When Life Hands You a Jeffrey, Watch These Comedies from 2010

2010 was a year, wherein, like most in recent history, comedies proved a huge box office draw. The year saw a lot of big name dream team collaborations (Grown Ups, Due Date, Dinner For Schmucks), which got people into the theater, but failed to generate much laughter or critical goodwill when all was said and done. We will use the space ahead of us to talk about those that actually made us audibly giggle and snort, a list that is quite gracefully short. And that rhymed. They are:

5 Get Him To The Greek

Spun off from 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, (yet with Jonah Hill playing a different character than he did in that film) Russell Brand returns as spacey, hedonistic rock star Aldous Snow, who this flick finds on a spiritual quest after his career and personal life hit the rocks (the song and video “African Child”, both hysterical). Young talent scout Aaron Green (Hill) is sent by the CEO of Snow’s record label (A brilliant Sean “P. Diddy” Combs) to wrangle Snow and make sure he’s present for his tour-opening gig at LA’s Greek Theatre (and that’s how titles are born). Hill and Brand both have shticks that can wear thin, but they carry this film extremely well and manage to even come off as likeable, relatable human beings.

4 Kick-Ass

This super-violent superhero comedy retains the edginess of Mark Millar’s comic, but adds a kind of heart and personality that was scarce within those pages. Aaron Johnson stars as the upstart vigilante, who takes on some of history’s goofiest Mafiosi with the help of the film’s two greatest comedic (and literal) weapons: Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl, and Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy. The bloody father-daughter team create some of the films most humorous and touching moments as Moretz’ foul-mouthed killing machine severs limbs and snaps joints to make Papa proud. Cage’s Big Daddy speaks in the cadence of 60s Batman Adam West, as he directs his killer progeny and recruits Kick-Ass in their war on crime, and its one of his most (mostly) subdued and rewarding performances of recent years. Also on deck is Christopher “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse as mob sponsored decoy superhero Red Mist, in this stylish melee directed by Matthew Vaughn.

3 Youth In Revolt

It may not have the video game action or visual razzle-dazzle of Michael Cera’s other 2010 release, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but Youth In Revolt does have one special effect that film lacks: It makes you laugh. Adapted from a novel by C.D. Payne, the story concerns shy teen Nick Twisp who meets the girl of his dreams (Portia Doubleday, making a solid debut) and ends up committing a series of escalating crimes in order to stay close to her. To cope with this slide into ignominy and best woo Doubleday, Nick creates a bad boy alter ego, the man known as Francois Dillinger. A one can imagine, playing Francois gives Cera a break from his typical stammering, stoop-shouldered routine, and wear a mustache while doing it, at that. Cera’s Nick plays extremely well off the hilarious supporting characters (which include the reliable Justin Long as Doubleday’s shady brother, and Steve Buscemi as Cera’s father) and Francois utters some unforgettable nuggets of badass nihilism.

2 I Love You, Philip Morris

Jim Carrey gives one of his best performances as real-life con-artist Stevie Jay Russell in this very funny movie that amounts to something much sweeter than a film that spends much of its time in prison has a right to. During a stint in prison, Carrey falls in love with the titular inmate (Ewan McGregor) and from then on the two are inseparable, embarking on a life of scheming to stay afloat and stay together amid frequent incarcerations. High points include Carrey’s character hilariously recalling his life of crime, and showing the prison ropes to a new inmate (Spoiler: fellatio is a large bargaining chip, apparently). This is the directorial debut of partners Glen Ficarra and John Requa, who went on to make 2011’s Crazy Stupid Love.

1 Easy A

Finally, a starring vehicle for that talented redhead from Superbad and Zombieland, in a good enough film that would have had to have been a real turkey in order to subvert Emma Stone’s charisma. Playing a girl who purposefully destroys her own reputation (at what must be the single most moralistic high school campus in cinematic history) then lives to regret it when it all gets out of hand, Stone is backed up by veterans Lisa Kudrow and Thomas Hayden Church and an unusually sinister Amanda Bynes as her uber-Christian arch-nemesis. The fast and witty script recalls Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You and along with those films, Easy A earns the distinction of being a high school comedy that can be enjoyed by those who long ago said goodbye to senior year.

Honorable Mention

City Island – Andy Garcia is at his best as a prison guard and head of a dysfunctional family in this independent comedy-drama about inhabitants of the little patch of land off the Bronx shore named in the title. Young actor Ezra Miller’s dry performance as his son, a burgeoning fat fetishist, is a definite plus.

The Other Guys – This cop-action spoof is no Hot Fuzz, but Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg definitely make it work.

Tangled – Disney’s computer animated take on Rapunzel features some of the best humor and characters seen in anything non-Pixar from the House of Mouse in a good long while.

That’s 2010’s best comedy offerings in a nutshell. If you disagree, you’re invited to make a better list.

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