Five Great Recent Comedies, All Underappreciated, All Worth Watching

Perhaps no comedy best exemplifies “the little film that could” syndrome as does Mike Judge’s Office Space. Although Office Space died in the theaters, this movie about three fed up cubicle drones quickly regained a second life as a cult film classic before eventually becoming a quotable cultural touchstone on par with Caddyshack. Judge’s next film Idiocracy followed the same pattern, and while it’s not likely to ever hold the same prestige as Office Space, movies like Super Troopers and Wet Hot American Summer continue to show us that a film can die at the box office but have a second life as a cult favorite. We present to you five future classic comedies, all underappreciated, all worth watching.

1. Beerfest (2006)

Drunken Lizard’s Beerfest details the experiences of two brothers and their friends who travel to Germany to enter an underground beer-drinking competition in order to restore both familial and patriotic glory. Despite the silly premise, the movie is nonetheless an epic adventure story that dutifully moves through each phase of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. It’s also, of course, very, very funny.

2. Hot Rod (2007)

Hot Rod was in the theaters for about five minutes last year and was unfairly criticized for being derivative of every other sports spoof ever made. Sure, Andy Samberg was following a model that anyone who’s ever seen a Will Ferrell comedy will be familiar with, but it’s the small touches, the strange little nuances that make the delicious dumbness of Rod Kimble’s sorry attempts at dare-devilry so funny. Ian McShane (Deadwood‘s Swedgin) is fantastic as the malevolent stepfather and Chris Parnell is too fucking funny in his bit part.

3. I Think I Love My Wife (2007)

Everyone knows that Chris Rock is hilarious, so why did no one go see I Think I Love My Wife? Well, it could be that the story of an African-American executive who feels constricted by his upper-middle class lifestyle, kids, wife, etc. and daydreams of having sex with lots and lots of other women simply couldn’t find it’s niche; I Think I Love My Wife is a cult film with no cult. In an interview with the AV Club last year, co-writer Louis CK says that he warned director/writer/star that the film would be a mistake to make. I think he’s wrong. Although the film is very much a monoglossic, one-voice escapade–this is Rock’s tale, of course–that voice is funny and insightful, and often says things that most married men are apt to feel on a daily basis (but not me, honey!)

4. Crank (2006)

Crank should be taught in film classes. In the most wonderfully stupid plot imaginable, professional assassin Jason Statham (who’s made a career out of these kinds of roles, it seems) is injected with a lethal poison. Here’s the twist: if his heart rate drops too low, he’ll die! For the next 90 minutes, he engages in every kind of adrenaline-jumping escapade imaginable including drinking lots of Red Bull, snorting mounds of cocaine, driving really, really fast, and, uh, fighting all the time. Lots and lots of fighting. In one memorable scene, Statham publicly schtups his annoying girlfriend while a busload of Japanese tourists cheers him on. Why this film didn’t win an Oscar, I’ll never understand.

5. Southland Tales (2006)

I’ve already reviewed Southland Tales but it belongs on this list. For all its many, many faults, Richard Kelly’s sprawling opus is a weird, sardonic mess of smart satire and goonish toilet humor, the kind of movie that seems to be mocking both itself as well as its audience at every turn. Not everyone will get this movie, but there are some of you out there who will love it even as it bewilders you.

Southland Tales

Movies, Richard Kelly, Southland Tales, Confusion

OK. So. I’ve now aborted several attempts at properly reviewing Southland Tales so I figure I’ll just go for it. This might be a hack job; possibly one of the worst blogs I’ve ever written. In the spirit of Richard Kelly’s something-opus, I’ll do it anyway.

How much you love or hate (or are completely perplexed by) Southland Tales will rest on a number of factors:

How do you feel about overly-ambitious movies that sprawl in multiple directions? Are you OK with key plot lines not reaching resolution? Do you mind cartoonish violence and sophomoric humor mixed with biting satire? What about giant toilets? How would you feel about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson relentlessly mugging for about 150 minutes? Would it bother you if thematic plot points hung on lines from poems by T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and lyrics from, uh, Perry Ferrell? Would you think that that was pretentious (or just plain dumb, perhaps)? Do you love to see ex-Saturday Night Live members in seemingly incongruous roles? What about watching a movie made a couple of years ago that intended to satirize the (then) near future, only the movie had major troubles getting distributed so when it finally got a national release the future it was satirizing was, like, now? How much did you love Donnie Darko (that won’t make a difference, actually…)? Can’t get enough Sarah Michelle Gellar? Are you OK with watching a movie that, like the original Star Wars trilogy, begins at part IV? How do you feel about Justin Timberlake? What about a “tell-don’t-show” voiceover courtesy of said JT? What about a soundtrack by Moby? SUVs humping? Are these fair questions? Is it fair to frame a movie review in a series of questions? No? Really?

OK. So. Now. How about this:

Philip K. Dick, crime noir, Neo-Marxism, Apocalypse Now, Natural Born Killers, David Lynch, Repo Man, comic books, Strange Days, Wim Wenders, psychotropic paranoia, Terry Gilliam, MAD magazine, epic confusion, Spring Break apocalypse, the Revelation to John, Disneyworld on acid, strange loops, Stanley Kubrick, bogus quantum theory, Los Angeles, nightmare comedy soap opera…

No? Just listing a bunch of references doesn’t qualify as decent critical appraisal? How about this, then:

–or this–

Wow. I was probably better off just not reviewing the damn thing. I want to see it again, like six or seven times, before deciding if I hate it or love it (my wife hated the parts that she didn’t sleep through, by the by. But she sleeps through about 75% of the movies we watch). Actually, after it was over, I immediately watched the whole last half hour again. Maybe you should just go here and read a bunch of real reviews of this movie. Or, better yet, just see it.