Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Comedies - John Gholson ""

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - John Gholson

 John Gholson is a writer for and runs, a comic book blog.
P.S. - John did a 2012 Film Discoveries list that you should also check out:

When I was invited to share some of the comedies that I consider underrated, I really had to think about what “underrated” means. Do I quantify it by box office? Do I name films that are already beloved, but not beloved enough? Do I pick films that got universally bad reviews. The answer I came up with was, “I don’t know.” Instead of belaboring it, I decided to just name some films that I find pretty funny that maybe aren’t on anyone’s radar on a consistent basis, and these are pretty much the ones that came right off the top of my head...

It’s cool to see Jack Plotnick getting some attention for Quentin Dupieux’s Wrong. I first saw him in this rude and crude all-drag comedy about a washed-up drunk actress named Evie who destroys the lives of those around her out of jealousy. It’s incredibly crass, and it makes me laugh in spite of myself - the kind of movie you’re almost hesitant to recommend, because if the humor doesn’t click, they’re going to absolutely hate it and question all your future recommendations. I guess now that I’ve said so, I’ve sort of recommended it to the world, so if you seek it out and don’t laugh at all - you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Personally, I find it hilarious. If you do too, let’s be friends.

BLOOD CAR (2007)
This might be another iffy one, but I’ve had the good fortune to watch it with a couple groups of friends now, and they’ve all laughed along! Whew. In an alternate future, where only the wealthiest can afford gasoline, a ecology nut accidentally creates an engine that runs on human blood. He equips his car with a spinning blade that he can feed unsuspecting victims to and begins a quick slide into madness. The humor is arch and absurd and noticeably low-budget, like a great comedy sketch show, and at times it feels funnier than it has any right to, considering how cheap it looks. Katie Rowlett, as a temptress with a meat-selling stand, gets many of the film’s best lines.

Okay, now we’re getting to a film I can recommend with more confidence. Certainly more mainstream than Blood Car or Girls WIll Be Girls, Flirting With Disaster was an early winner from director David O. Russell and soon-to-be leading man Ben Stiller. Stiller’s about to be a new dad and feels like he can’t accept the responsibility until he puts the mystery of his own adoption to rest. What proceeds is basically a road movie, with Patricia Arquette as Stiller’s put-upon wife and Tea Leoni as a neurotic adoption case worker. Appearances by Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, Richard Jenkins, Josh Brolin, Mary Tyler Moore, and David Patrick Kelly round out an incredible ensemble cast. After this, Stiller went on to be a massive comedy box office draw, and I like to think of this movie as his “dry run” for the big leagues. He’s as funny here as he’s ever been.

I won’t make excuses here. This film is utterly brilliant. The simple pleasures of the Nickelodeon cartoon are expanded to epic proportions with a bizarro underground comix vibe that blows my mind every single time I see it. I mean, this is a kids’ flick with Stunt Rock references for Pete’s sake - this ain’t your Rugrats Movie. I did not expect to like this movie much when it hit theaters, but I ended up LOVING it. Just talking about it right now makes me want to pop it into the Blu-ray player (yes, I own The Spongebob Squarepants Movie on Blu). “I’M A GOOFY GOOBER, YEAH!” This one is an absolute joy to watch. So weird and fun.

This film, based on beer-swilling SCTV sketch characters Bob and Doug McKenzie, was a big part of my childhood due to constant airings on cable TV. I can not separate my sense of nostalgia from my love for the movie itself, so for me, it’s a classic in the way that other 80’s comedies, like Trading Places or Ghostbusters, are classics - full of great character moments and quotable lines. The rational part of me recognizes that others might not feel this way, hence its placement on my “underrated” list. The rest of the world needs to get with the program and recognize this comedy - about a brewery using experimental mind control on psychiatric patients - as one of the most purely silly (and purely Canadian) good times of the 1980s.

A loser working for a “sexy” capsule toy company goes after the girl of his dreams with disastrous results in this Japanese favorite that I first saw at Fantastic Fest a few years back. It works on one level as a terrific underdog story, but it also finds a lot of its humor in something that’s not-exactly-schadenfreude. Schadenfreude would dictate that we would find the main character’s tragedies hilarious, and we do at times, but we also cheer along when he starts to take back his life after hitting rock bottom. Could be labeled as “part Rocky, part Taxi Driver, part Revenge of the Nerds” yet it’s way too original for that to be completely accurate. Seek it out.

This has a really odd target for a mockumentary - it's basically about Christian rockers who collect frozen foods like some might collect comic books or baseball cards. Writer/director Sean Anders went on to be Hollywood hotstuff, writing Mr. Popper's Penguins, Hot Tub Time Machine, and the upcoming Dumb and Dumber sequel, but I think I like his first film the best. It's full of wacky characters and it's confident but cheap in the same way that Clerks was confident and cheap. I like it.

Speaking of Hollywood hotstuff, James Gunn is on the cusp of becoming an A-list blockbuster director with his upcoming take on Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. If you want to get an idea of how he works with superheroes, there's no better double-feature than his superhero comedies The Specials (directed by Craig Mazin) and Super. Super is great, but it's not on this list because a lot of people already know that it's great. The Specials, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of movie that lists like this are made for. It's full of talented people (Rob Lowe, Thomas Haden Church, Paget Brewster, Judy Greer) playing lousy superheroes whose team starts to fall apart right on the cusp of them becoming globally famous. While not nearly as slick as something like Mystery Men, there are more genuine laugh-out-loud moments here, and it's the kind of movie whose little throwaway gags stay with you over time.

1 comment:

Ned Merrill said...

FLIRTING WITH DISASTER. One of the best films overall, and "underrated comedies," of the '90s.