Looking to finally get a laugh out of 2011? Perhaps of all the genres thus far, comedy has been the weakest this year. Here are eight (probably seven) films that aim to change that around in the months of March and April.
8. Born to Be A Star (Apr. 22)
Directed by Tom Brady
Written by Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson
Starring: Christina Ricci, Nick Swardson, Stephen Dorff, Don Johnson
The Word: With four other films set to come out Apr. 22 and not so much as an image of this comedy having been released, it’s hard to imagine “Born to Be A Star” would actually come out this day as planned, but nevertheless, the film was written by Sandler and longtime buddy/co-star Allen Covert (“Grandma’s Boy”) and Sandler protege Nick Swardson and directed by Tom Brady, not the quarterback but the guy who made “The Hot Chick” starring Rob Schneider. Swardson, presumably, plays a Midwest kid who learns his parents were ’70s porn stars and heads to Hollywood in hopes of following in their footsteps. Ricci, curiously, plays the reluctant girlfriend.
My Thoughts: An Adam Sandler-written movie without Sandler or Happy Madison producing? (Cameos aside, of course). Not exactly sure what’s up here, especially because we have no info. Expect this movie to be delayed to some extent as it’s way behind the ball for an Apr. 22 release date. Either way, I expect we have something along the lines of “Grandma’s Boy” or “Waiting…” a comedy with a small release and the hope of a cult following on DVD.
7. Madea’s Big Happy Family (Apr. 22)
The Word: Tyler Perry dons the fat suit and drag for a seventh time in a full-length film, though only the fourth actually centering on his famous character Mable “Madea” Simmons. After “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” in 2005, “Madea’s Family Reunion” in 2006 and “Madea Goes to Jail” in 2009, the character has become a household name in black entertainment and the franchise has become one of the most bankable. In “Big Happy Family,” Madea must round up her niece Shirley’s three troubled and estranged children who don’t know that Shirley has some health problems.
My Thoughts: Able to release two film every year in addition to his two running TV sitcoms, you might wonder how Tyler Perry does it when his films are some of the most panned every year. You simply have to respect the man; he’s practically monopolizing an entire demographic. You’ve got to wonder if maybe the fan base has grown a bit tired of Madea, but a phenomenal Oscar nominees poster spoof campaign should help keep his numbers up yet again. Madea’s Big Happy Family Trailer.
6. Take Me Home Tonight (Mar. 4)
The Word: Filmed in 2007 or 2008, you might say the ’80s period comedy “Take Me Home Tonight” has been oft-delayed. Topher Grace has nurtured this child of his the whole time, bringing in “That ’70s Show” writers to help. The film, which kicks off the spring comedies Friday, follows a recent college grad who quit his successful job to work at a video store chain, who with his twin sister (Faris) and buddy (Fogler) pursues the once-unattainable girl of his dreams (Palmer).
My Thoughts: Supposedly, bad test screenings kept this one in the cutting room for a long time, so it will be interesting to hear (or see if you’re so inclined) how (if at all) they salvaged it. I think Grace is under-appreciated, and if she chooses better movies, Palmer could evolve into something more special as I happened to like her performance (just not her character) in Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Take Me Home Tonight Trailer.
5. Win Win (Mar. 18 – Limited)
The Word: One of the hits at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in January, “Win Win” marks the third directorial effort from actor Thomas McCarthy. His films “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor” (which earned Richard Jenkins an Oscar nod) have all been low-profile, high-praise projects. “Win Win” might help put him more on the map. It stars Giamatti as an attorney moonlighting as a wrestling coach who stumbles upon a kid whose case could provide him some needed money, but he also happens to have enough talent to turn around the wrestling team. However, when his rehabbing mother (Lynskey) re-enters the picture, everything starts to crumble apart.
My Thoughts: I’ve seen “The Visitor” and was really impressed. Bought up by Fox Searchlight, who has a reputation for distributing terrific independent films, I’m holding out hope that this film could put McCarthy on the map and earn him a major studio gig. Then again, if he produces films of this quality with consistency, who cares how well-known he becomes. I look forward to seeing this one whenever I get a chance, whether that’s in theaters or not. Win Win Trailer.
4. Super (Apr. 1 – Limited)
The Word: No one knew much about this little film from James Gunn (“Slither”) when it carved out a time slot at Comic Con this past year. But when Gunn and the cast began to talk about it, they got everyone’s attention. Made on an impossibly small budget with actors taking all kinds of pay cuts to be part of it, “Super” stars Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) as a man who transforms himself into “The Crimson Bolt” after his wife (Tyler) leaves him for a drug dealer (Bacon). Page plays his psychotic sidekick.
My Thoughts: I would not disagree with the sentiment of “not another normal people making themselves into superheroes”) film again, but comically speaking, “Super” has the most promise. Wilson seems like pitch-perfect casting as does Page and from the brief clips I’ve seen or read about, the film takes violent humor to a new level. Should it receive a wide enough release, hopefully at least those who want to will have a chance to see it.
3. Arthur (Apr. 8)
The Word: A remake based on the Oscar-nominated British comedy released 20 years ago. Russell Brand has had quite the welcoming party here in the United States for his work, because here he’s much less controversial than over there. He hit the map playing drunken sex-obsessed rocker Aldous Snow in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and last summer in “Get Him to the Greek.” Here he changes his tune quite a bit to play a naive and immature heir to a massive fortune who must marry a woman he hates (Garner) or be cut off. Jason Winer (“Modern Family”) directs.
My Thoughts: I’m in the camp who is curious to see how rangy Brand can be as an actor. Here he’s toned it down to PG-13 at least and he has a complement in the form of Helen Mirren, which, as you saw at the Academy Awards when they presented Best Foreign Language Film,” seems to make for an odd but fun duo. Greta Gerwig (“Greenberg,” “No Strings Attached”) also co-stars and she’s likely going to be a force to reckon with at some point as both a comedic and serious actress. With a promising young director as well, I think there’s unmistakable promise in “Arthur.” Arthur Trailer.
2. Your Highness (Apr. 8)
The Word: How it took so long to make a fantasy action film/stoner comedy hybrid is beyond me. Green (“Pineapple Express”) reunites with McBride and his longtime writer pal Ben Best, who were the right writing team for tackling the job; all “Eastbound & Down” fans should be psyched. When the film was made, I also don’t think they figured to have an Oscar-winning actress on board in the form of Natalie Portman. “Your Highness” features a potent combination of laughs, magic, herbs and dragons.
My Thoughts: Although I would have preferred the film not have been moved from a December 2010 slot to a weaker April spot, I’m plenty excited still for this one as I think that medieval cheeriness, fake accents and period garb combined with modern but tapered-back R-rated humor will make “Your Highness” a cult hit at the least even if it does poor business. I don’t think we have the next “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” on our hands, but fantasy archetypes should give a needed freshness to McBride’s dirty humor. Your Highness Trailer.
1. Paul (Mar. 18)
The Word: Greg Mottola, director of “Superbad” and “Adventureland,” delivers a sci-fi greek roadtrip comedy written by the two British comedians that Edgar Wright helped put on the map, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz”). The story follows these geeks on their road trip back from Comic Con. They nearly hit Paul, an alien fugitive from Area 51. They help keep Paul away from those that wish to detain him. Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Jane Lynch, Bill Hader and several others co-star.
My Thoughts: Mottola’s last two aforementioned films have both gotten 4.5/5 stars from me, a rarity for a comedy. I’ve also given both Frost/Pegg movies excellent ratings. Put that together and I expect nothing less than a terrific and funny movie. “Paul” has already debuted overseas to strong feedback, so if this premise intrigues you, mark your calendar. Paul.