Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Comedies - Sean Wicks ""

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Sean Wicks

Sean runs the Cinema-Scope blog( which is very much a sister blog to my own. I am good friends with Sean and we often coordinate different list series and so forth. An all-around social media whore, he's very active on twitter(, tumblr( facebook(, and letterboxd(

So when Rupert approached me about compiling a list for his Underrated Comedies series, I immediately said yes. That was months ago, and during that time I have gone through numerous titles trying to pin it down to 5. Finally I focused on 5 and here it is, although some of these may be overlaps with other lists but I’m going for it anyway.

1) THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE (1985; Directed by: Stan Dragoti)
During high school I worked at a Video Store – Jumbo Video in Guelph, Ontario Canada (24 hours, free popcorn…cool place) – and for a young cinema nerd it was like being in a crack den. I came across many happy accidents I probably wouldn’t have experience had I not been surrounded by movies and this definitely falls into that category.
BIG had just come out on VHS, I just got in an argument with a co-worker who hated Tom Hanks (how can you hate Tom Hanks? She must have been a communist) and that night came across this title sitting in the back corner of the comedy shelf while I was organizing. Not only does it have Tom Hanks in it, but Princess Leia (or that other name she goes by, Carrie Fisher) is in it as well.
A remake of a French film entitled THE TALL BLOND MAN WITH ONE BLACK SHOE, this film has Hanks as a hapless violinist who unknowingly gets set up as a patsy between two warring CIA directors simply because he gets off a plane wearing one red shoe. What follows is a crazy series of events where Hanks for the most part has no idea he’s being targeted, and a funny subplot involving his wild sexual escapades with Carrie Fisher and trying to keep them from her husband (and his best friend) played by James Belushi.
This movie caught my attention right away thanks to Thomas Newman’s outstanding electronic score. (Mind you at the time I had no idea who Thomas Newman was, but now when I hear that music, it is so unmistakably Thomas Newman) it’s fantastic and available on Netflix Instant Streaming.

2) STAY TUNED (1992; Directed by: Peter Hyams)
The moment I saw this trailer which featured John Ritter being sucked into a crazy version of what looks like THREE’S COMPANY, I had to see this movie.
Fittingly, TV stars John Ritter (THREE’S COMPANY, HEARTS AFIRE, HOOPERMAN) and Pam Dawber (MORK & MINDY, MY SISTER SAM) play a married couple going through a rough patch that results in Dawber destroying their TV set because Ritter watches it way too much. Suddenly, Jeffrey Jones appears with a new set and satellite dish that’s not exactly a normal Zenith as the couple finds themselves sucked into a series of hellish alternate TV shows which are satires of real movies and shows (i.e. - DRIVING OVER MISS DAISY, NORTHERN OVEREXPOSURES, AUTOPSIES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS, etc.). What Ritter doesn’t know is that in taking the set, he has signed his soul over to the devil and has to go back in to save his wife from hell.
The show and movie satires make this great, and it was directed by Peter Hyams (2010; TIMECOP; OUTLAND) to boot. Plus how can you go wrong with John Ritter (ok yeah I know, PROBLEM CHILD and PROBLEM CHILD 2 – not his fault!)

3) CRAZY PEOPLE (1990; Directed by: Tony Bill and Barry L. Young)
I once got in a weird argument over this movie. I was working the midnight until 8am shift at the aforementioned Jumbo Video and had just watched this before my shift and coming in, vocalized my appreciation for the movie to the staff. One of my co-workers at the time was a moody…ummm…fellow, and told me I had the worst taste in movies he had ever seen in his life (oh should I mention this from a guy who stated that “reading books was a waste of time”). Anyhow, he and I got in a full-on verbal fight over the movie in the corner of the store. It was kind of amusing, because it was hard not to notice as our voices got loud. It is proof that you should never debate anything with a guy who is cantankerous at the end of his shift, before you start working an all-night shift.
So on to the actual movie which features Dudley Moore as an ad executive who experiences a break down, then ends up in a mental institution where he and the “crazy people” come up with amazing ad campaigns that re-invigorate his career. Need I mention that David Paymer plays a character that can only say “hello”?
This also has a good score by Randy Edelman, and an animated opening title sequence which is a lost art (although TINTIN had one which was fantastic).

4) NUNS ON THE RUN (1990; Directed by: Jonathan Lynn)
This movie has a simple tried-and-true premise that still manages to provide plenty of laughs.
Taking a page from the SOME LIKE IT HOT playbook, Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane are gangsters who want out of the operation, and are set up to be killed. They then masquerade as Nuns hiding out in an all-women institution to stay alive. Hijinks ensue.
I again have to call out the score on this, which is a jazzy electronic score by David Kitay and Frank Fitzpatrick – credited as “Hidden Faces”. I had searched all over for this score and suddenly came across it in a thrift shop on audio cassette. I was also pleased when Anchor Bay released this movie on DVD last year, as part of their licensing deal with Fox. It’s not a Blu-ray but I’ll take it.

5) SOAPDISH (1991; Directed by: Michael Hoffman)
I liked SOAPDISH so much I saw it twice in the theaters. I didn’t expect it to be much, but found myself laughing throughout and still do every time I have viewed it since. It also comes up a lot in development circles as a title with strong remake potential.
First off it’s got a great cast which includes Kevin Kline, Sally Field, Cathy Moriarty, Carrie Fisher, Robert Downey Jr., Elizabeth Shue, Whoopi Goldberg, Teri Hatcher, Garry Marshall and Kathy Najimy.
Sally Field plays a soap star who tries to keep herself from being written off the show and replaced by new talent. Things get complicated when her ex-flame (that would be Kline) shows up who she had fired years before. It has more than its fair share of comic backstabbing and character interactions. Carrie Fisher stands out specifically as a ruthless casting director (or Producer, can’t recall exactly which) on the show who openly casting couches the men she auditions.

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