The first in the PopRox Best of the Decade Series: Comedy movies of the 00′s
So here’s where we are in the State of Cinema, circa 2009. About 90 percent of the comedies being made are so bad and formulaic that a couple of things have happened in the past 10 years:
--Only one group of people — The Frat Pack — is allowed to make a comedy anymore. Unless one of those people or Adam Sandler is in your comedy, don’t bother making that movie because it won’t make money. There are faint exceptions, but not many.
--Only one person -- Judd Apatow — is allowed to direct or produce that comedy. Otherwise, it probably won’t make a dime.
--Comedy is barely even a genre anymore -- there are only movies disguised as comedies. The funniest movie of 2007 was Juno, but you’ll see DJ Lance Rock with a show on MTV before you find Juno on Comedy Central. The funniest movie of 2004 was Napoleon Dynamite, but 15 other comedies were higher than it on the list of highest grossing movies of 2004. Only Dodgeball is remotely even close to as funny as that weirdo from Montana was. Or Idaho. Or wherever. Wait, was The Village a comedy? Sure seemed like it. Anyway, people just don’t think the truly funny movies are that funny anymore. They’re much more interested in quick, easy sight gags like fat security guards who fall down a lot.
But there are the exceptions. Movies that go a long way to craft some truly funny jokes, cast the perfect characters
5. Napoleon Dynamite (2004): Go ahead. Try to watch this movie and find a spot where you can watch for more than one minute — just 60 seconds — without laughing out loud. Yeah, most of it is laughing at the borderline mentally challenged, socially inept dork-and-a-half with the best character name of the decade. But that’s the idea — you’re supposed to laugh at him even though he’s the kind of guy you were taught not to laugh at in high school. Maybe that’s why it’s so funny. We’re finally allowed to let out all the public laughs that we saved only for a choice few friends in the privacy of a walk home from the bus instead of study hall. Even the part that isn’t supposed to be funny — Napoleon’s dance at the end — is still, in a weird way, hysterical. The biggest detriment is my jealousy that the filmmakers stole The Promise by When in Rome from the movie I want to make (the end credits song). Other than that, it’s pretty close to a perfect movie.
4. Superbad(2007). Even though I’m becoming more and more convinced that Judd Apatow is some kind of other-worldly devil on a Hell-funded mission to suck real comedy from the world, the man can still spot some funny stuff and knows how to make a classic scene that will be played again and again and again. Superbad has about 20 of them, minimum. Jonah Hill and Michael Cera are perfectly matched as the oddball couple of their high school, and McLovin … well, what can you say about McLovin that hasn’t already been said. I’ve watched this movie about 20 times now, and he’s just one of those characters that gets funnier every time I watch it. If Superbad would have been a TV show, McLovin would have been the Fonz-Urkel type that would have broken out into superstardom with dolls and lunchboxes. Co-writer Seth Rogen and Bill Hader are great as the cops, giving us the glimpse into police life we all think they have, but are too scared to admit. OK, it’s probably not as bad as they show. Can we settle on somewhere in the middle? BEST LINE: The jock on the soccer field chastises Seth for making fun of his elementary school pants-wetting incident to which Seth retorts, “People don’t forget.”
3. Wedding Crashers (2005). You’ve heard all the complaints about how it turns into a chick flick over the last half-hour. It does. Or that it drags at times. It does. But of all the straight Frat Pack movies(I don’t count #2 as a straight Frat Pack movie), Wedding Crashers is the one that gets the most true laughs developed from simple human conversation instead of cheap jokes. There’s no catch-phrase that you can put on a T-shirt, no fart jokes, no streakers and no lesbian kisses. Just good, honest comedy that you need to watch two or three times before you truly appreciate how funny the lines and scenes really are. No one walked out of the theater saying to their buddy, “Holy crap, do you remember that scene at dinner table with the redhead doing things to Vince Vaughn under the table! That was hysterical!” You came out saying how funny Vince Vaughn was getting hit in the football game was. Now, looking back after dozens more viewings, it was the funniest scene of the movie and some of most well-constructed comedy of the decade. If you judged the movie on the first 90 minutes, it’s probably the funniest of the decade. But the stupid 20 minutes of the stupid bike ride on that stupid path to that stupid beach talk — and even after that — really drag the entire movie down and make you feel like you’ve been duped into watching Legally Blonde 3. Now that we’re in the magic age of DVR and DVD, feel free to fast forward right through those. BEST LINE: “You motorboatin’ son of a bitch, you old sailor you! Where is she? Is she still in the house?”
2. The Royal Tenenbaums(2001). In the biggest upset of the decade, this isn’t my number one comedy for the last 10 years, and I’m not quite sure how that happened. It’s the smartest movie of the decade, that’s for sure, hands down, and it isn’t even close. Comedy or no comedy. It’s also the best script of the decade and provides the most honest laughs given to us by some of the best comedic actors of the decade — Luke and Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller and Bill Murray — who are in what should be unfunny roles. But their talent is on display for the world to see here, all held together by the official PopRox Performance of the Decade that Did Not Receive an Oscar Nomination, Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum. Besides Norman Dale, it’s the performance of his lifetime and is the anchor of the best comedy cast of the decade. There’s only one reason I don’t like this movie, and it’s something that bothers me every single solitary time I watch it — hope. It gives me false hope that someday Ben Stiller actually will be an actor of some sort and stop making the same movie over and over. He’s Oscar-worthy in this and then I watch him make a fool of himself on Comedy Central in something like Zoolander or Duplex. It doesn’t make any sense. Whether he’s made a conscious decision to avoid meaty, great comedy roles or not, the fact is he doesn’t take them. Not since this. It’s not fair to knock this movie out of the top spot because of that. But I did. BEST LINE: “I see you @sshole!”
1. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back(2001). Superlative reasons it’s on top of this list: Funniest cameo cast of comedy all-stars like Ben Affleck (twice), Jason Lee (twice), Matt Damon, Chris Rock, George Carlin, Jason Biggs, Jon Stewart, Seann William Scott, Tracy Morgan, Jamie Kennedy and Diedrich Bader. Just read that list again. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Ready to move on? Cool. Will Ferrell’s funniest role. Most quotable. Most laugh-out-loud moments. Most rewatchable. Fastest paced. Most difficult to resist if you happen by it at 2 in the morning right before you were heading to bed. That’s a lot of reasons. By all accounts, it’s should have been completely unfunny. It’s a hodgepodge of scenes rather than a true, coherent movie — like Royal Tenenbaums-- and Kevin Smith has no problem making fun of that fact throughout. The plot makes little-to-no sense and is the kind of ridiculousness that Smith usually charts a course against in his movies. There are at the very least five cheap laughs at the viewer’s expense. It’s all a formula for disaster. But the LPM (laughs per minute) are off the chart and it’s just a hysterically funny movie full of sight gags, incredibly funny dialogue, stars making fun of themselves and an outside look at the inner-Hollywood sanctum. It’s like all the best parts of Entourage multiplied by about 15, then taken to the 27th power. And it’s the funniest movie of the decade. BEST LINE: “What the **** is the Internet?”
Just missed: Little Miss Sunshine, Dodgeball, Borat, The Hangover, Step Brothers, Old School, Team America: World Police, Simpsons Movie, Meet the Parents, Wet Hot American Summer
Very funny movies that aren’t really comedies: Ocean’s 11, Juno, Adaptation, Sideways, Lost in Translation, Ghost World, In Bruges, Once, King of Kong, Me You and Everyone We Know, Garden State
Overrated but still funny: Anchorman, 40-Year-Old Virgin
Most overrated and not that funny at all: Knocked Up