Thursday, September 5, 2013

Top Comedies of All Time Pt. 3

Round 3, ready for liftoff. Here's #'s 11-15!

Happy Gilmore (1996) - Having explained in the past my being raised by a frugal grandmother who didn't see the value in taking me to see movies in the theater, I didn't get to start really going to theaters until around 1995. That being said, "Happy Gilmore", Adam Sandler's second major picture, was one of my first theatrical comedies, along with "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls". Some people don't like Sandler's brand of comedy (or by extension, Rob Schneider's, Chris Farley's, Norm McDonald's, etc.), because it's "sophomoric" and "immature". But really, there are many different brands of comedy, and the 90s really saw a rise in this sillier, "in your face" style of comedy, that included most of Jim Carrey's early hits. I enjoy Mel Brooks style satire, or Leslie Nielsen style word-play humor, or Monty Python style silliness as much as the next person. But I think just as there is room for Three Stooges style slapstick, so too is there room for the "grown men acting like total silly asses" style that people like Sandler made popular.

To be honest I like a great deal of Sandler's output, and I would probably even say that there are later movies of his that in many ways are better than this. But "Happy Gilmore" will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was one of the first comedies I got to see in theaters, as well as Adam Sandler and Chris Farley movies being something that my friend Brandon and I really bonded over in those early teen years. Plus, the story of a shitty hockey player going on to excel in golf, and all the rampant silliness that this movie offers, is just too good. It's a classic as much as any of the others I've listed are, and thus it deserves this spot on the list.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) - I'm sad to say that Abbott and Costello were not something that I was exposed to as a kid, nor the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, etc. I suppose my grandmother didn't appreciate/approve of their brand of humor, or something, and if she wasn't into it, especially in my early years, I didn't get to see it more often than not. I must admit that I actually didn't get into A&C until well into my adulthood (IE within the last few years). But I'm glad I finally did, because it's great. To be honest, I think I tried watching this film several years ago, and for whatever reason, at the time, I just didn't appreciate it. But upon watching it again a few years back, I guess I finally "got it".

This was one of the later in a long line of films that this classic comedy team made, in fact it was such a success that they would go on to do their own sub-series of "horror comedy" films involving Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, an Invisible Man, a mummy, etc. And of course the film buff in me feels compelled to point out that obviously the title of the film is referring to them meeting Frankenstein's creation, "The Monster", and not the doctor himself. But this film is a classic in the truest sense of the word. It features Bela Lugosi in his only other film appearance (officially) as "Count Dracula", Lon Chaney Jr. featured for the fifth and final time as his infamous "Wolf Man", and Glenn Strange's third and final appearance as "Frankenstein's Monster". Vincent Price even makes a cameo appearance (SPOILERS) near the end of the film, as the Invisible Man. The one thing this movie was missing, really, was some kind of appearance by Boris Karloff, but he wasn't available or just not interested at the time (though he would later do two films with A&C). This film truly deserves it's own full article to really explain all the things that make it so great, but it is pure gold, from start to finish.

Wayne's World (1992) - Another of those aforementioned 90s comedies, and another vehicle for one of Sandler's fellow Saturday Night Live alumni, Wayne's World is really the movie that made Mike Meyers a star. What began as a beloved skit on SNL for several years, "Wayne's World" was a public access show broadcast from Aurora, Illinois, from the basement of host Wayne Campbell's parents' house. Along with his ever-present (and ever-awkward) best friend and co-host Garth Algar, Wayne would wax not-so-philosophical about all manner of pop-media subjects, including he and Garth's love of rock and metal music. Well, this turned out to be a winning success at the box office, as director Penelope Spheeris managed to transform those skits into a living, breathing world, and it became a huge hit, spawning a 1993 sequel that was just as good. Featuring the gorgeous Tia Carrere as Wayne's dream girl, rocker Cassandra, and bad guy music producer who's trying to horn in on said girl, Benjamin Kane (played by Rob Lowe), as well as awesome appearances by the likes of Brian Doyle-Murray, Kurt Fuller, Chris Farley, Alice Cooper, Robert Patrick and Ed O'Neill. This movie is pretty much perfect from beginning to end, the cast is fantastic, the Bohemian Rhapsody scene in the "Garthmobile" is amazing. Everything just works, which is the sign of a great film. In some ways I like the sequel even better (it DOES feature Christopher Walken as the villain), but all around, kind of like Ghostbusters, the first just wins in the classic nostalgia battle.

The Cable Guy (1996) - To be honest, much like Adam Sandler, I'm a huge Jim Carrey fan, and I really love all of his big early-to-mid-90s hits. In fact Ace Ventura 2 was one of the very first movies I got to see in theaters, so that one alone certainly holds a special place for me, and I was sorely tempted to include it this high on the list instead. But when it comes down to it, while I love Ace Ventura, The Mask, Dumb & Dumber, etc., The Cable Guy just takes the cake for me. "The Truman Show" would also be a good candidate, but in some ways I don't even consider that a comedy, so it doesn't count. Ben Stiller directed this masterpiece, starring Carrey as a nutcase "cable guy" who latches onto poor milksop Steven Kovacs (played by Matthew Broderick). The film also features early appearances in the careers of guys like Jack Black and Owen Wilson. It's a lot like Wayne's World to me, in the sense that it does just about everything right, and is great from beginning to end. It's the kind of story where Carrey's character "Chip Douglas" is totally a nutbag, and you get that, yet somehow you wind up rooting for him a bit, even as he gets continually creepier in trying to insinuate himself into new "friend" Steven's life. Ben Stiller has directed some great films, such as "Zoolander" and "Tropic Thunder", but I there's a strong argument to be made that this is his best work.

Silver Streak (1976) - Another Gene Wilder film, I did of course mention before that he's one of my all-time favorites. I also mentioned that I loved his work pairing with Richard Pryor, and while I love the other three films they did together (Stir Crazy, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Another You), I decided to add this one because it's not only the most well known, but probably also the most balanced of the bunch. It's a play on the Hitchcock mystery/thriller type of story, but the pairing of Wilder and Pryor just takes it over the top, as would be expected. Most of the film takes place on the eponymous "Silver Streak" train that is crossing the country, though Wilder hilariously meets up with Pryor one of the times that he gets thrown off by Richard Kiel (Jaws from James Bond). Wilder and Pryor's pairings were just magic, and to me all four films they did together were great simply because of the level of chemistry and comedic timing they had together. They were close friends in real life, and it really shows up in their on-screen performances together. I would highly recommend watching all four of their films together, but if you only catch one, make it "Silver Streak".

P.S. I just now noticed that this might be the worst case of "movie poster spoilers" ever. 

And that wraps it up for another installment. It's rapidly approach the time when I'll start doing Halloween inspired pieces once again, but I just might manage to fit in at least one more installment of this series beforehand. Cheers!

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