Our picks for the ten greatest comedy movies of 2014 are all over the map. There is a blockbuster, and bunch of indie films among our picks, and we chose several films that you might argue aren’t actually comedies. But we stand by the notion that often the best comedies are films that are dark, or mixed genre, so we didn’t get details like that get in our way of picking some great films that skirted the edges of being pure comedies. Let us know what your favorite comedy of the year was this year by voting or leaving us a comment.
Top Five. Chris Rock’s December release has to be a contender. With appearances by some of the top names in comedy: Cedric The Entertainer, Kevin Hart, Michael Che, JB Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Brian Regan, Lesley Jones, and Tracy Morgan. With Rock at the helm, this movie would have to be in anyone’s year end review of films.
The Interview. The Interview had more lead in hype than any movie this year. Hackings, scandal, last minute threats of terrorism and violence all lead up to the cancellation of the final week’s press, the film’s big premiere and the news that many big theater chains were unwilling to screen the film. Despite all the uproar, the film was ultimately released in 300 theaters and online, and proved to be a genuinely funny movie. Rogen and Franco had great chemistry, and there were laughs from start to finish. The Interview is likely to become another one one of those films that gets funnier each time you see it, and we’re marking this down as a slam dunk for Rogen and company.
The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson has his own genre of comedy and Grand Budapest Hotel is his latest contribution to that genre. There’s heists, farce, romantic comedy, inside jokes, running gags, and nonstop physical comedy all wrapped up in a beautiful delicate package.It’s as fun and funny as you’d expect from a film bringing together Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson and, of course, Bill Murray under the brilliant direction of Wes Anderson.
They Came Together. David Wain and Michael Showalter co-wrote this fun, silly, but entertaining parody/spoof of rom com and date movies. This smart parody (smarody?) stars Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd and an incredible supporting cast that includes Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper, Jason Mantzoukas, Ed Helms, Michael Ian Black, Keenan Thompson, Jack McBrayer, Ken Marino, and Cobie Smulders. It’s a perfect summer movie. Light but smart, and packed with laughs, and at times, purposefully corny. What you won’t find are explosions, shocking plot twists, or long drawn out car chases.
St Vincent. In Bill Murray’s first lead role since 2012’s “Hyde Park on Hudson”, he stars a drunken gambler turned babysitter for a 12 year old boy. Vincent is in debt with bills and bookies both. He turns to his new neighbor played Melissa McCarthy who is equally desperate for someone to watch her son, Oliver, after school. What happens next is Oliver’s apprenticeship in the debauchery that is Vincent’s life. Oliver somehow breaks through the hard exterior of Vincent that very few have been able to penetrate. In addition to Murray and McCarthy, who takes a more dramatic turn in this role, the cast includes Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Kimberly Quinn, Terrence Howard and Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver.
The Trip to Italy. Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and director Michael Winterbottom team up once again for the follow up to the critically acclaimed BBC series The Trip (both were edited into full length features for American audiences). This time, Coogan and Brydon hit the Italian countryside in a Mini Cooper to reviewing the local cuisine for a London newspaper. Along the way, they muse on everything from getting older, the state of personal lives (which are on the brink of being fractured), Alanis Morrisette, and blissfully taking shots at each other. There’s also, of course, impressions of young and old Michael Cain, Roger Moore, Al Pacino and much more. Coogan and Brydon are, as usual, in fine form and Winterbottom’s direction makes Italy look like heaven on Earth. Another winner from the Coogan-Winterbottom cam.
Birdman. Hollywood is calling Birdman a comedy so we’ll play along. If it is a comedy, its a dark one. Very dark. The exploration of the tortured inner life of a former franchise movie star makes for a bold film, and it’s shot both beautifully and creatively earning the film well deserved accolades. If there is a comedic role in the film, it undoubtably belongs to Edward Norton, the antagonizing anti hero who triggers many of the conflicts throughout the film.
Skeleton Twins. This film is a more dramatic turn for Saturday Night Live alumni Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. They play twins who have been estranged for the better part of a decade. They’ve both been scarred by the death of their father when they were still young. More tragic events have brought them back together years later. Bill Hader plays Milo, a struggling actor who has returned home to stay with his sister Maggie, played by Wiig. The two have secrets they haven’t shared with anyone yet. The situation isn’t helped when their mother comes back into their lives. Now they’re back together and their bond of family and being twins is strained even more. Joining Wiig and Hader in the cast are Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell and Joanna Gleason.
Obvious Child. Jenny Slate explores sex love and romance in this dark look at dating in 2014. Her character, Donna, is a stand up comedian who is having some problems connecting with men, which is a real big problem when she finds herself single, pregnant and out of work. It’s a strong story and Slate herself is oddly charming in her performance as a disconnected lost and angry woman. There are many reasons we love Jenny Slate and most of them are evident in “Obvious Child.” It’s a rom-com for people who hate the overly sweetness, and cliches that the romantic comedy genre tends to collect.
Chef. Chef isn’t a straight comedy. It’s more of a rom-com but where the romance is with Carl Casper’s career. Jon Favreau is funny, and charming and reminds us of all the rasons we’ve loved him since Swingers. Favreau writes, directs and stars but still can’t take all the crdit. There’s so much talent here, including Chefs comedically brilliant sidecick played by John Leguizamo, and an outstanding performance by Oliver Platt as the darkly comedic food critic who sets the entire plot in motion. Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johanssen, Robert Downey Jr., Amy Sedaris and Emjay Anthony all bring their own talents to this brilliant and funny indie film.