12 June 2010

Summer Comedy Round Up

Sixteen Candles (High School Reunion Collection)Summer Comedy Round Up
By Kristin Battestella

Tans are bad for you, so take a day in with the gang and have a belly of laughs with these classic comedies and recent capers. Yee-haw! 

Fanboys – This 2009 ode to the Star Wars fandom isn’t actually as geeky or obsessive as it could be-going for a more mainstream Star Wars versus Star Trek angle before some finite EU mystique.  Thankfully, there are some finely preposterous and witty gags here.  The tragic drama and coming-of-age angles also don’t go far enough, but all in all not a bad little movie-especially since it takes place during the 1998 anticipation of The Phantom Menace.  We all know how that turned out!

The Front Page (1974) – Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau lead an all-star cast in this Depression era tale of newspaper capers and Chicago wit.  Yes, Billy Wilder’s update is a step down from Howard Hawks and Cary Grant’s charming His Girl Friday, and I don’t know about Susan Sarandon’s pre Rocky Horror singing or the misuse of the wonderful Carol Burnett.  Nevertheless, the period style and fun from the leads keep this one watchable. Can you honestly picture any other pair as such crabby newspapermen?

The Invention of Lying – Ricky Gervais’ 2009 charmer has some greatly funny and blunt scenes thanks to its built in premise about no one ever lying and always saying exactly what he means- but such a notion has its problems, too.  It’s a little iffy to say religion is just something some guy made up, the higher concept ideologies don’t always pan out, and the onscreen relationship with Jennifer Gardner is a little devoid. However, the seriously touching and absolutely endearing debates on appearances, loneliness, and well, lying win out.  

The Out-of-TownersThe Out of Towners – Modern viewers can enjoy some of the fun from the 1999 remake with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, but the original 1970 kitschy whine fest starring Jack Lemmon is full of sardonic nostalgia and then some.  Sandy Dennis matches Lemmon wit for wit as one bad New York turn after another follows the yuppie Ohio couple.  Though not a laugh out loud comedy per se, the simple absurdity mixed with true to life ridiculousness can make the audience laugh aloud all the same.  Don’t we all have the annoying woman and disastrous vacation sometime?

Sixteen Candles – Eighties teen comedy fans unite!  Director John Hughes and star Molly Ringwald were funny, fresh, and delightful in 1984 and this very quotable flick still has its moments today.  Sure maybe we haven’t all been the geek sealed inside a glass coffee table or paid to see girl’s panties for a case of floppy disks-remember those? However, we’ve all had a crappy birthday, and those bad eighties memories still put a smile on our faces-and quotes in our mouths.  “What’s happenin’, Hot Stuff?”  Actually, anyone interested in classic comedy should just get a print out of Hughes’ filmography, rent them all, and make a lot of popcorn.

The Terminal – Yes, this 2004 Stephen Spielberg vehicle starring Tom Hanks is more appropriately a drama or dramadey.  Hanks and leading lady Catherine Zeta-Jones have plenty of despair, seriousness, and sadness here-but the wit and comical personas are all well and good, too.  Hanks is delightfully charming in his innocence and simplicity, and the quirky crew of the terminal in which he’s bound is given room to make us laugh and put a bittersweet smile on our faces.  John Williams’ witty score also gives us the appropriate cues when its time to laugh or cry. I don’t know why this film gets such a bad wrap.

Who's Harry Crumb?Who’s Harry Crumb – Dated, yes; predictable, of course.  Side splitting laugh fest with wonderful quips, sarcasm, and physical comedy? Always! The late John Candy once again uses every ounce of his wit, stature, and charm to best an on form supporting cast- including Annie Potts, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Thomerson and Shawnee Smith.  So what if the mystery isn’t super deep or more than a glorified Macguffin- the delightful hijinks in solving the crime keep this one watchable twenty years on.  Goodness me, has it been that long?

Lastly, here’s a note on a few to keep out of your DVD corral.

Land of the Lost – Will Ferrell’s 2009 spoof of the classic series hits all the wrong notes and them some. It’s not really a nostalgic homage, but has too many themes towards adults, like the usual unfunny sex and stoner puns. Then again, the storyline and characterizations are just too juvenile.  The science is silly and the Cha-Ka jokes are too dang dumb.  Stick with The Brady Bunch movie parodies instead.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard – Another miss vaguely associated with this growing old fast Frat Pack, starring Jeremy Piven and a useless cameo from Will Ferrell.  All the car clich├ęs, relationship runarounds, rock dreams, and sex stupids are here-and every single thing falls flat.  The cast is unlikable and it’s a very long hour and a half.  Save yourself the absurdity. 

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