Fall Movie Preview 2011: Comedy

Comedy is in no short supply this fall and with a good variety too. It may be bookended by two Adam Sandler films, but in between are a couple rom-coms, a stoner comedy, a horror comedy, some comedy/drama and more. Fall might not be known for quality, but there should be a few humorous surprises.


Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star

(Sep. 9)

Directed by Tom Brady
Written by Adam Sandler, Allen Covert and Nick Swardson
Starring: Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Don Johnson, Stephen Dorff

Summary: Bucky Larson heads from the Midwest to Los Angeles to embrace his destiny when he learns that he’s the son of two renowned porn stars. Despite his “small stature,” Bucky manages to find some success.

The Word: No, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots did not use his lock-out time to direct this film for Happy Madison. “The Hot Chick” director tries to get Sandler protege Swardson on the map as a leading man in the latest R-rated comedy featuring a made-up character name and colon to hit the market.

My Thoughts: This strikes me as one of the more pathetic Happy Madison offerings, somewhere along the lines of “Grandma’s Boy,” which despite being poorly received and making little money, went on to have a bit of a following on DVD. “Bucky” could be in for the same fate.



I Don’t Know How She Does It

(Sep. 16)

Directed by Douglas McGrath
Written by Aline Brosh McKenna, Allison Pearson (novel)
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer, Greg Kinnear

Summary: A working mother with two kids juggles her job and home life, a balancing act that goes into overdrive when a big opportunity comes up at work.

The Word: Sarah Jessica Parker goes back to doing what she does best: playing the self-empowered working woman who also serves as a narrator. Despite the obvious tropes, the script does come from Aline Brosh McKenna, the most popular feminist rom-com screenwriter in Hollywood after she delivered “The Devil Wears Prada.” Although recent efforts “27 Dresses” and “Morning Glory” received mixed responses, many female viewers have soft spots for them. That’s presumably the hope here.

My Thoughts: The Weinstein Company definitely put all the right pieces together to get this movie some good business even in September. Parker and Brosnan? Talk about putting a crosshairs right on the 35-and-up female demographic. Still, I can’t help but be bothered by the fact that this appears to be a movie about a working woman being an all-star mom/wife. Where’s the story? If working moms want a pat on the back or some token of appreciation, they can wait for Mother’s Day. I don’t think that’s being unfair.



50/50 (Sep. 30)

Directed by Jonathan Levine
Written by Will Reiser
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard

Summary: A 27-year-old man is diagnosed with cancer and a 50 percent chance of surviving. He and his best friend as well as his family all try and cope.

The Word: Formerly titled “I’m With Cancer” and “Live With It,” this comedy/drama has settled on the ambiguous “50/50,” but by the looks of it and the early buzz, the odds are much better than a coin flip that you’ll enjoy the latest film from director Jonathan Levine, whose film “The Wackness” is a must-see for the 18-30 demographic. The film looks to take a reasonably humorous approach to one of Hollywood’s least favorite topics.

My Thoughts: “50/50” has made quite an impression in the early going, with some critics considering it a serious Oscar contender if it didn’t have Rogen and his R-rated comments tossed in. I have to say it’s one of my most anticipated of the fall as a result. If it’s anything like the last film JGL did that had a “5” and two “0’s in it, then we’re in really good shape.



What’s Your Number? (Sep. 30)

Directed by Mark Mylod
Written by Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, Karyn Bosnak (novel “20 Times a Lady”)
Starring: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Chis Pratt

Summary: A single woman looking for the one strikes a deal with her neighbor to help her track down her past boyfriends in hopes that one of them will have evolved into “the one.”

The Word: Who could have enough Anna Faris? With Chris Evans hot off “Captain America,” this you-can-see-how-it-ends rom-com might make some real numbers at the box office. Well, at least for the younger female demographic and their “Captain America”-enjoying boyfriends. The writing and directing backgrounds hail from television with Mylod having directing several “Entourage” episodes, Allan having been a writer/producer on “Scrubs” and Crittenden having been a writer/producer on “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”

My Thoughts: In my opinion, Farris can carry almost any material. Well, except “Yogi Bear.” I actually found myself laughing at this trailer, which doesn’t mean I’ll have anything to do with it, but should at least be a good sign that it won’t be torture for a date movie.


Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

(Limited, Sep. 30)

Directed by Eli Craig
Written by Morgan Jergenson and Eli Craig
Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden

Summary: Tucker and Dale are vacationing up in the woods when a group of teenagers suspect them of being redneck killers after they rescue their friend and take her to their cabin

The Word: “Tucker & Dale” appears to spoof the horror genre in a way “Scary Movie” couldn’t even touch. The events are downright farcical as the events continue to make the kids think they’re killers while Tucker and Dale believe they’ve come across some kind of suicide cult. Undoubtedly you’ll have to love campy horror films with gratuitous gore to be open to this one. “Tucker & Dale” has been making the rounds for a year now but will finally get a limited theatrical release.

My Thoughts: If not something to see in theaters, “Tucker & Dale” looks like a can’t-miss DVD or on-demand prospect at the very least. Tudyk is a terrific character actor whereas Labine has been all over doing bit parts on TV and film for 15 years. Horror comedies have been treated as bargain-bin trash for more than a decade; here’s to this film changing all that.


Wanderlust (Oct. 7)

Directed by David Wain
Written by David Wain and Ken Marino
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux, Malin Ackerman

Summary: A New York couple buy a new place when the husband loses his job. On their way out to stay with family in Georgia, they stay at a bed and breakfast that happens to be a hippie commune.

The Word: It’s been quite some time since “The Object of My Affection,” am I right Rudd and Aniston fans? Although no trailer has arrived with almost a month before release, “Role Models” and “Wet Hot American Summer” director David Wain should be enough to make this comedy worth a look in a month devoid of mainstream laughs. Wain teamed up with his “Party Down” and “Children’s Hospital” star Ken Marino to work on the script as well.

My Thoughts: Universal probably knows it can get away with promoting this one late in the game, but it’s discouraging that we’ve seen nothing from this film. I’ll give anything Wain directs the benefit of the doubt, however, and without any hesitation. Hopefully Aniston can continue her good tear after flexing some comic chops in “Horrible Bosses.”



The Big Year (Oct. 14)

Directed by David Frankel
Written by Howard Franklin, Mark Obmascik (book)
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Steve Martin, Rashida Jones

Summary: A trio of birdwatchers compete to spot the rarest North American birds at an annual event.

The Word: In continuing with October’s tradition of mystery comedies, we have little to go off of for “The Big Year,” though Wilson, Martin and Black are an intriguing group capable of winning over younger and older audiences. It’s also David Frankel’s follow-up to “Marley & Me” and “The Devil Wears Prada,” so there’s more reason to trust the absence of marketing considering those were also book adaptations.

My Thoughts: I’m curious as to whether this is more of a drama/comedy akin to “Marley” or just an adult-geared comedy a la “Prada.” Birdwatching is at least different and the cast holds promise. Not much else that can be said at this point.


Johnny English Reborn (Oct. 21)

Directed by Oliver Parker
Written by William Davies and Hamish McColl, Robert Wade and Neal Purvis (characters)
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West

Summary: After training with monks, Johnny English is ready to be a spy again, this time to help stop assassins trying to kill the Chinese premier

The Word: Well, someone must’ve clamored for more Johnny English because eight years later, Atkinson has returned to the role. Wondering who? They weren’t American. The first film made about $28 million in the U.S., but somehow found another $132 million overseas. “Reborn” is not meant for American audiences, but if producers can squeeze another $20-30 million from us, they’ll do so happily. Oliver Parker made the U.K. hit “St. Trinian’s,” so bet on some good buzz coming from the Queen’s country.

My Thoughts: I was one of the few to indulge the original film, though I can’t be certain why. It was your typical ball of corn with Atkinson doing what he does best. If reviews happen to indicate an improvement, it might be worth a DVD or on-demand rental.


The Rum Diary (Oct. 21)

Directed by Bruce Robinson
Written by Bruce Robinson, Hunter S. Thompson (novel)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Aaron Eckhart, Richard Jenkins

Summary: Journalist Paul Kemp travels to Puerto Rico and gets a job working for a local paper. Lots of rum and drugs later and Paul finds himself on some crazy adventures and having an affair with the fiancee of the man he aims to expose.

The Word: It took ages to get Johnny Depp back in the lead of another Hunter S. Thompson adventure after Terry Gilliam’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” but Bruce Robinson finally delivered. Depp had been attached to the film for at least five years. Time will tell if Depp’s elevated profile can attract some box-office business to this project.

My Thoughts: I didn’t love “Fear and Loathing,” but this film sure looks interesting. You won’t find a more abstract and bizarre offering of the comic variety like this maybe all year; it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.


Tower Heist (Nov. 4)

Directed by Brett Ratner
Written by Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage
Starring: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda

Summary: The employees of a luxury apartment building find themselves robbed of their savings when the building’s richest resident is arrested for running a Ponzi scheme. Looking for revenge, they plan to rob him of his multi-million-dollar safety net, but it will mean taking the high-security tower he’s locked in.

The Word: Fans of “Rush Hour” and subsequently Brett Ratner (who has few fans after “X-Men: The Last Stand”) will find this in their comfort zone. Stiller and Murphy provide a reliable if not washed-up duo and the supporting cast has exceptional range from Matthew Broderick to Casey Affleck to “Precious” star Gabourey Sidibe. The plot expertly mixes “Rush Hour” with “Ocean’s Eleven” with (in my opinion) “Dodgeball” (a coincidence a “Dodgeball” writer helped pen this script? Probably not).

My Thoughts: I found myself laughing at the small-time characters in this trailer, but I can’t help but imagine the ways in which Ratner will spoil this movie. It will have to be a rather inventive send-up of the heist genre if it’s going to work effectively as the story just reeks of formula.



A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (Nov. 4)

Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson
Written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris

Summary: Harold and Kumar accidentally burn down Harold’s father-in-law’s prized Christmas tree and set out on another adventure.

The Word: Although the second wasn’t as good as the original, the stoner duo probably has something left in the tank, and what better way to please your legion of stoner fans than with some tawdry 3D. The other interesting note is that co-star Neil Patrick Harris has become considerably more famous than he was when he first cameoed, which could draw a few more viewers than ever anticipated.

My Thoughts: When it comes down to it, it would take me a lot to be sold on a 3-D film of this kind. I’ve rented the first two “Harold & Kumar” films, so why go to the theater and pay the 3-D premium for cheesy effects? But that might be exactly why to see this film in the first place. Hopefully the humor is on par.



Jack and Jill (Nov. 11)

Directed by Dennis Dugan
Written by Steve Koren, Robert Smigel, Ben Zook
Starring: Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino

Summary: Jack is a wealthy family man in Los Angeles whose twin sister comes in from the Bronx for Thanksgiving — and just won’t leave.

The Word: Sandler plays both Jack and Jill in this one, which continues his recent trend of family-based comedy. The comedian would probably like to reverse the trend of horrid critical reception with his last two, “Just Go with It” and “Grown Ups.” He’s never been known for making praised films, just lucrative ones, however, so it hardly matters.

My Thoughts: I consider myself a Sandler fan as I’m more prone than most to like his films having grown up with “Billy Madison” and “Big Daddy,” but lately he’s either gotten lazy or unoriginal and probably some combination of the two. That appears to be the case with “Jack and Jill,” perhaps the least-anticipated film (on my end) he’s ever made. Also, Al Pacino? Really?


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