Thursday, September 12, 2013

Top Comedies of All Time Pt. 4

Alright, so it's time to make this Top Comedies list of mine even. Here come #16-20!

Spaceballs (1987) - Another great Mel Brooks comedy, this late 80s hit was, as you can probably tell from the poster, a spoof on, more than anything, the uber-popular Star Wars films. It also contained little bits of everything from Star Trek to Alien, and as a whole it really worked. I was kind of overexposed to this movie as a kid. My mother, who would stay with my grandmother and I from time to time, was the kind of person that would latch onto a certain movie, and want to watch it on a regular basis. So at one point in my childhood, when I was probably around 9 or 10 years old, I had to watch this and Gene Wilder's "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" over and over, so you can understand that I got kind of tired of them. It was the same way with the show "Cheers", she watched that all the time, and I got tired of it. But later in my life, I of course went back and realized that I loved all three.

Spaceballs features a pretty great all-star type of ensemble, with Mel Brooks as writer, director, producer, AND playing the President of Planet Spaceball, Skroob, as well as the loveable (and super Jewish) knockoff of Star Wars' mystic wiseman Yoda, known as Yogurt. It also featured Rick Moranis as the Darth Vader analogue, Dark Helmet (one of his best career roles). Bill Pullman stars in one of his earlier roles, as Han Solo type Lonestar, and John Candy turns in one of his own best roles as Lonestar's sidekick "Barf" (short for Barfolomew). Daphne Zenega is Princess Vespa of Planet Druidia, and her own sidekick/servant is the C3PO knockoff "Dot Matrix", voiced by Joan Rivers. There are many great cameos as well, such as Vespa's father King Roland, played by Dick Van Patten, Dom DeLuise as space mob boss "Pizza the Hut", Michael Winslow from the "Police Academy" series as a Spaceball radar tech, and even John Hurt (SPOILERS) as his character Kane from "Aliens".

The film really shines from beginning to end, one of Brooks' strongest efforts (and that's saying something).

Murder by Death (1976) - One of two Robert Moore directed films from the late 70s starring Peter Falk (the other being 1978's "The Cheap Detective"). Murder by Death is also a spoof film, of a sort, this one being a send-up to classic murder mystery novels and films. It features an ensemble cast, who each portray caricatures of famous detective or crime solving fictional icons. Peter Falk plays a hard boiled (meaning a bit of a jerk) San Francisco detective named Sam Diamond, a send-up to various such "Private I" type characters, most especially Sam Spade from the "The Maltese Falcon". Peter Sellers played "Chinese" detective Sidney Wang, a send-up of the infamous Charlie Chan character, who has an adopted Japanese son "Willie" that he is constantly berating, and he spouts out hilarious "fortune cookie" witticisms throughout the film. David Niven and Maggie Smith portray Dick and Dora Charleston, based on Nick and Nora Charles from "The Thin Man" film series. James Coco plays Milo Perrier, a spoof on Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot character, and James Cromwell plays his chauffeur. Last but not least, Elsa Lancaster (of Bride of Frankenstein fame) plays Jessica Marbles, based on another of Agatha Christie's characters "Miss Marple", with Ellie Windwood playing her senile, elderly "nurse".

The movie also features a humorous turn for Alec Guinness (Obi Wan from Star Wars) as the blind butler Jamesir Bensonmum, and a rare acting role for author Truman Capote, as the eccentric millionaire Lionel Twain, who invited them all to his home for the weekend. The story itself has a very strong "Old Dark House" vibe, as Twain has invited these famous detectives to one place to see if they can solve a murder. Twain claims that it is actually he who is the world's greatest detective, and to prove it he challenges them to solve a murder, the one who does wins $1 million dollars. Hilarity ensues, of course, with all sorts of great wordplay, and such great character actors assembled. This is a highly underrated and I fear largely unknown film, that deserves to be seen by more people. It is a genuine classic, and honestly one of the funniest films you'll ever see.

The Addams Family (1991) -  This film represents, much like Ghostbusters, one of those murky areas where it IS most definitely a comedy, but it also has elements from other genres that are strong enough to make it a bit foggy what you should call it. But at the end of the day, I suppose this one is outright silly enough that you can't really get away with calling it anything but a comedy. Based on the classic 60's TV show, as well as the original New Yorker cartoon, this movie also represents a rarity, I find at least, in the form of an adaptation of an old show that actually works and succeeds as a film. It is not exactly like it's source material, and very much has it's own flavor, yet it does also retain the spirit and essence of the old show. Few actors could probably ever match John Astin's portrayal of Gomez Addams, the family patriarch, and that makes sense, because creator Charles Addams allowed Astin to flesh out the character on his own. But if anyone could do it, it would be Raul Julia, who does an amazing job here. Anjelica Huston does an equally fine job as Morticia Addams, as does Christopher Lloyd in one of his best roles as Fester Addams. Christina Ricci plays Wednesday Addams, and Dan Hedaya plays Tully Alford, the Addams' shady family accountant. 

The film itself is truly fantastic. Director Barry Sonnenfield did an amazing job, as this might be his best film, and composer Marc Shaiman put together a very fitting score. There is plenty of singing, dancing, laughing, and Addams-ing to be had, and if you haven't seen this film, you may very well have been living under some sort of rock. I loved it as a kid, and still do. The sequel, "Addams Family Values" isn't quite as good, but the first film is a masterpiece.

Beverly Hills Ninja (1997) - I honestly love all four of Chris Farley's starring-role movies. And as I mentioned in a previous entry, as a young teenager, my best friends and I bonded, in part, over Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey and Chris Farley comedies. But to me, this one takes the cake. His two pairings with David Spade were classic, and even his last film before his death, "Almost Heroes", was a genuinely funny film. But for my money, this was his best, simply because it's so ridiculous. Plus it marries two of my favorite kinds of film: slapstick comedies and martial arts action films. Robin Shou of "Mortal Kombat" fame co-stars as his "brother" and actual ninja Gobei, and Chris Rock also features as Joey Washington, a hotel bell-boy who looks up to Farley's "Great White Ninja" character. The movie is a riot, really, as Farley bumbles his way around Los Angeles trying to "ninja" and solve a case for a beautiful woman who "hired" him in Japan, and the film really gets the balance between comedy and action just right. It's worth noting that Robin Shou is great in this, he not only displays his trademark awesome martial arts skills, but also shows that he has depth and range as an actor, as well as good comedic timing. It's really a shame that he didn't become a bigger star here in the states, as I honestly felt at one point that he was going to be the next Jackie Chan type star. All in all, this movie is arguably Farley's strongest work, and it's just a hell of a lot of fun besides.

Dumb and Dumber (1994) - If there was ever a movie that walked the line perfectly between genuinely endearing and "feel-good", as well as flat-out silly as fuck, this would be it. Hands down my favorite Farrelly Brothers film, and also probably my second-favorite Jim Carrey comedy, this film just has so much going for it, that it's hard not to like. And trust me, I've met people who just don't like it. But that's probably because they're dead inside and wouldn't know funny if it punched them in the nose. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels star as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, two of the nicest, but also incredibly dumbest guys on the planet. Lloyd meets a gorgeous woman (Lauren Holly), who forgets her briefcase at the airport. So Lloyd and Harry both having lost their jobs the same day, and with nothing better to do, decide to take what little they have left, and go travel to Aspen, Colorado to find this Mary Swanson chick, so that Lloyd can return her case and hopefully win her love. Little does he know, of course, that the case holds a shitload of ransom money, and of course when the two idiots (SPOILERS) accidentally open the case and discover the money, they go about spending it all, thinking they can just "IOU" it later. This movie is full of so many memorably ridiculous scenes and quotable lines, and is another movie that if you haven't seen it, you must've been in a coma.

Without a doubt one of the funniest movies ever made, and now apparently getting a real sequel, bringing the same directors and stars (at least Carrey and Daniels) back together...all I can say is hopefully it's good.

So that fills out my personal Top 20 Comedies of All-Time. I'm gonna give the series a break, for now, but just to entice my readers, I'll go ahead and tell you that this all comes from a list I compiled recently that currently goes up to 40. So future entries will most likely happen, further down the line. As for what's next? Well who knows? But one thing is for certain.....Halloween season is right around the corner, and you can bet your boots (or whatever footwear you prefer) that you're in store for some amazing Halloween-inspired madness up ahead. Cheers!

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