5 Crazy, Stupid, Love
A pleasant romantic comedy with an extremely likeable cast that includes Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Marisa Tomei, who manage to keep it afloat even at its most contrived. When Carell finds himself cuckolded by co-worker Kevin Bacon (we should all be so honored), he’s back on the market, and under the tutelage of seemingly heartless player Gosling. Carell becomes a ladies man in his own right, but thinks twice about the lifestyle when his daughter (Stone) ends up dating Gosling. Much like Horrible Bosses, this is a film whose success lies largely with the people in front of the camera, who keep our attention so that we might hear what the film ultimately has to say about life and love.
Hats off to anyone who can make cancer funny like this. Joseph Gordon Levitt hands in another great performance as a man diagnosed with a spinal tumor in this well-written story of mortality and friendship. Seth Rogen co-stars as Levitt’s best friend who tries to keep his spirits high throughout the whole ordeal of the illness, from chemotherapy to a risky surgery. The adorable Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air, Scott Pilgrim) is also in the mix as a rookie cancer therapist with whom Levitt strikes up a rapport, then a relationship. The movie seamlessly weaves between naturalistic comedy and dour, effective drama for the entirety of its runtime, by the end of which Levitt and the audience have learned what it is to have the support of good friends.
3 Horrible Bosses
In the hands of any cast not quite this great, who knows where this could have gone, but luckily this film has Charlie Day, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston breathing life into this simple and vulgar dark comedy. Three friends (Day, Bateman, Sudekis) realize they all hate their bosses and want them out of the way: Day is a dental technician under predatory nymphomaniac Aniston (who’s never looked better, making Day’s predicament easily the least sympathetic), Sudekis’ company has been taken over by a cokehead douchebag played expertly by Farrell, and Bateman spends his days being bullied by Spacey’s sadistic egotist at an accounting firm. The trio consult hit-man Motherf***er Jones (Jamie Foxx), who advises them to handle it themselves, resulting in a kind of three-way Strangers On A Train. Predictably, nothing goes right. Worth a watch, if only for the image of a coked-up Charlie Day singing along to the Ting Tings as he rocks his car seat in rhythm.
2 The Muppets
In what without hyperbole can be called the “Comeback of the Century,” the beloved family of felt critters returned to the screen triumphantly with the help of Jason Siegel (anyone who remembers Forgetting Sarah Marshall knows this man has a thing for singing puppets), who co-writes and stars in one of the best reviewed movies of the year. Bathed in self-aware humor, yet retaining the traditional wholesome charm of The Muppets, the story has the gang trying to save the theater where they used to film their old TV show from an evil oil baron (Chris Cooper). All the favorite Muppets get their chance to shine, even as the film is stuffed with celebrity cameos, and the musical numbers (Particularly “Man Or Muppet”, which won an Oscar), supervised by Bret McKenzie of Flight Of The Conchords, are uniformly fantastic.
Produced by Judd Apatow, directed by veteran Paul Feig and written by Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig, who also stars alongside a host of other talented women, Bridesmaid is in keeping with the modern trend of the best Hollywood comedies tempering crass vulgarity with genuine humanity. Wiig makes a convincing bid for superstardom here as a downtrodden, insecure bachelorette preparing for her best friend’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding. The other girls in the wedding party include Ellie Kemper (basically playing a variation on her character from The Office) rowdy Melissa McCarthy (the funniest of all besides Wiig) and Rose Byrne as too-perfect Helen, Wiig’s rival for the position of Rudolph’s bestie. Jon Hamm of Mad Men shows off his comedy chops (which he does quite frequently on the internet) as a self-absorbed playboy with whom Wiig has an ongoing, meaningless sexual relationship and the opening bedroom scene between the two is a highlight.
Fright Night- a surprisingly awesome remake of the 1985 horror comedy classic, with Colin Farrell (as the vampiric neighbor) and David Tennant (as a superstar magician) tearing up the screen.
Paul – Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz) go on a road trip with an alien voiced by Seth Rogen. Try to make that not funny.
Win Win – an affecting indie comedy-drama with a beleaguered Paul Giamatti as a lawyer/wrestling coach wrapped up in a scheme to keep his world from crumbling, with able support from Burt Young and Amy Ryan.
Those were the best comedies of 2011. If you’ve got issues with our take on the matter (keeping in mind The Descendants and Midnight In Paris were omitted for transcending the genre) let us hear about it.