Comedy is probably the most subjective genre of film but with 2015 looming and the holiday quickly approaching, it is also the genre that tends to unite families and large gatherings. The universal language of laughter is the one that a majority of people will turn to in these fun filled weeks and so below are ten great options from the British Isles from the last ten years, though not all will be suitable for the whole family.
In an age where the blockbusters dominate the box office but DVDs, BluRay and streaming services cater for the smaller, less well known offerings, chances are someone, at some point will have said “go see this, it’s hilarious,” now is the chance to finally see what all the fuss is about if you have yet to do so.
Only films released in 2005 or later count, which means stellar offerings, such as Shaun of the Dead, which is normally near the top of lists like these, fall outside the time bracket. Even limiting the list to the last ten years means a whole bunch of great comedies miss out, so there are bound to be personal favourites for some people that have not made into the top ten.
Therefore honorable mentions go to some cult favourites. Four Lions is hilarious to some but utterly flat to others and Attack the Block, which refreshed the alien invasion notion – but got eclipsed a couple of years later by one film that did make the list below. I Give It a Year did the same for romantic comedies especially for the tired trope of last ditch running to the airport/station.
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, the innovative film about making a film from Michael Winterbottom is an undeniably clever film but it drags in places. Though, Winterbottom realised the best parts revolved around scenes with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and made the much finer The Trip and The Trip To Italy that aired as TV series in the UK and so they miss out on that technicality.
10. Cuban Fury (2014)
Starting with a potentially controversial one, Cuban Fury will have likely have been overlooked by most due to its title. Admittedly, the film does not revolutionise the romantic comedy genre plotwise but the sheer charm and warmth given to the character of Bruce Garrett by Nick Frost is worthy of the position alone.
In other hands the idea of ‘big guy does salsa to win a woman’s heart’ could have fallen into awful slapstick but script from Jon Brown and Frost’s performance never allow it to down that route. The result is that Bruce Garrett’s journey in this film never comes across as silly or tragic, but rather inspiring.
The script is tight and the funny moments come well delivered and paced out. Chris O’Dowd, Hollywood’s latest lovable British import, relishes the opportunity to be the unpleasant slimy rival to Nick Frost’s protagonist. The dance off between the two in a multi storey car park is a reminder that despite the generally glossier production values compared to some on this list and the presence of Rashida Jones, that it is still a British film at heart.
However, even with the quality of Frost and O’Dowd’s performances, the film is stolen by Kavyan Novak’s deliciously camp, still Fanta loving Bejan and a wonderful cameo from a modern British comedy legend. Cuban Fury is funny and warm and definitely should be given a look.
9. Sightseers (2012)
It is almost criminal that Sightseers is down at number 9. However, that is a testament to the quality of the eight films yet to come rather than a negative point about Sightseers. All these are excellent films and the gaps in quality from here on in are minimal. This Ben Wheatley directed film revolves around a caravan holiday between budding couple Chris and Tina (Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, also the writers), the latter who also wants to get away from her judgemental and guilt tripping mother for a bit.
However, the holiday quickly goes awry at their first stop, the Crich Tram Museum, where they meet a man who persistently litters and then, as they go to leave, kill him. This first one is set up as an accident (though, a smirk from Chris suggests otherwise) but once the first body drops all pretence follows suit. What follows is a wickedly twisted yet hilarious sequence of events.
There is also a very clever and almost subtle symbolism that runs through the film. As the couple get more and more detached from the normal acceptable way of life, they places they stay get more and more remote. Their journey away from society is not only depicted through their actions but also the landscape, which is stunning throughout if you can overlook the dead bodies littering the countryside, ironically the problem that set off the first murder.
Sightseers is not without fault, though. It is rare film in that it might be a little bit too short. The concise running time of 90 minutes does mean that there are no filler moments but at the same time, it could do with a little bit more fleshing out in places and the plot thread between Tina and her mum is left without a resolution by the end of the film too. They are only minor nitpicks, in an otherwise superb piece of British film.
8. Death at a Funeral (2007)
Frank Oz has had a very varied career, the man behind both Yoda and Miss Piggy and director of Little Shop of Horrors was in director mode for this 2007 outing. The film all takes place during the funeral (surprisingly) of a family patriarch. However, unsurprisingly things do not go smoothly for the grieving family.
The comedy is largely physical and the majority of laughs, as does most of the plot, stem from a pill bottle labelled as valium but are absolutely not valium. The niece of the deceased’s boyfriend, Simon played by Alan Tudyk with a British accent, takes one of the after a car nearly collides into them on the way to the funeral and that is the trigger for the unraveling of the event once they do arrive.
Like most of these ensemble films, there are a whole host of recognisable faces (to the British public at least), Matthew Macfayden is the son of the deceased and is the main character. Jane Asher, Rupert Graves and Keeley Hawes are his mother, brother and wife (who is his real life wife too) respectively.
Peter played namesake Peter Dinklage, who is the only actor to play the same role if with a different name in both this and the US remake of 2010, is the key to the other main plot line through the film and it is when the two threads combine, the insanity spirals quickly out of control. Whilst the film elicits genuine laughs, the bulk of those belong to Alan Tudyk and Dinklage’s Game of Thrones co-star Peter Vaughan’s wheelchair bound Uncle Alfie who does not hold back on his language whatsoever.
7. The World’s End (2013)
Nine years after Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright broke onto the big screen with Shaun of the Dead came the conclusion to what became known as The Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. In the third instalment, they flipped the script as Nick Frost became the normal regular person and Pegg played Gary King, the guy who hit middle age but still behaves like a teenager.
However, Gary manages to gather the old gang back together that consists of Andy (Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Peter (Eddie Marsan) and head back to the town where they grew up. The World’s End was also the reunion of the maligned Bond film Die Another Day’s Pierce Brosnan and resurgent Rosamund Pike in supporting roles.
The plan for the gang was to have a pint in each of their village’s twelve pubs and to complete the infamous pub crawl that they never managed to finish when they were young. However, their attempt is rudely interrupted by the uncovering of an alien invasion but Gary remains determined to finish the pub crawl whilst trying to avoid suspicion and survive the night at the same time.
As with all the Pegg/Frost/Wright collaborations, The World’s End features a whole array of guest stars and cameos. The Sightseers duo Steve Oram and Alice Lowe feature as does Darren Boyd (not his only appearance in this list). Many actors from previous Cornetto film return too, most notably Michael Smiley and David Bradley. Also, the voice of the alien computer will be very familiar indeed. Along with familiar faces comes the familiar brand of humour.
The long set up jokes pay off as usual but there is no denying whilst it can be argued which is the better overall package, The World’s End is ever so slightly the least funny in terms of total laughs. However, the running gag of hurdling the fence makes its last appearance to good effect and the appearance of the cornetto provides a laugh out loud moment. The World’s End is still a brilliant film that needs to be seen.
9. Four Lions (Chris Morris, 2010)
You’ve never seen a film like this. Four wannabe jihadists based in England plan on giving their life for their religion in an attempt to blow themselves up; however, these are probably the most incompetent terrorists ever seen on film. The four lead characters, Omar (Riz Ahmed), Waj (Kayvan Novak), Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), and white convert Barry (Nigel Lindsay), are excellently portrayed by their respective actors and are totally believable in their misadventures.
From arguing amongst themselves as to where the target should be, to accidentally blowing themselves up whilst carrying volatile explosive ingredients, this film showcases a full range of criticisms for Islamic terrorists. However, “Four Lions” also criticises the authorities in charge of keeping terrorism at bay, proving to be just as incompetent, and endangering just as many if not more civilians than the four lead characters.
“Four Lions” is extremely relevant in today’s society and is extremely satirical, and is worth watching just for the performances and dialogue of the four lead characters.