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The 10 Best British Comedies of The Last Decade

24 December 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Charlie Watson

5. What We Did On Our Holiday (2014)

What We Did On Our Holiday (2014)

What We Did On Our Holiday was the surprise of the year. There was never a massive advertising campaign behind it and many will have simply never noticed it existed during its short run in cinemas this year. However, those that did were subjected to a genuinely simultaneously hilarious and heartfelt piece of work.

Rosamund Pike this time teams up with another British icon, The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant to play separating parents taking their three kids up to his dad’s 75th birthday celebrations in Scotland. The film came from the minds behind much loved British sitcom Outnumbered and any fans of that show will notice similarities – especially with the three kids. However, as the old adage says ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

Whilst Tennant and Pike are the parents, they are only really present for the first (the journey up, filled with spot on observations of long distance driving) and third acts of the film as the middle portion is dominated by Billy Connolly’s Gordy taking his three grandkids out to the beach whilst the adults get on with setting up the festivities. It is these four actors and characters that steal the film entirely.

Gordy has survived a bout of cancer recently but it has returned and he is not going to last much longer this time around and Billy Connolly’s performance is superb as he handles the topic of death to the three young children. Connolly himself had just been diagnosed with cancer at the time of filming but had not told anyone and has spoken since about how weirdly cathartic the whole experience was and translates on screen.

The big moment comes about halfway in and for that scene alone, the film deserved a place on the list. Many cinemagoers were moved to tears by the performances and rightly so. That is not to say it is not also a funny film, because it is.

The youngest’s obsession with her pet brick and her probing questions as to what her uncle (the excellent Ben Miller – interestingly a union of Johnny English’s partners here) actually does for a living are just a few hilarious moments. What We Did is a film that will hopefully get a good following upon its DVD release as it deserves to be seen.

 

4. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)

Alan Partridge Alpha Papa (2013)

Thankfully Steve Coogan does have a film that qualifies for the list. The Trip with Rob Brydon would definitely have made it had it been a film release everywhere but in between the two series Coogan brought back an old favourite. Alpha Papa saw the North Norfolk DJ have to handle a hostage situation. It is a tactic that worked for Pegg, Frost and Wright with their films, taking a big Hollywood concept and apply it to quiet British life and it worked superbly for Coogan too.

It all kicks off when the station is taken over by a faceless corporate brand called Shape and as part of their restructuring someone had to be let go, which ends up being Pat (Colm Meaney). Unfortunately, he snaps and ends up taking everyone hostage at the rebranding party. What follows is the probably the funniest siege in cinematic history as the bumbling Partridge becomes the only person that the police (led by Darren Boyd and Anna Maxwell Martin) can use to try and defuse the situation.

It is a relatively short film by modern standards but the laughs per minute count is high and it does mean there is no let up in the proceedings throughout. Notable mentions go to Simon Greenall’s Michael the Geordie and Tim Key’s “Sidekick” Simon who does a remarkable job since he spending the majority of the film with a saucepan gaffer taped to his head as a rest for Pat’s shotgun.

The final showdown at Cromer Pier, probably the first and last time that will ever happen, is another great highlight of a film rammed with laugh out loud moments.

 

3. In the Loop (2009)

In the Loop (2009)

On a roll of TV concepts taken onto the big screen, this time it is Armando Iannucci’s turn (who did actually have a hand in Alan Partridge too and incidentally Coogan does appear in a minor role) to take the formula of the successful The Thick of It and apply it to cinemas. Whilst the original cast is intact and Peter Capaldi stays as the swear filled spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, all the other cast members get new characters to play along with adding American counterparts as In the Loop takes aim at the build up to the Iraq war.

Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker will be forever listed as one of the greatest characters of television, not just for comedies, but all genres. Capaldi has a genuine talent in making this grumpy, aggressive and manipulative man someone you actually root for and like as a viewer. (There is a general consensus of ‘hate but we need him’ amongst the characters, though). He also is unique in the way that despite the sheer volume of swear words he utilises, none seem excessive, and his ability to insult is second to none.

Another great turn in the film comes from Tom Hollander as the politician around which the whole debacle spirals out from after a misjudged reply to a question about whether the war was inevitable and the way it all goes wrong for him makes you actually feel sorry for the guy. Making a politician a sympathetic character in this day and age is no easy feat.

However, the whole film deserves the same kind of praise. It is certainly in the running for the sharpest satirical film ever and it is actually somewhat worrying how much at times it feels more of a documentary than satire, it is just that good. There are moments where as a viewer you feel genuinely like this is how the lead up to the invasion of Iraq might have played out.

 

2. In Bruges (2008)

In Bruges (2008)

Martin McDonagh’s first attempt at a feature length film earned him a BAFTA and many fans. Colin Farrell also won a Golden Globe for his performance of tormented hitman Ray who has been banished to Bruges after accidentally killing a small boy during a job. It is the dynamic between Ray and his partner, Ken, played by Brendan Gleeson that is the real defining thread to the film.

Ken’s love for the fairytale feel and the sights of Bruges balances against Ray’s indifference to the whole thing and much of the early part of the film deals with Ray trying to keep himself occupied, which leads to an encounter with Chloë, a local drug dealer and production assistant to a film being filmed in the city and a night with an American dwarf who is starring the film, which is probably the highlight of the film from laugh out loud point of view.

Ken and Ray’s friendship transcends their differences and is a solid core for the viewers and despite the fact they are hitmen, Farrell and Gleeson make the duo likeable characters that you want to see get through this alive.

What makes In Bruges a cult classic though is not just how funny it is, but how once Ken gets his orders from the boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes), the film takes on thriller aspects too. The third act of the film becomes a tense, edge of the seat sequence of scenes once Harry arrives to deal with the mess. The chase through the city at the end is both beautiful and dark, which sums up the film as a whole.

In Bruges is a modern masterpiece and frequently tops lists but in this case it just narrowly misses out by the slightest of margins to…

 

1. Hot Fuzz (2007)

hot-fuzz

Three years after Shaun of the Dead put Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright on the map, they returned with Hot Fuzz, which is their take on the buddy cop and conspiracy thriller genres. Pegg trades in the lovable loser Shaun for badass city cop Nicholas Angel. Angel is promoted but shafted to the seemingly quiet town of Sandford for simply making his colleagues look bad after his attempts to talk to his superiors (Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy respectively) do not end up preventing his relocation.

The trio took everything that made Shaun of the Dead great and built on those principles exceptionally by adding a gripping and nuanced plotline to the proceedings. As bodies start to drop in Sandford, Sergeant Angel starts to wonder if there is a serial killer at work. What transpires to be the real case would have suited a really twisted psychological thriller if taken seriously, but the absurdity of the motive is called out in a hilarious confrontation late on in the film. Hot Fuzz also gets bonus points for a very unique final showdown.

As mentioned, everything that made Shaun great is present in Hot Fuzz too. The foreshadowing jokes are there and in some cases even more cleverly set up. As a result seeing them pay off in the second half of the film feels more rewarding. Along with The World’s End, if you are from a leafy town or village some of the settings and jokes will feel more like knowing nods, but the level and frequency of humourous moments will have anyone laughing throughout.

Oddly, this list starts and ends with Nick Frost and Olivia Colman features. The supporting cast of Hot Fuzz, as will the other two instalments provide many laughs, especially Bill Bailey’s exasperated front desk cop. Hot Fuzz was the first time Paddy Considine joined in, as one of “The Andes” (the other being Rafe Spall – who along with Martin Freeman, Patricia Franklin, Julia Deakin, Bill Nighy and of course Pegg & Frost are the only people to feature in all three films).

Also check out for some famous cameos in the opening to the film. Attack the Block director Joe Cornish is the drug dealer and Peter Jackson (yes, the Peter Jackson) is the crazed guy in the santa costume. Also, Cate Blanchett is the voice of Janine, Angel’s estranged girlfriend at the start that is never seen outside of her forensics garb.

Those sneaky inclusions alone would have made the film a worthwhile watch but as it happened Pegg, Frost and Wright built a consistently hilarious and thrilling film to go with them and as such became one of the defining British comedies of modern times and all time alike.

Author Bio: Charlie is currently trying his hand at marketing after stints in physics and teaching but the one constant in his 22 years of living is film. When he is not watching a film, it is likely another form of media is in play or dabbling with photography. Both he and his camera are hoping for opportunities to travel the world. Follow him on Tumblr (sothisiswatson.tumblr.com) and Twitter (@charlesiwatson).

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