Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Comedies - Bernardo Villela ""

Friday, May 24, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Bernardo Villela

Bernardo Villela is about to enter his fourth year of obsessive film blogging. His baby in that regard is The Movie Rat, which features movie reviews, analysis & insights on a wide range of topics. There are new or updated posts daily. His other experience includes writing prose and plays, feature and short film editing, writing and directing short films as well as television commercial copy-writing and directing. To read a more detailed biography on his other works visit his production company's site. For information on his novella or other upcoming works visit his Amazon store. For random thoughts follow him on the Twitter.  

When I heard about Rupert Pupkin's Underrated Comedies series, yet again I was struck by what a great idea for a list it is, as his list ideas tend to be. Now, as he and many have mentioned, and as I have come to realize recently in my personal film awards; the term underrated is perhaps ill-fitting, but the most relatable word to most. Essentially my criteria is that the film must be one I greatly enjoy, obviously find humorous and seems to be greatly overlooked. This is regardless of what the box office or critics said about the film at the time. When trying to pick just five films I first came up with selections from each of the past three decades. I thought about picking just one for each decade going all the way back to the '60s, in the interest of temporal equality. However, being born in the '80s I always considered myself a child of that decade rather than the '90s it'd be hard to deny mentioning films in either decade more than once. I have included some honorable mentions with brief commentary, but the official selections are those that: a) have "been with me the longest" and b) That I feel my fondness for is perhaps the most unique. Therefore, the honorable mentions are also worth noting as I have seen some appreciation for said titles around. Therefore, I believe I may briefly touch upon the honorable mentions now to not give them short shrift. Time Bandits, those who enjoy Terry Gilliam and his band of merry men, of course, enjoy this one too, but until a remake was announced I never really saw evidence of much love for this title. The Cable Guy is a title that sticks out because it was a film I instantly loved though it seemed to fall on deaf ears an eyes in its initial theatrical run. Over the years it seems to have developed a cult following to a lesser extent than the more popular Stiller film, Zoolander. The next honorable mentions are a such simply because they share cast members with official selections. It's hard to imagine a more politically incorrect premise, at least for this day an age, than See No Evil, Hear No Evil. Then again that's part of what made the pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor work so well. Comedy teams are more of a rarity then ever, and they were one of my favorites growing up, and this is perhaps my favorite of their vehicles. One of these two has a solo projects on the list. Of all actors to have overlap, Scott Schwartz may be the most unlikely. Best known as Flick in A Christmas Story, he has a starring role in a small, not very well known comedy called Kidco.  Now per my criteria it should be listed down below. However, since I do discuss it in a recent post of mine, another appearance of his I never wrote about takes precedent. What that is you'll discover below.  

Kids in The Hall Brain Candy - There are people who love The Kids in the Hall that hate this film and I just don't get it. I think the Kids successfully balanced their brand of humor, some of their unique tropes and found a plot that did well to unleash their brand of madness. However, they and the MST3K gang, as well as the film are too well known to make the cut.

Without further ado, enjoy. 

5. Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972, Dir. Woody Allen) OK, clearly if we're taking this countdown very seriously a Woody Allen film can never be number one. However, I do find this film amongst his works to be vastly overlooked. I think it is likely his funniest, though not his best. When he jokes, or when others assert in all seriousness, about longing for his "early, funny" films this is the one that comes to mind for me. Yes, it's built in anthology style, but it takes some very basic questions and outlandishly, hilariously illustrates and dramatizes them.  

4. Max Keeble's Big Move (2001, Dir. Tim Hill) If you search my site you can find a few instances of this film appearing on it, but its never been written about as such. It was one of the Best Picture nominees for my BAM Awards in 2001 and as such just got a mention in a recent rundown through Disney's history at my awards, but never got written about properly. Shortly after 9/11 I took in, with my younger brother, what was likely my only ever triple-feature to get my mind off things (all tickets were legitimately acquired). The films, like many at the time, slipped under the radar. All stuck with me though (Zoolander and Hearts in Atlantis were the other two). This, however, was the surprise of the bunch. Yes, the premise is silly (that's part of why it works), but the film is full of irreverent hilarity and very committed performances. Larry Miller's principal is a character I still quote, as is Noel Fisher's comedically two-sided bully. Alex Linz didn't have a long tenure as a young actor in the spotlight, but this was definitely his peak. Many of these films also have replay value, and I've seen this film quite a bit. 

3. Held Up (1999, Dir. Steve Rash)
I had originally let this one slip my mind, which is sinful. I really want to update it, but once my brother and I, who have nearly identical tastes in comedy, made a list of our combined 50 favorite comedies. This made the list. If you're to be very literal it's the definition of underrated: it's IMDb score is 4.7, it's Metacritic is 21, Rotten Tomatoes is 17 and it grossed a paltry four million and change at the box office. Even my brother and I didn't see it theatrically. We probably saw it on HBO or something and then bought it. We crack up pretty much non-stop watching it. It's got an actor in it before you knew who they were (Sarah Paulson) and it stars Jamie Foxx well before Django (link: and Ray when he was more well known as a comedic actor, and a damn good one too. It's a movie we still quote and occasionally scenes will come back to me. It's silly, outlandish, at times in appropriate but always funny and has great replay value.

2. Crazy People (1990, Dirs. Tony Bill, Larry L. Young) Part of the difficulty of assembling this list was trying to follow my criteria to a tee. Many of the comedic films that I've loved for a long time are ones that I've gone a long time without seeing. When your memory is fuzzy, you wonder if your judgment has been tainted by nostalgia. It has been a while since I've seen this film, but I have seen it since I first watched it theatrically, and my seeing it theatrically is significant because it was my first R-rated film. In fact, it was part of my education about the rating system. My mother and I both saw ads for it and were both looking forward to it. We both liked Dudley Moore and thought it looked like a funny concept. When we arrived at the movies we saw it was rated R. I thought we'd be barred. We went to the box office and talked to the ticket vendor and she explained that if I was accompanied by a parent it was fine. So we went and it was my first sanctioned R-rated movie. I have a cool mom. And contrary to the movie ad the Crazy People concoct it did not "fuck me up for life."  

1. The Toy (1982, Dir, Richard Donner) I discovered The Toy in film school I think. I forget how, but it wasn't when I was younger, which is surprising considering my fandom of both Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. Part of why '80s movies could have dominated this list because there was no such thing as political correctness. Although The Toy, while clearly attempting to be humorous, was also seeking to make commentaries not only on race but on class too. This concept would be far too scary today, for anyone, much less for a major studio with star talent attached. Clearly some people, mainly Pryor, got it and made it work. The scenario is that cash-strapped Pryor is hired as "a toy" for a tycoon's spoiled son. The film isn't stupid and addresses the inherent asininity of the concept almost immediately; Pryor says his salary demand is "ridiculous" because the job is. Pryor turns the screws on Bates (Jackie Gleason) stating his philosophy on his asking price: "You asked me what I need, Mr. Bates, not what I'd be willing to settle for." While the characters warm to one another and improve throughout, as can be expected, it stays true to itself and is never really appropriate, which is what makes it so funny. I probably could've picked more but these are the ones who immediately came to mind.

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