Saturday, August 31, 2013

Top Comedies of All Time Pt. 2

Back for Round 2 of my personal Top Comedy Films list. And away we go!

 Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) - Directed by the quintessential "80s" director John Hughes, and starring the comedy tandem of Steve Martin and John Candy, there was pretty much no way that this film was ever going to be anything less than great. And it most certainly is. The pairing of Martin and Candy is so good in fact, that I would dare say they should have done more films together. They had a real chemistry here, on the same kind of level that Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor had. And naturally John Hughes' writing really plays into both actor's strengths. A story about two traveling businessmen who get stuck together by Fate during the Thanksgiving week rush, it's the classic "Odd Couple" case of two opposite personalities who must learn to coincide. Comedy gold, along with some real dramatic acting chops (something Hughes was famous for), with a great, very 80's soundtrack to boot. This film is one of both Steve Martin and John Candy's best, and that's saying something. It is highly recommended that anyone who enjoys life should see this film. And even if you don't, see it anyway, it just might cheer you up.

The Great Outdoors (1988) - Another John Hughes classic, this one written and produced by Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch. It is also another John Candy classic, and another classic "Odd Couple" style pairing, this time with Candy and Dan Aykroyd. The pair play brother-in-laws, one of whom is taking his family for a nice quiet vacation on the lake, the other who shows up out of nowhere and invites himself and his family to stay the week with them. Dan Aykroyd is great as the unlikable, blowhard, "jet setting" businessman type. John Candy, of course, is John Candy, and again Hughes' writing shines with the actors. Probably the best camping/outdoors related film I can think of this side of "Earnest Goes to Camp", and again one of the best films either star ever did. Very highly recommended.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) - Like all of the films I'm listing, really, this movie deserves it's own article at some later date, because there is just so much to talk about when it comes to the reasons why this is a great and genuinely classic comedy film. I've seen the other Monty Python films, "The Life of Brian" and "The Meaning of Life", but for my money, this is the best and funniest one. The only one I would consider a favorite of mine to be sure. The entire cast (Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam) is on fire and at their peak in this picture, the writing, acting, timing, and even low budget production are all at their absolute finest. There really isn't a bad thing to point out about the entire thing, and it's absolutely fucking hilarious besides. Some people don't "get" the British brand of humor, but I think Monty Python was it's own special brand of silliness that can translate easily to just about anybody. I'm sure there's some grumpy curmudgeons out there who wouldn't find it funny, but hey, some people have serious issues that just can't be helped. If you haven't seen this movie, do so, you owe it to yourself as a "Bucket List" type of ordeal. The musical Camelot scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Christmas Vacation (1989) - The third (and to this guy best) of the four National Lampoon's Vacation films that Chevy Chase did, this just so happens to be yet another film John Hughes wrote and produced. People remember him for his "80s teen films" he did, but those were really few and far between when you consider how many great, classic comedy films he was involved in as well (he even wrote and produced Home Alone for shit's sake). I'm also a fan of Chevy Chase, and this was him still in his prime. I would say it's arguably his best movie. John Hughes wrote the first three Vacation films, and while the first is a classic, again I'd have to say, at least to me personally, that this was one the strongest overall. It has a great ensemble cast that includes the likes of Brian Doyle-Murray, Randy Quaid, Juliette Lewis, John Randolf, Doris Roberts, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, along with of course Beverly DeAngelo and Chevy Chase as Ellen and Clark W. Griswold. 

I would also go so far as to say that, along with Home Alone, this is the best Christmas season movie for me. The original 1947 "Miracle on 34th Street", and "It's a Wonderful Life" are strong candidates as well, and everyone seems to love "A Christmas Story" (even though it's played on tv nonstop every year). Then there's also the great Rankin/Bass holiday specials, especially "Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer". Those are all great. But for my money, "Home Alone" and "Christmas Vacation" need to be watched every Christmas season, without a doubt.

The Burbs (1989) - Another fine 1989 piece of film greatness, "The Burbs" was directed by Joe Dante, who much like in his earlier film "Gremlins", shows a masterful ability to blend comedy and horror elements seamlessly together. This is another film, similar to "Haunted Honeymoon", that blends a strong sprinkling of comedy with a genuinely good mystery/suspense story, as Tom Hanks, your regular average suburban Joe, who gets caught up by his neighbors investigating the new, mysterious additions to the neighborhood. Another great ensemble cast is featured, including Carrie Fisher, Bruce Dern, Corey Feldman, Brother Theodore, Henry Gibson, and Rick Ducommun. I would have to say that while I enjoy many of his films (especially several of his 80s output), this is my all-time favorite Tom Hanks film. And without spoiling anything, the scene with Bruce Dern on his roof always gets me, every time, to this day.

So there's another batch, rounding out my personal Top Ten Comedies of All Time. It may be a coincidence that a majority of my Top Ten are 80s films, but it really can't be helped, as the 80s were a great time, really, for movies of all genres, but most especially comedies. I'll return again soon to further flesh out of the list, but I think these ten already provide a pretty great look into my personal tastes. And into some truly great, and funny movies. If you haven't seen them yet, go do so. If you have already seem them, go see them again because they're worth it. Cheers!

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