In the comments on my review of Identity Thief one person said, "Brad is hard on comedies...so I always expect him to give unfavorable reviews to them," and that's true. I am hard on comedies, but most often because they aren't very funny, especially today's R-rated comedies where it's no longer about making a funny movie, but about making a "raunchy" movie.
The recipe for one of today's R-rated comedies has nothing to do with screenwriting and working out the best story combined with solid punchlines. The key ingredients involve elements that result in an R-rating, most typically an immense amount of swearing and a penis. This kind of humor is funny in the same way deep fried vegetables are good for you.
Speaking of which, what makes a penis so funny? This has always confused me and I tackled it in my review of Forgetting Sarah Marshall a few years back when I wrote:
A lot has been made over the fact that you see Segal's dick not once, twice or even three times. Sure, it's only two scenes, but the first one gives you all variations including from the front, profile and even a tip-tacular rear shot. I wondered what the big deal was, a dick's a dick right? Well, here's the problem. The dick shot is basically there for the folks that laugh at dicks, "Hey! It's a dick! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"
How often do we hear people bitching and moaning how we we never see men naked in movies, only women. Well, this is why. I'm sure there are people that sit and watch Shame and Eastern Promises and howl their asses off at how funny it is to see a man's penis. How the men among this group are able to take a shower and not laugh themselves to death is beyond me.
Of course, Identity Thief plays the naked man card giving us a bare ass shot of Eric Stonestreet and there were people in my audience that laughed. After all, it was perhaps the first time we've ever seen a man passed out naked in a bed before in a movie... right?
So, yes, I'm hard on comedies. To begin, they have to make me laugh and they have to make me enjoy laughing and remember that laughter after I've left the theater. There were hilarious moments in Django Unchained, for example, that had me laughing again just by seeing the trailer and it's not even a comedy. As for the majority of today's insult-driven comedies the same can't be said... just look at Melissa McCarthy's ridiculous profanity-laced rant in This is 40, which I'm sure was meant to carry big laughs, but even if you laugh the first time, is it ever going to be funny again?
Taking all that into consideration, another commenter asked in my Identity Thief review, "Brad, what are some R rated comedies that you hold in high esteem?" This, I'd like to answer...
Below is a list I quickly brainstormed 25 R-rated comedies off the top of my head that I'd much rather watch than Identity Thief and countless other recent comedies as well... Ted being chief among them.
I've posted the list in alphabetical order and included one double feature to make a total of 25. I'm sure you'll agree with some and likely disagree on others, but such is the nature of comedy, which is perhaps the one genre where personal opinion rules more than any other.
- American Pie
- Animal House
- Bachelor Party
- Blazing Saddles
- The Breakfast Club
- Bull Durham
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High
- DOUBLE FEATURE: Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead
- In Bruges
- In the Loop
- The Jerk
- Major League
- National Lampoon's Vacation
- Police Academy
- Road Trip
- Team America: World Police
- Trading Places
- Tropic Thunder
- When Harry Met Sally