While truly funny movies seem to be harder to find these days at the local megaplex, there is no shortage of “hidden gems” waiting for you on video and DVD. Without additional hype, here are some funny movies (intentional or not) you may have heard of but probably have never seen, that deserve a look.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension
Ultimately, this movie is too weird and too stupid to be a comedy or sci-fi classic, but makes for an enjoyable Saturday afternoon diversion. Don’t let the reputation that it is a “cult classic” scare you. John Lithgow, as the evil Lord John Whorfin, has some great scenes, and the deadpan humor of the members of Team Banzai is missed if you don’t listen. A lot of laughs come from the sheer absurdity of the plot, and while everyone plays it straight-faced, they, and the movie overall, never takes it too seriously. Best laugh: the absurd announcement at the end that there will be a sequel (there wasn’t).
Arsenic and Old Lace
This Cary Grant classic, directed by Frank Capra, is a dark and often hilarious romp about a newlywed who realizes his sweet old aunts are serial killers. Throw in Raymond Massey as another serial killer and Peter Lorre as his sidekick, and the movie gets funnier as the insanity builds. Few movies are as filled with such funny, rapid fire dialogue as this one, and you will find yourself quoting lines for days afterward. Best inside joke: Raymond Massey, who filled in for original choice Boris Karloff, reacts with anger over being compared to Karloff.
Bringing Up Baby
A box-office bomb when released, this has gained a reputation as one of the best screwball comedies ever. Cary Grant is a prude, Katherine Hepburn is a free spirit, and together they take a leopard from New York to Connecticut and search for a lost dinosaur bone. There’s plenty of gags to laugh at, and the supporting cast is used to comedic perfection. Best line from Grant: (Inside a jail cell) Hepburn: “When they find out who we are they’ll let us out.” Grant: “When they find out who you are they’ll pad the cell.”
From Justin to Kelly
I have never laughed so much at another’s misery. The makers of this film actually thought filmgoers were so stupid they had to put the names of the stars IN THE TITLE, as if it was going to be confused with The Hulk, which opened the same weekend. This disaster of a film managed to wipe out the career of Justin Guarini; how Kelly Clarkson survived is beyond me. Funny for being so insipid, so mind-numbingly stupid, you won’t believe people actually agreed to say some of the lines. The songs and choreography seem to be made up as the film went along. The attempt to mix an Annette beach party movie with some urban spring break hipness doesn’t work. This movie was so bad, it hit video less than 30 days later. You’ll find yourself doing Simon Cowell impersonations, hurling insults in a British accent at the screen. Try to make it through the whole movie. I dare you.
The Gods Must Be Crazy
A screwball comedy disguised as a documentary about the Bushmen of the African Kalahari desert. After a passing plane drops a Coke bottle on their village, Bushman XiXo (unaware of modern man) thinks it fell from the Gods and attempts to return it. Full of insane visual gags and “fish out of water” jokes, the movie has a real heart, and you really learn to care about XiXo’s quest to return home. Even the most tired gags feel fresh here: when a revolutionary slips and falls on a banana peel, it shouldn’t be funny, but you can’t help to laugh. About halfway through, director/writer Jamie Uys ditches the documentary angle and plays it like a straight-on comedy, but by that point, you’re laughing so hard, you don’t care. Best laugh: XiXo the Bushman drives a jeep known as the Antichrist, but only knows how to drive in reverse.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie
The big screen movie version of a TV show that shows big screen movies. The original TV show revolved around a guy in outer space as he and his robot pals watch, and make fun of, the worst movies ever made. Essentially, you watched guys watch bad movies and crack jokes. Seriously. The movie is pretty much the same thing, as you watch Mike and his pals butcher the 50’s stinker This Island Earth. The jokes are much funnier than anything you could come up with, and the pop culture references go by at a machine gun’s pace. Chances are you’ll need to see it twice to catch all of the jokes. Best line: don’t miss the credits, as you are introduced to the Amazing Rando.
Never a Dull Moment
Dick Van Dyke stars as an actor who is mistaken for a hitman, and gets mixed up in an art heist. Van Dyke is great as a bumbling everyman, and the gang of thieves include Edward G. Robinson, Slim Pickens, Jack Elam, and Henry Silva. Each gets a chance to steal a scene, and, since this is a Disney film, the family can watch it without worries. The film isn’t perfect, but it has its’ moments. Best laugh: Van Dyke acts drunk to sneak around Robinson’s house.
Only a modest hit at the box office, Sandlot gained a following on video and with cable showings. Unfortunately, most adults think it is a mindless kid’s film, and they are missing out. Charming, smart, and able to create a believable “bubble” of a 60’s summer, most adults will find it a great piece of nostalgia. Think Stand By Me without as much profanity. The film tells the kid’s story, in which every little problem is magnified, without becoming silly. Look for great supporting roles from Karen Allen and James Earl Jones. Best scene: The flashback to the birth of “The Beast,” the film’s canine villan. One word: FOR-E-VER.
That Thing You Do!
Besides Joe Vs. the Volcano, this is probably the only other Tom Hanks film you haven’t seen. Hanks only has a supporting role, but he wrote and directed the film, a snappy little comedy set in the 60’s. It tells the story of a little-known rock band in Pennsylvania who shoots to stardom with their one and only hit. The movie is filled with fun, quirky characters, and features great performances from Charlize Theron, Liv Tyler, Giovanni Ribisi, and Steve Zahn before they became big stars. Tom Everett Scott is outstanding, you’ll wonder why he isn’t a star too. Best scene: members of the band run in the streets and dance in an appliance store when they hear their song on the radio for the first time.
This very overlooked dramedy stars Burt Reynolds as an old coot who learns how to forgive. Burt hasn’t been this enjoyable in a film in a long time; he could be a great character actor if he weren’t busy slapping reporters around.. Orlando Jones lends a nice touch as a mildly retarded person in a role that could have been sappy, but Jones is pitch-perfect. You’ll laugh, cry, and wonder why this film didn’t get more attention. Best scene stealer: sit back and enjoy the greatness of Whitman Mayo (“Grady” from Sanford and Son). This funny, poignant role was his last film and one of his last acting roles.
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