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Where Have All The GREAT Comedy Movies Gone?


get out moget out movie Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washingtonvie

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in “Get Out”. Image via Universal Pictures.

We’re halfway through 2017 and there’s been a horrifying shortage of great comedy movies. I’m taking a look at the current downward trend and ahead to upcoming comedy releases.

It seems like every week, I’m searching for the next great comedy movie and each week, I’m severely disappointed. My futile searches led me to this article and this question: Where have all the great comedy movies gone?

I looked up the top 100 comedy movies of all-time on Rotten Tomatoes and Get Out is #1? What the actual f*ck. It was a great movie, but top comedy movie of all-time? The other most recent live-action comedy on their list is La La Land? F’real? That’s a great comedy? Moving down the list I see Before Midnight, The Artist, Love & Friendship. Where am I?

The last GREAT live-action comedy movie of my lifetime (Nov. ’80 – Present) that’s highest on RT’s list?

43. Ghostbusters (1984)

Tremendous replay value. One-liners and memorable quotes out the yin-yang. And only one notch down from that cinematic gem is…

44. Don’t Think Twice (2016)

I watched this in a room full of family for the first 15-20 minutes or so and we didn’t laugh once. Had to turn it off. Love ya, Key, but damn, I needed Obama’s anger translator after mercy-killing it.

Of the remaining top live-acton comedies on Rotten Tomatoes’s list that were released in my lifetime, here are the titles I’ve seen that are – for the most part – worthy of their placement:

45. Big (1988)
48. Airplane! (1980)
52. Spy (2015)
57. Back to the Future (1985) – more of a sci-fi adventure than comedy
58. The Princess Bride (1987)
61. Sideways (2004)
66. Bull Durham (1988)
67. The Nice Guys (2016)
69. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) – technically part live-action
82. The Truman Show (1998) – least funny Jim Carrey comedy during his prime?
89. Groundhog Day (1993)
91. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
94. Juno (2007)

Of course, if you were to ask most people what the top comedy movies from 1980 on were, you’d probably see this list:

Home Alone
The Hangover
Mrs. Doubtfire
Austin Powers
Elf
Meet The Parents
Wedding Crashers
Mean Girls
There’s Something About Mary
Borat
Knocked Up
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Superbad
21 Jump Street
Talladega Nights
Liar Liar
Sister Act
Coming to America
Dumb & Dumber
Wayne’s World
Trading Places
A League of Their Own
Back to School

What about Deadpool? That’s a superhero movie that’s funny. It’s the funniest superhero movie. Funniest comedy? Negative, Ghost Rider.

Ever since 2009 – when The Hangover released – the comedy genre’s market share has drastically declined while total ticket sales have only slightly decreased.

Box Office History for Comedy

Box Office History for Comedy. Image via the-numbers.com

As you can see from the chart above, comedy’s market share over the past three years (2015 – 2017) has been at its lowest since 1998.

While the comedy genre has held the second highest market share since 1995, Action and Drama have surpassed Comedy in the past two years. Don’t look now, but Horror is not far behind, wielding a very unfunny murder weapon.

Box Office Market Share by Genre 1995 to 2017

Box Office Market Share by Genre 1995 to 2017. Image via The-Numbers.com

I looked at the highest grossing comedy movies dating back to 1940. There hasn’t been a mega-hit live-action comedy grosser since The Hangover franchise. I may have seen that three times in theaters.

In fact, there have been seven live-action comedy movies released in the past ten years (2007 – 2017) that are in the top 100 highest-grossing comedies since 1940: The Hangover, The Hangover IITed, Juno, Wild Hogs, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, and 22 Jump Street.

Since 22 Jump Street‘s release in 2014, we’ve seen seven live-action comedies cross the $100 million mark – four in 2015, three in 2016. While two of 2015’s top comedy grossers cleared the $150M hurdle, there weren’t any in 2016.

As for 2017? Well, Get Out has tallied more than $175 million, but that’s NOT a comedy. It’s a horror-thriller with comedic elements. There’s not one live-action comedy in the top 10 highest grossing releases.

As of publish, there are only TWO live-action comedy in the top 20 grossers: Baywatch (>$51M) followed by Snatched ($45M). After that? Going In StyleFist Fight, How To Be a Latin Lover, and two carry-overs from December 2016: Why Him? and Office Christmas PartyBRUTAL.

Granted, not every “great” comedy grosses a lot at the box office. Look at Harold and Kumar Go To White CastleShaun of the Deadand Dazed and ConfusedBut, have there been any cult classics in the making over the past three years? Three come close:

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Richard Brody of The New Yorker used Mike and Dave as a signifier of the death of the Hollywood comedy movie. Brody admitted that M&D was “boisterous, amiable, whimsical”, but emphasized the plot, direction, dialogue, and characters were stale, cliched / stereotypical. He went on to note that it would’ve been funnier had it released in 2005.

Still, Zac Efron and Adam Devine make a dynamic duo. Aubrey Plaza was amazing, as always. Sure, there could have been a better setup to the final payoff (sister Jeannie’s wedding) but, there was no shortage of laughs. Isn’t that the mark of a great comedy? One the can make you laugh a lot, not just the first time you watch it, but every time?

The Night Before

I accidentally pre-ordered this flick on demand and it’s been one of the best mistakes I’ve ever made. When the holidays roll around in December and you’re looking for a laugh, this is the movie to throw on.

Green Hornet, Falcon, and Robin… I mean, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are three wise-crackin’ wisemen who go on one last rager as a trio. Jillian Bell, Michael Shannon, Lizzy Caplan, Mindy Kaling, and Ilana Glazer pitch in perfect performances. Miley Cyrus makes a slammin’ cameo. What more do you need?

The DUFF

I just watched The DUFF this past Memorial Day Weekend and was pleasantly surprised. It seemed every time I’d call out the movie for something trite or scoff at something expected, the movie waited a beat and addressed it. Like, it was reading my mind. It was that anticipation and payoff that ultimately won me over.

Yeah, it followed a template. Fairly formulaic. But, it provided enough of a California roll (enough of a twist on a familiar thing) that it came off more as an homage to those top teen comedies that came before it.

So, if 2017 doesn’t want to go down as the unfunniest year of all-time, it will need a strong second half from the following contenders …

What’s coming up for the summer?

Rough Night

Directed and co-written by Lucia Aniello who’s done the same for Broad City.

Electric cast. I mean. ELECTRIC. Scarlett Johansson in an R-rated comedy for once. Zoe Kravitz getting to flex her comedic muscles for once. Comedy all-stars Kate McKinnon (SNL), Jillian Bell (Workaholics), and Ilana Glazer (Broad City) should provide superb support.

I was pumped when I saw the trailer had released, but the wind withdrew from my sails when I saw they kill the stripper. Like, it’s the female version of Very Bad Things? Let’s hope not.

Knee-jerk prediction: This has the potential to be the next Bridesmaids, but will need authentic conflict and resolution along with some emotional weight to pull it off. The fact it doesn’t have any ratings from critics yet and is scheduled to release June 16th is most likely a bad sign.


The Big Sick

Directed by Michael Showalter (writer/actor from The State, Wet Hot American Summer)

Written by real-life couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani whose real-life relationship this movie is based on.

Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano

Knee-jerk prediction: The early word is this film will do for Kumail Nanjiani what Trainwreck did for Amy Schumer. So, I guess we can expect everyone to accuse Nanjiani of stealing jokes for the foreseeable future? Awesome.

Thirty-one of 32 critics have given the movie a positive review so far, according to Rotten Tomatoes. The critics aren’t perfect, but knowing Nanjiani I’d be willing to gamble on this being the breakout comedy of the year.


The House

Directed by Andrew Jay Cohen (this is his first time directing a feature-length film)

Co-written by Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (who co-wrote Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Neighbors, and Neighbors 2)

Starring Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, and Jason Mantzoukas

Ferrell and Poehler play the parents of a teenage daughter who’s hoping to attend college. They blow all of her tuition. So, they start an illegal casino in their basement. Hilarity ensues.

Knee-jerk prediction: Here’s another potential blockbuster comedy that looks great on paper and in the trailers, but has ZERO reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. You have to wonder how a film with this kind of comedy firepower can fail, but it’s happened.

Side note: Jason Mantzoukas needs to be the lead in his own movie. That’ll hopefully come after just a couple more solid supporting roles.


Girls Trip

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man franchise, Barbershop: The Next Cut, Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, Undercover Brother)

Written by Kenya Barris (Black-ish) and Karen McCullah (The Ugly Truth, The House BunnyShe’s the Man, Ella Enchanted, Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You)

Starring Kate Walsh, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Mike Colter (aka Luke Cage), and Regina Hall

Plot summary from IMDB:

“When four lifelong friends travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling, and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.”

Knee-jerk prediction: The math adds up. Proven director + proven pair of writers + proven cast = proof this will be profitable. But will it be on par with Legally Blonde and 10 Things? Will a similar film like Rough Night damper or strengthen the buzz around this women-gone-wild vehicle? I think it will lose that matchup.


The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Directed by Patrick Hughes (Expendables 3)

Written by Tom O’Connor

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, and Gary Oldman.

Plot summary from RottenTomatoes:

“The world’s top protection agent gets a new client: a hit man who came in from the cold. They’ve been on the opposite ends of a bullet for years. Now they must team up and have only 24 hours to get to The Hague to bring down a murderous dictator.”

Knee-jerk prediction: Definitely a cool concept. There should be no shortage of “buddy cop” banter between Reynolds and Jackson. Oldman always brings the thunder. Yet, one has to wonder about the direction and writing talent. Not many credits under their wings. That makes me just a skosh gun-shy about marking this a winner.


Logan Lucky

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Erin Brockovich)

Written by Rebecca Blunt (Logan Lucky is her first credit)

Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, Seth McFarlane, Riley Keough, and Katherine Waterston

Plot summary: A pair of brothers try to pull off a robbery during a NASCAR race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Knee-jerk prediction: Aren’t heist movies played out? I thought so and then I saw Hell or High Water. Isn’t this just Ocean’s Eleven for rednecks? Seems like it.

The roles might be a stretch for everyone involved, but there’s more than enough capable star-power to get ‘er done. Plus, it’s a rush watching Daniel Craig, a British actor mostly known for his restrained dramatic roles, reel off a wacky character’s southern accent.

What or who will take this to the next level? There are plenty of options. But, I’d err on it being an enjoyable on-demand rental and not a must-see in theaters.


How about the fall?

Home Again

Written and directed by first-timer Hallie Meyers-Shyer (who has acting credits in Father of The Bride, What Women Want, and The Parent Trap)

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Michael Sheen, Lake Bell, and Candice Bergen

Plot summary: After separating from her husband, a mother of two daughters moves back to her hometown and lets three filmmakers temporarily crash with her. Things go awry, especially when the ex-husband pops up.

Knee-jerk prediction: EVERYONE’S IN LOVE WITH REESE WITHERSPOON! No doubt this will do well with her fans, but doesn’t seem to have crossover / mass appeal, unless it delivers some Crazy. Stupid. Love. scenes.


Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller. Photo by Carlo Allegri / REUTERS.

Brad’s Status

Release Date: September 15, 2017

Written and directed by Mike White, who wrote School of Rock, Nacho Libre, and Orange County

Starring Ben Stiller, Michael Sheen, Jenna Fischer, and Luke Wilson

Plot summary from IMDB:

“A father takes his son to tour colleges on the East Coast and meets up with an old friend who makes him feel inferior about his life’s choices.”

Knee-jerk prediction: Man, wouldn’t it be nice for this to be Ben Stiller’s big comedy comeback? Ben Stiller hasn’t gone anywhere. Well, Zoolander 2 was a miss and the last awesome live-action comedy Stiller starred in was 2008’s Tropic Thunder, which was carried by a spectacular cast. Yes, there was the box office behemoth Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, but there was also The Watch, Tower Heist, and Little Fockers.

Luke Wilson – God bless him – hasn’t really led a great live-action comedy since 2006’s Idiocracy. Though, he did have a nice role in Skeleton Twins, which was more of a dramedy.

Hard to say without a trailer, but it’s got a lot of good parts. Hopefully, the rust doesn’t show. Odds are, it will.


Villa Capri: Tommy-Lee-Jones, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman, Rene Russo, and Tommy Lee Jones. Image via http://www.oneheadlightink.com/

Villa Capri

Written and directed by Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed White Men Can’t Jump, Tin Cup, and Bull Durham.

Starring Morgan Freeman as a former lawyer for the mafia who’s now in a witness protection program, and Tommy Lee Jones as a former FBI agent.

Knee-jerk prediction: The synopsis on IMDB suggests this will be “in the vein of Midnight Run“. Ya know, I could make a joke here about the respective ages of Freeman and Jones and the movie’s title – something along the lines of “Midnight Walker” or “Early Bird Special Run” – but I won’t. ‘Cuz I’m classy af. I dig the pairing of Freeman with Jones, though. Still don’t think it’s gonna go viral.


Bastards

Directed by first-timer Lawrence Sher, who was the cinematographer / director of photography on Garden State, The Hangover series, Due Date, I Love You Man, and War Dogs

Written by Justin Malen, who wrote Office Christmas Party

Starring Owen Wilson, J.K. Simmons, Glenn Close, Ed Helms, Ving Rhames, Katt Williams, Terry Bradshaw, and Katie Aselton

Plot summary: Two brothers embark on a road trip to find their read dad after finding out their mother lied to them about his death.

Knee-jerk prediction: Trailers can be deceiving, but this one won me over. Admittedly, I’m also a sucker for these kinds of movies. Ed Helms and Owen Wilson have excellent chemistry. My only fear is the comedy will lean too heavily on a one-note joke:

“That woman you mentioned was a hot lady who was good at sex!”

“She’s our mom.”

*RECORD SCRATCH*


Hey, maybe I’ve just been spoiled by the stretch of comedy bangers that came out from 2004-2008, but it feels like we’re due for some heavy hitters. Right now, the world desperately needs comedy and 2017 is going down as one of the unfunniest years at the box office… ever.

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