Without a doubt, 2016 has been a rather troubling year. If you’re a political junkie, you’ve seen the restructuring of a new world order and whatever world comes next, and you know it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. If you’re a cinemagoer, you have seen a few of your favorite superheroes letting you down (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “X-Men: Apocalypse”) and you’ve seen the reboot of “Ghostbusters”, which was sadly no laughing matter.
But just because Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” was a painfully unfunny film, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything to laugh about this year. In this list, we will take a look at a series of films that will take your mind off this troubling year. These comedies are in no particular order, and they have different styles of humor, from child friendly, to black comedy, to crude comedies, to just downright gross-out comedy.
Here’s hoping that one of these films have managed (or will manage) to brighten your day.
10. Swiss Army Man
On nearly all fronts, this film seems terrible. It’s a semi love-story involving a corpse, the soundtrack is filled with a cappella tunes, and it’s got more fart jokes than an Adam Sandler film.
Yet, both directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (credited as ”Daniels”) used the very conventions they hate seeing in movies; they themselves hate a cappella songs, they consider fart jokes the lowest common denominator, and they don’t even like the Harry Potter series, even though one the main characters is played by Daniel Radcliffe himself.
They wanted to make a great film using the very things they themselves consider lowbrow. Even during its inception, the duo considered the film ”a terrible idea” that ”doesn’t deserve to exist.” But just as the main character of the film consistently holds himself down in fear of looking like a fool, the directors just went with it.
To call the film a ”love it or hate it” film is very cliche, but it certainly is one. During its screening at the Sundance Film Festival, there were as many raves as there were walkouts. It certainly isn’t for everyone, though this is nothing compared to the other entry on this list, ”The Greasy Strangler”.
The story of a suicidal man (Paul Dano) regaining his lively spirit through his kinship with a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) with special powers is bound to alienate some. If you can stand the opening scene where Paul Dano rides Radcliffe like a jet-ski on water using Radcliffe’s farts as the motor, then you might like this film. Otherwise, get as far away as you can.
The third act eventually becomes moving and as the Daniels wanted it, the first fart makes you laugh and the last fart makes you cry. Even though Radcliffe plays an excellent corpse, it’s Dano’s fragile performance that gives this film its emotional core.
9. Finding Dory
When Pixar announced that they were going to make sequels to many of their beloved stand-alone films, many rightly cried ”greed’.’ Pixar, though certainly not in a decline, has lost their critical winning streak of late with titles such as “Monsters University”, “Brave”, “The Good Dinosaur”, and the “Cars” series. When the trailer for “Finding Dory” was released, the skeptics were deemed right; it painfully harkened back to the nostalgia of the previous films.
Everybody knew it was inevitably going to be a hit, but we were afraid it was going to be for all the wrong reasons.
Luckily, the critics were treated with a solid sequel and another great Pixar film. The legacy of the original film was unscathed, and the heart and soul that is infused in many Pixar films seemed to be there – there’s no denying Andrew Stanton’s direction had something to do with this.
This time, the film focuses on Dory (as one could guess from the title) as she traverses the sea, using the little bits of memory she has left to find her parents. The new characters all hit the right marks, from Ty Burrell as Bailey, the insecure Beluga Whale; Idris Elba and Dominic West as two selfish sea lions; and best of all, Ed O’Neill as Hank, the sorrowful octopus.
However, what makes the movie work so well, aside from the great set pieces and physical comedy, is the emotional core. Besides the obvious gags they have about Dory’s amnesia, they don’t shy away from the tragedy of her affliction. The resolution to her journey, and whether or not she finds her parents, is genuinely moving – something that shouldn’t be spoiled.
8. Popstar: Never Stop Stopping
There are certain celebrities in this world who prove there’s something definitely wrong with our society. Justin Bieber is certainly one of them, as another child star we’ve molded into a airhead narcissist. Yet, such creatures are fun to hate, as was seen at Bieber’s roast. Even though Andy Samberg wasn’t present at Bieber’s roast (he was invited to James Franco’s roast), one could see this film as his ultimate roast of fame whores like Justin Bieber, and of the industry as a whole.
Together with his fellow Lonely Island alumni, Samberg tells the story of fading pop star Connor. Many industry buffs will likely notice the similarities of some of Connor’s escapades to real life pop stars. The film is packed with a great supporting cast and unforgettable cameos (particularly from Seal), and even some great tunes to add to the fun (something The Lonely Island has always been very good at).
Samberg has had recent success with his show “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, and his biggest cinematic success had to be with the involvement of Adam Sandler – a sad day for any comedian. Sadly, even with its modest budget of $20 million (chunk change for a Sandler film), the film bombed at the box office.
Regardless, here’s hoping The Lonely Island will get another chance in the future.
7. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
When the trailer came out for “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”, it certainly didn’t look very promising. The rehashing of the airbag gag seemed to be a dead give-away; not to mention that comedy sequels have a tendency to fail miserably (we’re looking at you, “Dumb and Dumber To”).
To everyone’s surprise, the film was not only hilarious, but at times even smart. Changing its frat cast with a sorority seemed uninspired, but in this film, they use the concept to its full advantage, taking insightful pot-shots at the sexism involved on college campuses, even daring to give light to the issues of sexual assault rampant at many colleges.
The film has a feminist edge, but not the one that can’t laugh at itself; with a lesser writer, the film would have a derided social justice warrior taste to it. The film respects women enough to make fun of them as well. It isn’t that the men are the goofballs and the woman are the smart ones – the women are goofballs too.
The film also gives an arc to Zac Efron’s character, and having him team up with Seth and Rose Byrne (who nearly steals the show again) was a fantastic move. Like with most of Apatow’s alumni, even with the stoner banter and childish antics, the film is devoid of grown-up truths, especially when it comes to Efron’s character, in his search to find meaning in life outside the college experience. The party must end eventually, or be derailed long enough so we can flourish into adulthood.
6. Hail Caesar
The release of a Coen brothers film is always a cherished event. Whatever they come up with, you know it’s going to be something special, and “Hail, Caesar!” is certainly no exception.
The Coen brothers often successfully switch from drama to comedy, with the film before this one being the darker (yet still at times very funny) “Inside Llewyn Davis”. Here, the darkness is mostly skimmed away, in favor of the Coens letting loose with wacky characters intersecting in old Hollywood.
George Clooney proves once again that he can play a wonderful idiot, as he plays a Hollywood star who gets kidnapped by a group of intellectual communists. Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, a Hollywood fixer who tries to solve the kidnapping and has to go through Coen-esque characters to make it happen.
The film is packed with an all-star cast who all have their little moments. Out of the entire cast, however (which includes Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, and Dolph Lundgren), it’s Ralph Fiennes who steals the show, especially in the film’s funniest scene, where he tries to help the loveable yet hapless actor Hobie Doyle (Alden ”soon to be Han Solo” Ehrenreich) with his dialogue. This film is especially a gem for any old Hollywood historian, as nearly every character is based on a real life person from the time period.
Working both as a wonderful ode as well as a gentle satire of old Hollywood, “Hail, Caesar!” is another humorous blessing of cinema, something that could have only come from the wonderfully warped minds of the Coen brothers.