Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Comedies - Adam Jahnke ""

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke is a Senior Editor and columnist for The Digital Bits, one of the leading DVD/Blu-ray websites on the net. Among other things, he's responsible for the annual Hell Plaza Oktoberfest horror-thon and, most recently, Burnt Offerings, a weekly column devoted to Manufactured On Demand DVDs from Warner Archive and other studios.

The word “underrated” gets thrown around a lot and is particularly tricky when it comes to comedies. If we’re considering cinema as a whole, all comedies are underrated. Is there anybody other than me who thinks Dr. Strangelove is Kubrick’s best movie? Comedies are so underappreciated that even the frickin’ Golden Globes lump them together with musicals where they frequently lose out to such laff riots as Les Miserables and Evita. When your chosen profession can’t even guarantee you a Golden Globe, that’s pretty much the definition of underrated.

For this list, I’ve tried to focus on movies that are underappreciated even by cult standards. Many of my favorites that would ordinarily appear on a list like this, such as Joe Versus The Volcano, Ishtar, and Cabin Boy, seem to have picked up quite a few supporters since I first started championing them. The cults for these movies are neither as large nor as vocal as they ought to be. I also eliminated a few choices I thought I was making just because they made me look smart. Let’s face it, some of the best comedies ever made are the opposite of smart. The only standard these selections had to meet was that they made me laugh.

The Impostors (1998) – Stanley Tucci’s slapstick follow-up to Big Night made so little impact that most people I mention it to have never even heard of it, despite an all-star cast that includes Oliver Platt, Steve Buscemi, Isabella Rossellini, Hope Davis, a cameo by an unbilled Woody Allen, and many more. It may be hard for some to connect to the retro 30s vibe that Tucci captures so perfectly, but if you can, you should find this to be as hilarious as I did.

Jiminy Glick In Lalawood (2004) – I think we can all agree that Martin Short is an undisputed comic genius. But his portly entertainment reporter Jiminy Glick is very much a love-him-or-hate-him character. As a movie, his feature debut is a bit of a shambling mess but who cares. It’s worth it for the sequences shot at the Toronto International Film Festival with hilarious improvised encounters with the likes of Steve Martin, Kurt Russell, Kiefer Sutherland, and others. Bonus points for the exceedingly odd decision to bookend the movie with Short as a spot-on David Lynch for really no apparent reason.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989) – As a rule, when the Criterion Collection inducts a movie into its lofty ranks, it stops being underrated and begins the journey to becoming overrated. But Aki Kaurismaki’s Leningrad Cowboys joined Criterion’s second-tier Eclipse line, so it can still be considered underrated. It’s a deadpan absurdist road movie so convincing that the fictional band became a real-life sensation in its native Finland. I suppose if you’re reading this in Helsinki, this movie isn’t underrated at all.

The Marrying Kind (1952) – I almost didn’t include this one because it’s as successful as a drama as it is a comedy. But Judy Holliday is as underrated a comedic actress as there is and for my money, she was never better than she was here. Directed by George Cukor and written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, this is a surprisingly candid look at marriage for Hollywood in 1952, as Holliday and husband Aldo Ray recall their rocky relationship in front of a judge during divorce proceedings. And speaking of Ruth Gordon…

Where’s Poppa? (1970) – I was introduced to this movie through Danny Peary’s indispensible book Cult Movies, so I take it on faith that it has a cult. But it’s become so obscure these days that IMDb has it listed under the alternative title Going Ape, which was news to me. This is almost certainly Carl Reiner’s darkest movie but it’s also among his best. I used to manage a video store and Where’s Poppa? was a mainstay in my “Employee Recommendations” section. It’s one of the few titles I included that customers actually returned to the store to thank me for suggesting. I suspect there were also a few who went out of their way to never see me again.


danofan59 said...

Well, since "Where's Poppa" is on the list, I'll add Fire Sale to the list, from the same writer (Robert Klane). The movie was directed by and stars Alan Arkin heading up a great ensemble cast. The only movie to ever make me literally laugh myself sick, yet never released to home video.

Robert M. Lindsey said...

Dr. Strangelove is far and away Kubrick's best movie.