I like movies that are either funny or true, meaning I don’t generally see the point of letting precious minutes of my life tick by while I learn nothing and/or get no enjoyment from something that never actually happened. My kids know this very well, so if we’re in a mall and they notice there is a movie playing that they want to see, they just ask me if I feel like a nap. In my view there are so many absolutely amazing true stories out there that there is really no need to resort to making stuff up unless it’s for the purpose of making people laugh. Yes, I know there are things to be learned from clever fiction but why bother when you can learn from actual history? At the very bottom of my list is the horror movie in all its forms. I really cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would choose to be scared witless or watch acts of extreme violence for entertainment – and they are generally far too noisy to sleep through.
But this column is intended as light entertainment, so I’d like to leave out general non-fiction and share with you, in no particular order, some of my all-time-favourite funny movies.
The best comedy often comes from the most unexpected of sources. Who would have thought to pair Michael Caine and Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1998) other than the great director Frank Oz? The screenplay was based on the 1964 movie Bedtime Story starring David Niven and Marlon Brando, and believe it or not the lead roles were originally intended for David Bowie and Mick Jagger!
I am English, so it is impossible for me to make a list of my favourite funny movies without including something by the Monty Python crew, even though to be honest I don’t actually think most of the Python movies are all that funny in the mainstream sense of the word. In my opinion most of them are only funny because they are Python. Being funny in the mainstream sense is different and that’s why it is The Life of Brian (1979) that makes my list – love or hate Python, it’s still funny.
If you haven’t seen Team America: World Police (2004) I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that I would never have imagined that a movie made entirely with visibly-stringed marionettes could leave me with aching ribs and sore cheek muscles. It is so fantastically non-PC and so obviously pokes fun at America that an Englishman has no choice but to love it. See if you can get the uncensored version – you’ll know why when you see it.
There are not many comedy movies I can watch over and over again, but There’s Something About Mary (1998) is definitely one of them. Anyone who has seen the movie will remember Cameron Diaz’ famous ‘hair gel’ scene, but one of the funniest moments for me comes as a result of Pat Healy (Matt Dillon) trying to impress Mary (Cameron Diaz) by telling her he is an architect who also does voluntary work with people we refer to today as differently abled.
Pat Healy: I work with retards.
Mary: Isn’t that a little politically incorrect?
Pat Healy: Yeah, maybe, but hell, no one’s gonna tell me who I can and can’t work with.
Sometimes just plain silly movies really work for me, but it takes a great script and 100 percent commitment from the actors. One of the best examples of this is Dumb and Dumber (1994) with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, but if I had to pick one it would be when Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) have infiltrated a high class fundraiser in order for Lloyd to get closer to his love interest Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly), and they realise they need to be on their best behaviour in order to fit in.
Lloyd: All we need to do is show a little class, a little sophistication, and we’re in like a dirty shirt.
Harry: No problem, Lloyd. We can be classy and sophistic…oh, check out the funbags on that hose hound.
Space prevents me from listing many other great comedies in any detail, but I feel compelled to at least mention Meet the Parents (Robert De Niro is brilliant in this and the sequels), Hot Fuzz (I love Simon Pegg), Borat (although everything after it was disappointing), The Hangover (even the sequels were surprisingly good) and Airplane! (one of the first and certainly my favourite of the parody movies).
That’s a wrap!