seems strange that a movie gets knocked for having ambitions not too far beyond being fun, but Death Becomes Her definitely deserves a reappraisal.
31. Party Girl
That Parker Posey, one of the best acting talents of her generation, has never enjoyed more mainstream success is baffling. Sure, her commitment to independent and smaller movies has a part to play there, but from good films to bad, she’s consistently shone. Looking for proof? How about the 1995 movie Party Girl, a very funny flick that gives Posey a big, strong lead role. Her character is tinged with grey areas, and the movie itself has brains, and has fun. Further Parker Posey recommendations? Apart from any Christopher Guest movie, Josie And The Pussycats is pretty much a must.
30. My Cousin Vinny
I’ve always had a softer spot than most for director Jonathan Lynn’s Sgt Bilko remake, but My Cousin Vinny was the movie of his that broke through (not withstanding the wonderful Clue, of course). It notoriously won Marisa Tomei an Oscar, but otherwise seems to be a bit forgotten about. It doesn’t deserve that, though. Joe Pesci’s central performance is very funny, the script crackles with good lines, and Herman Munster himself – Fred Gwynne – gets an excellent final big screen role as Judge Haller. In fact, the interplay between Pesci and Gwynne alone is enough to justify digging the DVD out.
29. Crazy People
The late Dudley Moore’s big screen comedies were patchy towards the end of his career, but Crazy People stands out. It’s a great concept here, a movie about an advertising professional who decides to simply tell the truth in his commercials. And inevitably much of the fun follows his new found career direction. A sort-of Jerry Maguire, if he’d been allowed to keep his job. That said, some of the material feels quite uncomfortable now…
28. 2 Days In Paris
Followed by a sequel, 2 Days In New York, it’s best to start with the French-set opener, which is written and directed by Julie Delpy, who also stars. It feels a bit like a loose cousin of the Before Sunset/Sunshine/Midnight films, as Delpy and Adam Grunberg play a couple attempting to put the spark back into the relationship. They do so by visiting her mother in Paris, a city that just happens to also house several former lovers.
Delpy’s script is very, very funny in places, and like many of the best comedies, there’s quite a lot bubbling below the surface. A bit too long perhaps, but a quality comedy.
27. Brewster’s Millions
There’s a decent argument that Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy See No Evil Hear No Evil should be on this list, although truthfully, I’ve always found it just a little patchy. For concentrated Pryor genius, the Pryor-centric take on Brewster’s Millions was and is far more fun. Co-starring John Candy (and with Walter Hill directing), Pryor’s Brewster has to blow $30m in 30 days so that he can inherit $300m.
Truthfully, it’s the performances rather than script that seem to breathe so much life into Brewster’s Millions, but it does seem to be the overlooked Richard Pryor movie. He gives a golden performance here, even if pretty much everyone watching could have worked out more efficient ways to spend the money quicker.
26. The Paper
With Parenthood, director Ron Howard delivered one of the very best ensemble comedies of the 1980s. He went on to prove that it was no fluke, once again assembling a strong ensemble and putting them together with very funny and very entertaining results.
Unlike Parenthood, though, The Paper all but sank. The setting is a New York tabloid newspaper, with a grizzled collection of characters and a daily deadline to hit. That instantly lends the movie an energy and a pace to it, but it’s the sparks between the company of actors – including Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Randy Quaid and Robert Duvall – that makes it work so well. The late, great Jason Robards is on fine form too.
And while we’re here, Howard’s satirical comedy EdTV, released after The Truman Show but made around the same time, deserves a bit more love too.
Apologies for the page break, but the list’s so long, it would take an eternity to load without one.
Anyway, here’s the next half of our underappreciated comedy list, which counts us down from 25 to one. And the first entry is a cracking sci-fi comedy with monsters invading Ireland...
Grabbers made it to UK cinemas for just four or five days at the end of last year, when it then promptly left the big screen for the world of DVD and Blu-ray. A real pity, because this mix of horror and comedy delivers some very, very big laughs. The genius to it was widely given away with the promotion of the movie, but we’ll just go as far as to say some beverage consumption helps fuel the movie at one stage. Plus, there’s some welcome improvisational tactics when faced with lots of dangerous (and impeccably designed) monsters.
24. A Cock & Bull Story
Comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have teamed up since with the wonderful TV series The Trip, but Michael Winterbottom’s 2005 feature is every bit as funny. Essentially a movie within a movie, A Cock & Bull Story goes behind the scenes of an ill-fated attempt to shoot an adaptation of the classic 18th century novel The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy. Like the novel, the movie’s a work of metafiction, and full of digressions and apparently incidental conversations which are extremely funny. Coogan and Brydon have an easy charm as they spark off one another, and some of the movie’s best moments are the ones where they’re just sitting around talking.
The unusual and loose narrative structure make this more of a niche picture than the dreaded Hangover movie, but it’s full of genuinely funny moments, and a talented supporting cast – look out for Stephen Fry, Gillian Anderson, Dylan Moran and lots of other familiar faces in small roles.
23. Lucky Break
A criminally overlooked British prison movie, headlined by James Nesbitt, about an attempted breakout. The Full Monty’s Peter Cattaneo directs, as the plan is put in place for the prisoners to put on a musical (the book to which is written by Stephen Fry!) as cover for an escape attempt. The movie scores switch instantly for including Celia Imrie in the cast, but the ensemble – which includes Timothy Spall, Olivia Williams and Bill Nighy – are a lot of fun. And the movie itself is a bit of a hoot.
If you like your comedy black, then Peter Mullan’s Orphans is very much the kind of movie where you can’t believe quite what you’re laughing at. It’s a dark tale of four siblings, who come together in Glasgow for their mother’s funeral, that Mullan wrote and directed. He’s got a sharp eye for comedy too, finding plenty of humor in the midst of the central tragedy. And the denouement is really quite priceless. The drama goes quite deep at times, and Mullan balances his excellent movie with real skill. Your funnybones will most definitely get a workout.
21. Urusei Yatsura: Only You
Here’s a truly oddball one for you. In Japan, Rumiko Takahashi’s manga series Urusei Yatsura (literally, Those Obnoxious Aliens) was colossally successful in the 70s and 80s, and spawned a long-running TV anime as well as a number of animated movies. The premise – and this is really simplifying things – is that a painfully dim highschool student named Ataru has managed to prevent an alien takeover by sheer dumb luck, but ends up in an arranged marriage to a floating alien princess named Lum by doing so. This second movie came out in 1983, but you don’t necessarily need to have seen the previous movie or the TV series to appreciate it – a screwball comedy of the most surreal sort, it’s wildly entertaining, even if one or two of the cultural references and puns go over your head somewhat. The early sight of a chubby pink penguin postman on a floating bicycle really is a sight to behold.
The most underappreciated screen portrayal of Richard Nixon is arguably Dan Hedaya’s take on the former US President. Dick, from co-writer and director Andrew Fleming (who was behind the worth-seeking-out Threesome), sees Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as two girls taking the White House tour. Not being blessed with the foresight that Roland Emmerich’s White House Down would offer some time later, the pair split off from said tour, and meet Tricky Dicky himself. So you sort of end up with a teen comedy on one hand, a riffing of the Watergate scandal on the other, and a historical comedy in the middle of it all. Box office gold did not follow, but Dick is a little gem. And Hedaya would have done Oliver Stone proud had he not cast Anthony Hopkins as Nixon instead…
Joe Dante’s outright funniest comedy arguable remains Gremlins 2, a movie that – contrary to its initial movie theater release – seems very popular now. But what about Matinee? A love mail to B movies, the movie centres around John Goodman’s showman, who arrives in a small time with the aim of making the most out of its picture house. Never mind 3D or an IMAX screen, Goodman’s Lawrence Woolsey – based around William Castle – looks to pull out all the tricks to give his audience a good time. And it’s all the more important, given the sinister backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis.
A movie of two halves certainly, but even the movie within a movie here – “Mant! Half man, half ant, all terror!” – would be worth the admission money/rental fee/download cost/prison sentence if you nick the movie.
18. Tucker & Dale Vs Evil
Horror comedies are difficult to get right, but this slasher parody manages to skewer the trappings of its genre with extraordinary precision, and creates two genuinely loveable main characters at the same time. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play the title Tucker and Dale, a pair of hillbillies who are in the process of rennovating their dream retreat – a little cabin in the woods.
Before they know it, a group of obnoxious, wealthy city teenagers are swarming around the place, and their tendency to accidentally off themselves leads to the assumption that Tucker and Dale are derranged serial killers. Telling the bloody tale from the perspective of two placid country folk is an absolute masterstroke, and Tucker & Dale is a real treat from start to finish.
17. Fear Of A Black Hat
The format of this 90s comedy may not be especially innovative – essentially, it’s the Spinal Tap of the rap music scene – but it’s genuinely funny. The passage of time may have rendered some of the jokes obscure to the youth of today, but anyone with memories of 90s hip-hop and popular music in general will have fun with the way Fear Of A Black Hat pokes fun at the era’s music industry.
16. The Ref
Released as Hostile Hostages for some reason in the UK, this is a movie from the late, sorely missed Ted Demme, which sees Denis Leary’s burglar taking a family hostage on Christmas Eve. The problem? He’s bitten off a bit more than he can chew, not least with the bickering couple at the heart of the family, played brilliantly by Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey. So the movie turns, and the burglar turns out to be the one trying to bring the family together, ideally before the police turn up and arrest him. Simple.
With crackling dialogue, performances with genuine crackle and spark, and dark edges all around, The Ref/Hostile Hostages/Whatever you want to call it is testament to the talents of Demme. Dig out a copy of Beautiful Girls as well if you can.
I’m going out on a limb here and calling Eddie Murphy’s performance in Bowfinger as his funniest on the big screen. It’s also the last truly funny Steve Martin movie, based on his script. Murphy takes on two roles, one of whom is the world’s biggest movie star. And the plan? To shoot a movie around said movie star, without him realising he’s in it. Terrance Stamp contributes an excellent cameo (a role that he’d all but revisit in Yes Man), and Christine Barankski is just brilliant. It’s several comedy talents on really strong form. Bowfinger is an hilarious treat.
14. The Emperor’s New Groove
A movie that could, and perhaps even should have been a disaster. As charted in the unofficial documentary The Sweatbox (directed by Trudi Styler), the movie started out as a very different beast, an environmental musical of sorts with music from Sting. To say it underwent a lot of changes would be no understatement, and The Sweatbox doesn’t really pull its punches in that regard.
But the movie that started as Kingdon Of The Sun turned into The Emperor’s New Groove, and the end result, surprisingly, is one of Disney’s funniest animated films ever (and that includes the underappreciated comedy side to Mulan, too). It’s laugh out loud good, zippy, hugely entertaining, and one of the rarely mentioned gems of Disney’s incredible run from 1989 through to the early 2000s.
13. In The Bleak Midwinter
The best Christmas movie you’ve probably never seen, and one of Kenneth Branagh’s best directorial efforts. In The Bleak Midwinter is a brutally funny story of a bunch of luvvies putting on a production of Hamlet in a British church on Christmas Eve. It gives Branagh a platform to pull the leg of many of his colleagues and friends, and Richard Briers utterly steals any scene he’s let anywhere near. We’ve written about In The Bleak Midwinter in more detail here. It’s well worth the effort of tracking down.
A really charming, funny and warm romantic comedy, Adventureland is from Paul and Superbad director Greg Mottola, from his own screenplay. Jesse Eisenberg takes the lead, as a graduate forced to abandon his plans to go to Europe when his source of money dries up, and thus takes on a job at a run-down amusement park. There, he meets Kristen Stewart’s Erin, herself a far from traditional rom-com character. The added gold is in the supporting players, particularly Freaks And Geeks alumnus Martin Starr, who gives a firm lesson in why you should never play the games at a theme park…
11. Tin Cup
Kevin Costner hasn’t done too many comedies in a career, which is a pity, as he’s got an excellent leading man, with humor rippling through his bones. Tin Cup remains one of the very best romantic comedies for grown ups that the 1990s produced (if not the best), with Costner and Rene Russo as the central couple. The movie’s set around the world of golf (cue a great supporting performance from Don Johnson), but as with director Ron Shelton’s other sporting movies – most notably Bull Durham – the sport is the platform for him to explore what he really wants to talk about. Tin Cup is funny, charming and brilliant.
10. Hangin’ With The Homeboys
It’s a little known tragedy of movie theater that director Joseph B Vasquez died back in 1995, at the age of just 33. He died of complications from AIDS, bringing a premature end to a career that had shown enormous promise (although his reported behaviour did him few favours). In fact, read into the story of his background, and the fact that he overcame so much to deliver a movie as strong as Hangin’ With The Homeboys.
He was 28 when it was released, and from the start, it’s a movie that defies expectations and stereotype. At heart, the story of four friends on a night out, Hangin’ With The Homeboys goes through a plethora of issues in its 90 minutes, and it’s got a raw feel to it throughout.
It’s also very funny, aided by excellent performances from the likes of Doug E Doug and John Leguizamo. Plus, the terrific punchlines really stand out too. It’s not the easiest movie to track down, but Hangin’ With The Homeboys is very entertaining, very funny, and very much worth the effort.
The Farrelly Brothers have had two major hit movies – There’s Something About Mary and Dumb And Dumber – but a couple that never found the bigger audience they arguably deserved. We’ve already talked about the excellent Osmosis Jones, but for sheer, regular laughs, the crude and brilliant Kingpin takes some beating.
Not often has Hollywood tackled ten pin bowling as the foundation of a feature, but here, there’s the striking rivalry between Bill Murray’s Ernie McCracken and Woody Harrelson’s Roy Munson to explore. You don’t actually get that much Murray for your money with Kingpin, and it’s the spare pair of Harrelson and Randy Quaid’s Amish man Ishmael who carry much of the movie.
As a piece of narrative fiction, Kingpin is nothing special at all, and for a polite to watch in company without any bull wanking jokes in it, it’s probably best to pass. But for a consistently funny, crude movie, stolen by Bill Murray, Kingpin hits.
8. The Castle
In the 90s, Australian movie theater generated some break out comedy hits, particularly Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom, Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert and the surprisingly melancholy Muriel’s Wedding (which gave Toni Collette her big break). The Castle tends to be the forgotten one, but there’s an argument it was the best of the lot.
It tells the story of a family who live next to Melbourne Airport, and are very happy about it thank you very much. However, when the airport wants to expand, their home is under threat, leaving the family defending their castle.
Director Rob Stich, who would go on to make The Dish, shot the movie in under two weeks (giving a movie debut to Eric Bana as he did so), and the result is a joy, and a right cockle-warmer. A bloody funny one too.
7. Role Models
You get to the end of Role Models, and inevitably, your head will be full of the screen grabbing brilliance of Bobb’e J Thompson as the very young Ronnie. He’s the young boy who thinks all white men are Ben Affleck, and who offers a crash course in on-screen swearing that many older comic talents could learn from. His “fuck you, Miss Daisy” remains a show stopper.
But Role Models has lots of joyous moments. Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s vagina joke works every time, and then there’s the one who rarely gets the credit, Joe Lo Truglio as LARP-er Kuzzik. Every one of his lines in the movie is a peach.
Headlined by Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott, the pair of them in strong form, Role Models is proof positive that Hollywood can deliver a funny, enduring R-rated comedy when it gets the right bunch of talent on the right movie. It’s worth 100 Hangover films, and remains a work of comedy genius. “Suck it, Reindeer Games…”
David Zucker will go down in comedy’s hall of fame for The Naked Gun, Airplane! and another movie we’ll talk about soon. But BASEketball remains a mysterious flop, a big screen outing for South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone that’s often breathlessly funny. It’s like Dodgeball, just a decade earlier.
Centring on a new sport, a hybrid of baseball and basketball, BASEketball goes through some of the usual motions of the sports movie, but it also injects psych-outs, where random insults need to be shouted out to put a player off their shot. Needless to say, lots of very quotable ones come out in the movie’s 90 minute running time.
5. Serial Mom
There’s an argument that there’s a whole cluster of John Waters comedies that don’t get the respect and appreciate they deserve. But I’m going for the one that gave Kathleen Turner one of her absolute finest big screen roles.
Serial Mom casts her as Beverly R Sutphin, a mother and husband who believes in things being done right. Beverly is defensive of her family – that’s some understatement – and it’s not long before the movie’s body count escalates.
Waters – with a cast that also includes Ricki Lake, Traci Lords and Matthew Lillard – fuses this with many, many laugh out loud moments, the highlight arguably being Beverly beating someone to death with a leg of lamb, while the music of Annie plays out in the background. Every swipe of meat is perfectly in time to the tune. It’s all part of a wonderfully black comedy, that gives Turner one of her very, very best screen roles.
4. Office Space
Appreciating that Office Space is a movie with a lot of affection in geeky circles, it’s still a long way from any kind of mainstream appreciation. And that’s the mainstream’s loss. In truth, we could have elected one from a bunch of Mike Judge comedies here (Idiocracy and Extract both have lots of strong moments), but Office Space is something special.
It’s an utterly relatable story which helps, about workers in an office who hate their job and hate their boss. There’s a cracking cast at work here too, but it’s a movie nonetheless dominated by one of the best ever comedy scene stealing performances ever put on celluloid. Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh, the boss from hell, is a staggeringly brilliant creation. Pitched astoundingly well, it demonstrates why Cole is one of the very best comedy actors of his generation (and we’re coming to another of his movies next). Combined with Judge’s biting script, and the plethora of stand out moments and quotable lines, Office Space is finally getting some of the attention it demands. Still not enough though. Here’s Cole at work…
3. A Very Brady Sequel
Sequels, goes the cliche, are never as good as the original. But A Very Brady Sequel is to the terrific The Brady Bunch Movie what Aliens is to Alien. It takes the original ideas, and expands it, develops characters, and delivers a movie that works brilliantly as a standalone, but also ties well into the first.
It’s a bold and brilliant sequel, content to juggle dark themes, with Gary Cole and Shelley Winter furiously selling any innuendo they’re let anywhere near. It’s also very funny, and gave the late David Graf one of his final roles (he’s best known for Tackleberry in the Police Academy movies). You also get Tim Matheson, before he got made Martin Sheen’s vise-president, in one of movie theater’s finest tripping scenes.
With incest on the one hand and Gary Cole’s astonishing Yoda-like performance on the other, A Very Brady Sequel is an exquisite comedy, that didn’t even get a movie theater release in the UK (courtesy of a controversy over nunchuks, that saw it effectively banned at one point). Avoid the third movie in the series at all costs, though… See also: cinematic Yodas
2. Top Secret
Never mind an underappreciated comedy, Top Secret is an underappreciated movie full stop. It’s the oft-forgotten movie from the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team that’s best known for Airplane! and The Naked Gun. But Top Secret? It’s as good as anything they’ve ever done. That’s not a statement written lightly.
Top Secret stars a youthful Val Kilmer as Nick Rivers, an American singer performing in East Germany his hits such as Skeet Surfin’ and How Silly Can You Get. Gleefully taking the rise out of 50s spy movies and Elvis Presley films, Rivers becomes involved in the resistance movement, and bluntly, the laughs never stop.
Highlights? “He’s a little horse” out of context sounds like nothing, but it’s a bring the house down line. Likewise the Potato Farm, the reversing of war movie stereotypes (man jumps on grenade, everyone around him blows up and he survives), musical numbers, the ballet, Omar Sharif…
Top Secret is, in short, a superb comedy. And, in the tradition of Airplane!, one viewing simply is never enough…
1. Waiting For Guffman
We had to limit ourselves to just one Christopher Guest movie, else you’ve have had Best In Show yapping around the top ten and A Mighty Wind a bit further down the list. But few comedies have ever had the effect on me that the glorious Waiting For Guffman had, and yet it astounds me so few people have heard of it.
The setup is simple enough. An amateur dramatics group put on a music to celebrate the anniversary of their small town, and then suddenly go over the top when they learn that the legendary Broadway critic, Mort Guffman, is coming to see it. It isn’t just one of the show’s ensemble who sees this as their route to fame, and/or out of small town life.
Guest’s films work on a tight cast of regular players, and they’ve never gelled together as well as they have here. Guest himself threatens to walk away with the movie as director Corky St Clair, but then there’s the wonderful Fred Willard and Catherine O’Hara together. The highlight, for me, is Eugene Levy, whose performance here consistently reduced me to tears of laughter. The kind of laughing at a movie where you wonder where your next breath is coming from, it’s that funny. Sure, comedy is subjective, but Waiting For Guffman delivers every single time for me.
Examining insecurities, the appreciation of just a little bit of talent and the frictions of a small production at the best of times, Waiting For Guffman was heavily improvise by Guest and his cast, and between them, they’ve come up with one of the very best comedies of the past 30 years. Anyone who cares about movie comedy should be tracking down a Christopher Guest boxset. And – Spinal Tap aside – Waiting For Guffman should be the first of his films in the DVD player.