Category: Slapstick


Duck Soup

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I’ve had many discussions in this blog about the thin line between great absurdist humor and absurdist humor that falls flat. The Big Lebowski (my practically ur-example of absurdist humor) hits the right notes from beginning to end. Martin & Orloff flails most of its running time without any real direction. And, despite the seeming contradiction there, great absurdist comedies drop jokes with laser-point precision. 1933’s Duck Soup challenges my general premise. It challenges my premise because Duck Soup is an undeniably brilliant and gut-busting comedy, but it takes a shotgun to the idea of “direction” or “meaning” or “themes.” It simply is, and somehow, it makes that work.

If Duck Soup has a raison d’etre, it is an excuse to lay down as many jokes, gags, and slapstick at a machine gun-fire rate that it can. Actually a machine-gun is the wrong metaphor here; Duck Soup fires off jokes like a gatling gun on steroids. Though the film has an expository opening at the beginning (before the Marx brothers show up), once Groucho makes his grand entrance, the film just doesn’t stop. It actually becomes sort of exhausting. If the film were any longer (an hour and eight minutes is the absolutely perfect running time), it would have been too much to handle. But, as the act of comedy distilled to its pure essence, the Marx brothers knew what they were doing.

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What plot that exists in Duck Soup is always in support of the film’s jokes and almost never the other way around, and, against all rules of comedic writing, that works. When the struggling nation of Freedonia needs a loan to stay afloat, the wealthy Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) agrees on the condition that Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) be appointed as the new prime minister. Of course, Rufus being Groucho, he’s no more fit for the job than the last officeholder, and his zany ideas for proper political behavior get the film’s conflicts rolling.

The scheming ambassador of Sylvania, Trentino (Louis Calhern), wishes to marry the wealthy Mrs. Teasdale, who only has eyes for Rufus. And so he hires two spies, the mute Pinky (Harpo Marx) and Chicolini (Chico Marx), to dig up dirt on Rufus T. Firefly. Of course Pinky being Harpo and Chicolini being Chico, they’re no more competent as spies than Rufus is as a government minister. And when Freedonian Bob Roland (Zeppo Marx) discovers Trentino’s schemes, Rufus’s confrontations with the Sylvanian ambassador lead to all-out war between Freedonia and Sylvania.

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Let there be no doubts. Duck Soup is funny. I was belly-laughing from beginning to end. There are bits in the film where it doesn’t work as well. Some of the musical numbers are more ridiculous than funny though that may have been the point. And any second (literally any single frame of the film) where at least one of the Marx brothers isn’t on screen robs it of its power. But, if any single one of them is there, it’s magic. And if they’re all three on screen… it’s divine (Zeppo is also in the film but plays the straight man). Whether it’s Groucho and Chico’s endless non-sequiturs or Harpo’s silent slapstick, Duck Soup fires on all cylinders from beginning to end.

Like Bringing Up Baby or Modern Times, Duck Soup makes the convincing case that cinematic comedy peaked in the 1930s and it didn’t really find itself again until Woody Allen’s dramedies burst on the scene. And it’s easy to pinpoint why. Early comedies just didn’t stop. Most modern comedies are lucky to have a handfull of big, belly laugh moments even though they throw tons of weak material at the screen hoping something sticks. The classic comedies are endlessly inventive from beginning to end. It’s a marvel, and more comedy writers need to study the crisp rapid-fire dialogue of the Preston Sturges screwballs and the brilliant physical timing of Harpo Marx/Charlie Chaplin to get how real comedy works.

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I want to work on my screenplay so I’ll draw this review to a close (I haven’t worked on the screenplay in a significant manner in two days now). Let me leave you with this. I will always remember the avalanche of “bits” in this film. Chico, Harpo, and a lemonade salesman switching hats in a zany bit of misdirection; Chico and Harpo pretending to be Groucho and then Groucho arriving; Groucho’s ever-evolving suite of outfits when war finally breaks out until he ultimately looks like Daniel Boone. The jokes never end. And that should be all the invitation one needs to watch this classic comedy masterpiece.

Final score: A

 

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An avalanche of rapid-fire dialogue, slapstick humor, and gags from start to finish barely scratches the surface of the madcap genius that is 1938’s Bringing Up Baby. The screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s are the golden era of pre-Woody Allen and post-Chaplin comedy, and Bringing Up Baby is surely one of the definitive films of that form. With stars Cary Grant (My Favorite Wife) and Katharine Hepburn (Woman of the Year) at the height of their comedic abilities, it is a non-stop laugh riot. And shy of Modern Times, I’d be hard-pressed to name a comedy from before the 1960s that’s as consistently hilarious as this Howard Hawks classic.

Humor in the purest sense of the word is derived from the unexpected and, like poetry, well-timed repetition. You expect one thing to happen to your heroes but, with expert timing, something else occurs. Say what you will about the non-intellectual nature of slapstick, but setting up the right series of physical gags and pratfalls takes perfect coordination of writer, director, and actor for it not seem contrived or silly. And what makes the screwball classics of Hollywood’s Golden Age so memorable is the ease with which its films transition in and out of hilariously painful physical humor, verbal ping-pong, and constantly escalating situational humor. And, from start to finish, Bringing Up Baby succeeds on every perceivable comedic front without ever having to resort to gross-out gags, foul language, or raunchy sex.

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Clumsy paleontologist David Huxley (Carey Grant) is a brilliant figure in his field but something of a nervous, put-upon mess. His fiancee, Alice (Virginia Walker), insists that they not have a honeymoon for their wedding which is only a day away and that David return immediately to his work, which involves putting the final bone in piece to a massive Brontosaurus skeleton, after their wedding. The pressure on David is compounded by a golf session with the lawyer of a rich woman who wants to give $1 million to David’s museum. And on that fateful golfing trip, after David hooks his starting drive, his life is changed when he meets Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn).

Susan is a desperately ditzy and oblivious heiress. And, in her first meeting with David, she steals his golf ball (because it was on her fairway) and then, leaving the golf course, she drives David’s car without his permission so that it would be easier for her to get out of her parking spot later. And though David positively loathes Susan from first sight, she is struck head over heels for him and concocts increasingly zany schemes so that he will not make it to his wedding. From saddling David with her pet leopard Baby to dragging him to Connecticut on the promise to make amends on costing him his golf meeting with the lawyer, the adventures and laughs never stop once the pair are together.

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Ignoring the complete lack of sexual chemistry that Cary Grant ever seemed to have with any of his female co-stars (his rumored homosexuality not withstanding, he should be able to at least pretend it), Cary Grant is a deliciously funny comic performer. Yes, his dramatic turns in films like Penny Serenade are brilliant, but his sardonic and deadpan comic delivery are a wonderful delight. David is very much a reactive role as he has to respond to the various misadventures Susan (the meatier part) drags him into and with every sigh, roll of his eyes, and exasperated shrug, Cary Grant had me in stitches. Not to mention the verbal rhythm he established with Hepburn’s motor-mouth Susan.

But, let there be no question, this was Katharine Hepburn’s show, and she commands the attention of every scene. The performance is astounding, not just in a comedic sense (though she gets many of the film’s biggest laughs) but in the whole range that Hepburn draws from. Cary Grant is a handsome, charming man, but there’s nothing sexual about him. He never seemed attracted to Susan. And so while Katharine turns Susan into a tough, air-headed, scheming, scatter-brained brilliant mess, she also played Susan in the thrall of a gradual swoon towards David, and the romantic aspect of the film would have fallen apart were it not for her natural magnetism and vulnerability. With the exception of Diane Keaton and Irene Dunne, few female stars have been able to dominate a film as thoroughly as Katharine Hepburn.

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I harped on this during my introduction but Bringing Up Baby was an astoundingly flexible and multi-faceted comedy. It’s one of the talkiest screwballs this side of My Man Godfrey (the similarities between Katharine Hepburn’s character in this and Carole Lombard’s in that are eerie). But, the physical humor is just as expertly pitched and Buster Keaton would have been proud. Few films have ever made the consistent toppling of shelves, tables, and human beings so refreshing. Bringing Up Baby‘s instincts for when to have David or Susan take a spill are perfect. And, then of course, the gags are endless such as a moment at a fancy restaurant where Susan accidentally tears David’s coat and then David accidentally tears Susan’s dress and they have to waddle their way out of the restaurant to spare her dignity.

When Bringing Up Baby was first released, it was something of a critical and commercial flop but it has been vindicated by the annals of history as the classic it truly is. Some old films age poorly, but the best seem as fresh today as the did 75 years ago. Bringing Up Baby has lost none of its pleasures. Proving my long-held belief that real comedy is timeless, I can’t imagine anyone stepping into this world and not finding themselves rolling in the aisles when all is said and done.

Final Score: A

 

Liar Liar

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It’s hard to review films that I enjoyed from my childhood. Unless I’ve grown to find them blatantly offensive and pandering like Forrest Gump, that sense of nostalgia and of a specific time and place in my life overwhelms my critical senses. Would I still enjoy Hook so much (a critical disaster when it was first released) if I hadn’t loved it as much as a kid? I don’t know, and deep down, that bothers me. I don’t want that sort of sentiment warping my writing. When I was in elementary school, Jim Carrey was probably one of my favorite comedic actors on the planet (I know. I was a dumb kid.), and along with The Mask, his 1997 vehicle Liar Liar was a personal favorite. But, Carrey’s career (excepting Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) has been a joke the last thirteen years, and I was actively dreading putting Liar Liar in for fear that it would ruin a cherished childhood memory.

I worried too much. I’m not sure if any one on the planet could actually characterize Liar Liar as a good film, but Jim Carrey’s specific brand of physical and slapstick humor is on total display for every second of this film’s hour and a half running time, and whenever the movie’s hit-or-miss writing fails to score a joke, Carrey returns to save the day. That’s a problem; it’s a fairly major problem. But when you have a physical performer like Carrey who is at the top of his game, his presence alone is enough to make the film enjoyable, highly enjoyable at times. And though my inner Alexander Payne/Woody Allen fan wants to chide me for laughing as hard as I did at many of the more lowbrow jokes in Liar Liar, I would be the liar if I didn’t say that despite the film’s legion of flaws, Liar Liar can be both hilarious and entertaining. Still not sure if it’s a “good” film though.

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Jim Carrey plays Fletcher Reede, a smooth-talking, womanizing litigator who can’t find time in his packed schedule to spend time with his five year old son Max (Justin Cooper). Even though Fletcher’s ex-wife Audrey (Maura Tierney) is getting closer to bland hospital administrator Jerry (Cary Elwes) who may be moving soon to Boston, Fletcher is unable to make his son a priority in his life, and Max has lived through a spell of broken promises. After Fletcher misses Max’s birthday party in order to sleep with his boss because he hopes it will help him make partner at his law firm, Max wishes that his dad couldn’t tell a lie for a whole day. And Max’s wish comes true. On the worst possible day for Fletcher as Max has a  high-profile case to try that he can only hope to win through lying and Audrey decides to marry Jerry and move to Boston and Fletcher has one last chance to keep his son in his life.

The plot is as simple and juvenile as that. But, for what it’s worth, the movie manages to score some great laughs out of such a simple set-up. From the first moment that Fletcher begins uncontrollably telling the truth (where he tells his boss that he’s had better sex) through the following hour of classic Carey antics, Jim Carrey (and mostly Jim Carrey alone) is able to wring laugh after laugh out of mediocre at best writing. There’s a truly inspired sequence early in the film where Carrey is suddenly aware of his inability to lie and he attempts to write that a blue pencil is red. A physical comedy routine that the Stooges would have been proud of ensues. Similarly, at one point, Carrey tries to get out of having to continue trying a case he knows he can’t win by beating the holy hell out of himself in the court bathroom. It’s manic brilliance.

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Sadly, as I’ve said, the film’s writing is all over the place. Sometimes, it works great. There’s a scene later in the film where Fletcher’s boss realizes he can’t lie so she forces him to tell all of the members of the firm’s partnership board how he really feels about them, but they think it’s a comedic roast (though even some of those jokes are lazy). Others are less than successful. Early on in the film, Fletcher gets in an elevator with a busty woman and the whole scene reeks of misogyny (there’s a difference between pointing misogyny out for laughs and still actually being misogynistic despite that). Similarly, by the film’s end, Liar Liar tries so hard for a treacly sweet and almost disgustingly happy ending that it ruined whatever more subversive humor Carrey had put on display earlier in the film.

If you can’t tell, I have kind of absurdly complicated feelings about Liar Liar. Yes, it is funny. I would be a pretentious liar and the worst kind of hipster if I tried to lie and say I didn’t enjoy sitting down and watching this movie again. And to go back to the point I was making in my opening paragraph, I honestly think the pleasure I derived from this film was more than a lasting memory of my childhood. Physical comedy is great when done well, and Jim Carrey used to be a master of the form. But, Liar Liar is a Jim Carrey vehicle in every sense of the word, and when the film strays even the slightest from his strengths as a comedian, it not only stops being funny; it becomes actively bad. So, perhaps a good film can not exist based solely on the strength of one component, but Jim Carrey’s madcap antics surely made Liar Liar a mostly enjoyable experience.

Final Score: B-

 

One of the first things I was forced to learn as a film critic was that I had to distance the quality of any single performance in a movie from the over all quality of the film. A show-stopping Daniel Day Lewis caliber role has to be seen as only one of many parts in the total value of a picture. David Lynch’s direction in Inland Empire was inspiring and Laura Dern inhabited her character in terrifying ways, but there’s almost no denying that the script itself was fairly outrageous and practically impossible to follow (though that was also Lynch’s intention). Take away Will Smith’s Oscar-nominated performance in The Pursuit of Happyness and you are left with a terribly conventional Horatio Alger tale of rags to riches. Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson’s incendiary comic (and eventually for MacLaine, heart-wrenchingly dramatic) performances saved Terms of Endearment from being complete and utter melodramatic drivel. I recently finished the 1956 film, The Court Jester, and while Danny Kaye’s comedic and musical chops are unquestionable, the actual  film faltered on a basic inability to decide what kind of film it wished to be and delivered the promised laughs far too rarely.

A spoof of Errol Flynn swashbuckling hero films (most specifically Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood), the movie spins the tale of a fictional king in medieval England and the band of outlaws trying to restore justice. King Roderick (Cecil Parker) usurped the throne from the true heir, an infant with a purple pimpernel birthmark on his behind. Ferried away from the castle by loyalists to the true royal family, the heir is now in the protection of an outlaw band led by the Robin Hood stand-in, the Black Fox (Edward Ashley). Employed by the outlaws as both the heir’s nanny as well as entertainment for the band, Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye) is a bumbling carnival performer who quickly finds himself swept up in the final plot to dethrone the pretender King Roderick. Along with the help of the beautiful but deadly Maid Jean (Glynis Johns, Mary Poppins), the Black Fox’s chief lieutenant, Hawkins infiltrates the castle posing as the new Court Jester, Giacomo the Incomparable, and gets caught up in assassination conspiracies, the hypnotic schemings of a witch, and more medieval action scenarios than you can shake a stick at.

Danny Kaye is possibly the very definition of comic energy. Able to quickly morph from a riveting musical number with a troupe of dwarves to Gilbert & Sullivan style tongue twisters to a variety of distinct characters all with their own unique humor and identity to a pitch perfect parody of the Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks heroes of old, he is an absolute marvel to watch. With a beautiful voice and a natural charisma and humor, Danny Kaye was the film’s distinct (though not necessarily sole) saving grace. Basil Rathbone was deliciously villainous as the duplicitous Sir Ravenhurst, and his fencing scenes with Danny Kaye towards the film’s climax were among the only highlights of the action oriented moments of the film. Glynis Johns (who I instantly recognized as the mother from Mary Poppins) was a surprisingly tough and action oriented heroine for a movie from the 1950’s, and it was a refreshing sight from an age where most female characters were more akin to Angela Lansbury’s (Beauty and the Beast) Princess Gwendolyn.

The film’s Achilles heel however is its basic inability to determine what tone and style it wants to project. At one moment, it’s a children’s musical with Danny Kaye periodically breaking out into song even when it isn’t necessarily appropriate to the story. The next scene it could be a nearly perfect satire of the swashbuckler subgenre. Later, it will want to be a more wordplay and rapid-fire pun style of comedy. Then to top it all off, there are moments where it just wants to be the kind of movies it’s nominally parodying without actually attempting any humor. The writing for the film wasn’t nearly sharp enough to afford them this lack of focus, and I found myself going vast periods of time without laughing at a single gag (when the film took the effort to even make any). Similarly, the ending seems to drag towards eternity, at least until its riotous final moments. While not every comedy needs to be chock full of laugh out loud moments (Sideways or The Savages show that a comedy can be extremely dramatic), when the drama is as uninteresting and stale as what’s presented in The Court Jester, the lack of laughs is potentially unforgivable.

For movie fans who yearn for a more innocent day and simpler storytelling, you may find more mileage from this cult classic than myself, but for everyone else, it may seem to quaint and antiquated to remain truly entertaining 55 years later. It certainly had its moments; the “vessel with the pestle” scene as well as the first musical number involving the dwarves were quite original and energetic, but mostly the film teased you with a potential for hysterical parody of the swashbuckling epics of yesteryear but chose intsead to simply make a less entertaining version of those very films. Danny Kaye deserves every bit of praise that has been lavished on him over the years, but even he is unable to save this film from its weakest elements.

Final Score: B-

Does it seem like I just reviewed a Pink Panther film a couple weeks ago? That’s because I did. The very last I film I reviewed before doing my second “best of” list was the original The Pink Panther from 1963, and boy, did I hate that film. I didn’t laugh for nearly the first hour of the film, and I only elicited light chuckles after that point. When I realized that my master list had me watching two Pink Panther films in such short turn-around, I was understandably distraught. As often as I want fun and enjoyable films for this blog, I am just as often (if not more frequently) exposed to films that I outright dislike and find boring. Well, thankfully, the 1975 sequel, The Return of the Pink Panther, couldn’t be more different from the original film and was legitimately hilarious from start to finish and only suffered from an overly lengthy run time as well as a side-plot that did little to add to the humor of the film.

This is the third film in the franchise and once again, Inspector Clousseau (the comedic tour-de-force of Peter Sellers) is on the trail of the mysterious Phantom who has actually managed to steal the priceless Pink Panther diamond from its secure vault in a museum. Returning in a different actor’s body, Sir Charles Lytton (Christopher Plummer), the actual Phantom from the first two films, did not actually commit this robbery and in order to prove his innocence, he decided to track down the actual jewel thief. As Sir Charles goes off on a globe-trotting expedition to find the actual thief, Inspector Clousseau has the same stated mission but no measure of competency or skill. He simply bumbles his way through mishap after mishap until he stumbles upon the actual case. Hilarity ensues, including random interludes where Inspector Clousseau is attacked by his Asian manservant, Kato, to test his instincts and reflexes.

Peter Sellers was simply hilarious in this film. I don’t know why I found him to be so unfunny in the first film, but here, he had me laughing my ass off the whole movie. Maybe it was the way he simply butchered a French accent (on purpose) and provided plenty of classic one-liners, or perhaps its the way he could single-handedly destroy any set in the picture because of his clumsiness and ineptitude, but he was a literal hurricane of comedy. This was the Peter Sellers that I remembered from Dr. Strangelove and not the flaccid bit of slapstick humor from the original film. Christopher Plummer was not funny as Sir Charles Lytton and I could have honestly done without his portion of the film.

If you’re  a fan of slap stick humor that you can turn your brain off and enjoy, this was a legitimately funny picture. Peter Sellers was simply reaching levels of slapstick nirvana that most comedians would dream of wishing. The picture really dragged at its two hour length and like I said, I could have done without Sir Charles’ substory. However, I actually enjoyed this film as compared to hating the original. I’m now not as concerned that practically every other Pink Panther film in the series still remains to be watched for my blog as they almost all qualified for my master list for this blog in one form or another .This wasn’t a great film, but it was one I definitely enjoyed.

Final Score: B

 There is nothing quite as disappointing for a film buff as to finally watch a film that you’ve heard nothing but great things about your entire life only to find it to be not just terribly over-rated but generally awful. I remember how excited I was to watch Citizen Kane after repeatedly hearing it called the greatest film of all time and then how disappointed I was in how dull I found it (I watched that when I was a freshman in high school so admittedly adult Don Saas owes Orson Welles another go). Well, I had heard nothing but great things about the original The Pink Panther film and I found Peter Sellers to be riotously funny in Dr. Strangelove. So, the fact that this film was incredibly dull and not remotely funny (at least until the end) made my whole experience with The Pink Panther a real let-down.

The Pink Panther is the story of the attempts by three different thieves to purloin the titular Pink Panther, which is one of the world’s most valuable diamonds. It is the property of Princess Dala of India who is quite beautiful. The three thieves are Sir Charles Litton (David Niven), a debonair playboy who attempts to seduce the diamond out of the princess, Charles’ nephew George (Robert Wagner) who stumbles himself into the plot, and Simone Clousseau, the conniving wife of French Inspector Jacques Clousseau (Peter Sellers). Jacques Clousseau is hot on the trail of a mysterious jewel thief named the Phantom which leads him to the Italian ski resort where Princess Dala is vacationing and where the plan to steal her diamond begins. Clousseau is beyond incompetent and fumbles his way into one embarrassing situation after another.

This movie isn’t funny. I didn’t laugh a single time for well past the first hour of the film, and it wasn’t until its madcap climax that I began to release some chuckles, but that was as far it ever went. I could count on one hand the number of times the film elicited a laugh or chuckle from me. That’s not a good sign for a comedy. It was way too long and could have been about half an hour shorter. I can only recommend this to hardcore film purists for the role that it plays in cinema history. However, I would also recommend not really believing the hype that this film has earned itself over the years. I’m really not looking forward to the two or three other Pink Panther films that are also on my master list for this blog. I hope they’re significantly better than this one.

 Final Score: C

Old School

For my 14th birthday, my dad took my cousin and I to see Old School in theaters. I loved Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live, and I had just recently discovered National Lampoon’s Animal House and loved it as well. When I saw it that first time in theatres, I absolutely loved the movie. It had been a couple of years since the last time I watched the movie and I didn’t have anything waiting from Netflix at home right now, so I figured I’d pop the film and see how well it’s stood the test of time. And while it’s still enjoyable, watching Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughan play practically the same exact character for the last 8 years has robbed the film of much of its original freshness and pleasure.

For those rare few of you who have managed to not see this one yet, Old School is about three friends, Mitch (Luke Wilson), a lawyer fresh off a hilariously failed relationship, Frank (Will Ferrell), a mild-mannered newly-wed til he drinks when he becomes party machine Frank the Tank, and Bernard (Vince Vaughan), a fast-talking speaker salesman in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Due to Mitch’s house being zoned for the new school by scummy Dean Pritchard (Jeremy Pivens), the trio decides to form an unconventional fraternity to keep Mitch’s house. Zany antics ensue.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some moments in this film that are hilarious. Frank streaking after his first taste of alcohol in years is classic Will Ferrell. There are actually a ton of funny moments in the film involving Will Ferrell, like him debating James Carville, doing a floor show dance for a gymnastics competition, tranquilizing himself on accident. Unfortunately, Will has spent the last 8 years playing variations of Frank the Tank. If this weren’t the original role, this film would be much more boring. Same with Vince Vaughan. Except, this time, this isn’t the original role. That goes to Swingers. He’s been playing the fast-talking, scheming, obnoxious man-child since freaking Swingers. The film does have a lot of people in small roles before they got much more famous. This is a pre-Ari Gold Jeremy Piven. This is a pre-Mrs. Ari Gold Perrey Reeves. Big Bang Theory‘s Wolowitz is in this. Rob Cordrey is in the film. Hell, it has John Locke in it pre-Lost. And the always stunning Elisha Cuthbert, although this came out the same year as 24 I believe.

This movie is by no means a classic. But it’s fun and I always enjoy it whenever I pop it in. It’s 8 years old at this point and I still quote it fairly regularly and I still wear my Frank the Tank shirt on occasions. And actually, unlike most of his roles for the next 8 years, Will Ferrell does manage to vacillate between full on crazy and quieter, drier humor at a fairly regular pace rather than just playing complete full on insane mode the whole film. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you should give it a watch. It’s not one of my favorites but it’s managed to survive many repeat viewings over its lifespan.

Final Score: B

One of my favorite comedies of the last ten years was the sleeper hit and instant cult classic Shaun of the Dead. The combination of dry British humor, biting social commentary, and loving satire of the zombie apocalypse was a perfect mix. While Hot Fuzz was not quite as good as Shaun of the Dead, it was still an awesome and fun love letter to its particular genre. Well, I just got home from seeing the latest collaboration between writer/stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Paul, and it was even more spectacular than Shaun of the Dead. I haven’t laughed this hard at such a well-written and smart comedy since Role Models or Pineapple Express. You should go see this in theatres right now.

Paul is about two best friends, Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost), British geeks who are visiting America for Comic-Con and then touring important extra-terrestrial sites here in the States. They come across an alien by the name of Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), who is on the run from the U.S. Government who has been holding him at Area 51 for over 60 years. The cast is rounded out by Bill Hader (Superbad), Kristen Wiig (Knocked Up), Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) and Sigourney Weaver (Alien). Graeme and Clive decide to help Paul get to where his friends will rescue him and on their journey, mayhem and madcap antics ensue. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I will say that it goes to some, while predictable, still ridiculously hilarious places.

If you’ve seen Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, I obviously don’t need to tell you how hilarious Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are as a pair. They’re, in all likelihood, the funniest comic actors from across the pond since Eric Idle and John Cleese. And then, someone had the brilliant idea to pair them up with the regular cast members of Judd Apatow projects, who are among the most consistently funny actors here in the States. The film is a perfect amalgamation of raunchy American/Apatow humor and dry, sardonic British humor. And the movie never fails to make you laugh.

This film is obviously a love letter to the science fiction genre and to geeks everywhere, and it nails all of those notes right. I lost track of how many subtle (and not so subtle) shout-outs there were to the all time great science fiction films. Although my personal favorite was when they entered a red neck bar in Wyoming, only for the “Cantina Theme” from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope to be played by the bar band. Not to mention that it plays the geeks and nerds in an entirely sincere way instead of for constant yuks. Much like The 40 Year Old Virgin‘s Andy, Graeme and Clive are pretty much real characters, although obviously not as nearly well fleshed out as Steve Carrell’s Andy.

I’ve ranted enough about how much I loved this movie. Needless to say, I can’t wait to watch it again. If you like Judd Apatow films or you like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s previous pairings, then there is absolutely no reason that you shouldn’t see this film. The only people that I wouldn’t recommend this movie to are those who are highly religious because this movie definitely takes some hilarious knocks at blind religious faith and turns a devoutly religious girl into a foul-mouthed fornicator by the end of the film. Of course, that only made it better for me. This is a must see movie.

Final Score: A