Friday, January 25, 2013

Top Ten Comedies of 2012

Thankfully, unlike with the animated and fantasy/sci-fi lists, I had a bit of a wealth of comedies to choose from for this list. As such, you can have the Zach Savage guarantee that you would be wise to blind buy every last film on the list. Hop to it.

Honorable Mention: Ace Attorney, This is 40, Iron Sky

10. Goon - I'm drawing a blank on the last time we got a really good sports comedy. The most recent I can think of would be Shaolin Soccer, which was both 11 years ago and Chinese. As such, I was quite pleasantly surprised by this effort, a theoretically true story about a bouncer (Sean William Scott) who is peer pressured into joining a minor league hockey team, and finds success as a goon. Those are the guys who are known more for assaulting their opponents than talent if you don't follow hockey, and obviously quite a few hockey fans are fans specifically for them. It's fairly formulaic, as sports movies are, but it's good hearted and almost effortlessly funny all the way through.

9. To Boldly Flee - This is one of the films I know I'm going to get shit on for including here, but it matters not. This is the fourth anniversary film by the team at Channel Awesome, and I'd say it's their best effort yet. For those unfamiliar, Channel Awesome is basically a collection of various film, video game, comic book, and music critics led by the Nostalgia Critic (Doug Walker), and last year they all teamed up to take on SOPA, evil space aliens, and plot holes. It's a bit hard to defend to someone completely unfamiliar with them, as it's rather cheesy and in-jokey and goes on a bit long at three and a half hours, but I would simply be lying if I claimed it was anything other than one of my favorite comedies of the year.

8. The Watch - Just about every year we wind up with a movie or TV show delayed, cancelled, or altered in some absurd way because of a real life event, and in 2012, this got to be that movie. Thankfully, it was only the title that was altered, as it was originally called Neighborhood Watch until the Trayvon Martin shooting prompted a frantic name change because obviously that makes sense. Anyway, this feels like a bit of a throwback to the comedies that were coming out a decade ago, before the comedy world became overwhelmed by meandering Judd Apatow creations. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Dean Learner decide to form a neighborhood watch to keep their town safe, only to discover that they may be dealing with a discreet alien invasion. It's clever and raunchy, to the point where it's to date the only movie I've ever known to get a regular theatrical release that included a circle jerk.

7. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - I can't honestly say I was expecting too much out of this, but this comedy about a bunch of aging Britons that decide to vacation at an exotic restored hotel in India (that turns out to be a bit more exotic -- and unfinished -- than they'd hoped) turned out to be as charming as could be. It's aided by the wealth of great talents such as Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Dev Patel, and Tom Wilkinson, as the British pensioners try to figure out what they're going to be doing with the remainder of their lives, now that the society they know has largely passed them by, while the young hotel owner who has lured them there tries to give them the vacation of their lives to save his failing business.

6. Fat Kid Rules the World - I have to give points of respect for any comedy that opens with the main character attempting to kill himself by walking in front of a bus. He doesn't quite succeed (though he does get to enjoy it as a fantasy first), as a semi-homeless teen (Matt O'Leary) grabs him and knocks him out of the way just in time, and before we have a chance to think he did it for altruistic and kind reasons, he then hits up the fat kid (Jacob Wysocki) for twenty bucks. And so begins one of the best friendships we got on film last year, as O'Leary invites Wysocki to join his new band (which turns out to be just the two of them, as O'Leary was just booted out of his last band for being a drug addict) and Wysocki in turn tries to introduce O'Leary into his family, where we get a delightful performance by Billy Campbell as hid dad, who manages to essentially channel Robert Patrick in The Unit without ever devolving into a cartoon of a military dad. Like another film on the list, it's as much a drama as a comedy, but it's one that, if there's any justice in the world, should become a big hit with teens.

5. Ted - I won't claim to be a huge Seth MacFarlane fan. Frankly, I liked him a whole lot more back when he was bringing out one good show each week instead of three mediocre ones. That said, this is the funniest damn thing he's made in his entire career to date. It's a fairly simple premise, where a young boy's Christmas wish for his teddy bear to become a real friend comes magically true, and after a brief bit of childhood joy, we move forward to the present day, where John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (CG teddy bear, voiced by MacFarlane) are now adult burnouts that would rather spend their time getting stoned than doing anything of substance with their lives. It's somewhat episodic, which I suppose isn't surprising for a writer/director whose entire career prior to this has been in TV, and it does occasionally misfire, but when it's working it's a scream.

4. Why Stop Now - Like Fat Kid Rules the World, this is part comedy and part drama, following a young piano prodigy named Eli (Jesse Eisenberg) as he tries to make it through what is hopefully the worst day of his life. On the day he has to audition to get into an elite music program that would likely open his future wider than Goatse, he also has to check his drug addicted mother into rehab, only to find that they won't accept her if she doesn't have any drugs currently in her system, and when he takes her to her dealer so she can get high the dealer kidnaps them both because she owes him money, and...It's a huge mess, and one played so dryly that were Tracy Morgan not one of the main characters you could easily start to think this was a straight drama. As you may have noticed by this point, I tend to prefer comedies with really uniquely defined characters and crises that arise organically, and this has both of those traits in spades.

3. Seven Psychopaths - As does this, the latest film from Martin McDonagh, whose previous film In Bruges ranks as one of the best comedies of the 00s. This isn't quite as good, but it continues with the same general feel of anarchy, as Billy (Sam Rockwell) takes it upon himself to try to help his friend Marty (Colin Farrell) overcome his writer's block on his new screenplay Seven Psychopaths by pitching him ideas for new psychos and putting an ad out in the paper calling for any of them out there to come forward, all while running afoul of a local crime boss (Woody Harrelson) due to Billy's main career as a dognapper. Toss in Christopher Walken in his best role since at least Catch Me If You Can (seriously, between this, A Late Quartet, and to a lesser extent Stand Up Guys, this has been Christopher Walken's best year since he was in The Deer Hunter), and you've got what should have been a pretty decent hit instead of a bit of a flop. Something's wrong with people.

2. 21 Jump Street - This was the greatest of the more traditional comedies out in 2012, easily the best of all of the remakes of TV shows we've gotten over the past twenty years. It's a buddy cop movie starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum who, after an astonishingly incompetent failed drug bust, are assigned to an undercover squad on Jump Street, where they are to infiltrate a local high school and get in with the dealers of a new drug that the kids there have been overdosing on, only to find that high school is...somewhat different than they remember it. Hill here shows why he's become such a beloved actor since Knocked Up and Superbad, and Tatum gives me a reason to actually like him after the unfortunate G.I. Joe movie.

1. Killing Them Softly - Okay, I know I'm going to get reamed for this one. Yes, officially this is a crime story, and if we judge it solely on those merits then it's not a particularly memorable one. I can say, however, that I was giggling like an asshole the entire way through the film, and I am at least 80% confident that that's just as writer/director Andrew Dominik had intended. Everything about it, right from the opening credits (we get ominous horror music cut with an Obama speech so rapidly that it swiftly loses any and all coherency) to Brad Pitt's long suffering hit man having to deal with the walking disaster that is James Gandolfini to the basic premise of the heist itself (basically robbing a secret card game hosted by Ray Liotta with the presumption that Liotta himself will be blamed since he had robbed his own card game a couple years before), screams that we should be laughing our way through it. I realize I'm in a minority here, but damn it people, just watch this movie and tell me I'm wrong.

Next week we're knocking out the best horror movies of 2012. Spoiler: it was a good year for them.

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