For the first time since last fall, contemporary comedies are finally ratcheting it up. If this is your genre, you should have a busy spring. March features a few, with “21 Jump Street” the most notable, but April has a different comedy (and truthfully a different style of comedy) opening every weekend.
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh
Written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall
Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown
Summary: Three high schoolers want to be cool for just one night and decide to throw the biggest party of all time. They get what they wished for, only a whole lot more.
The Word: Todd Phillips (“The Hangover”) fathered this party movie into existence, one that proves even the most conventional of movie genres are not safe from the phenomenon of “found footage.” Writer Michael Bacall (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) is the only other name with any credentials attached to this project, but it’s likely not going to matter as this film has aimed squarely at its demographic and pulled the trigger.
My Thoughts: Expect a lot of kids under 17 to try and sneak into this movie. You can bet that’s what Warner Bros. wants anyway. It should clean up the college demographic simply by taking every party movie convention and ratcheting the insanity up to 11. With the Todd Phillips stamp on it, “Project X” has all the backing it needs to be a hit, whether or not it’s any good.
Directed by Brian Robbins
Written by Steve Koren
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Kerry Washington, Cliff Curtis
Summary: Jack McCall (Murphy) makes his living by stretching the truth, but when he messes with a guru, he’s cursed: he can only say a thousand more words. When he runs out, he will die.
The Word: Murphy’s career as a comic actor has wained if you take out all the times he’s voiced a donkey. After a successful turn in the comedy “Tower Heist” last fall, if ”A Thousand Words” manages not to flop, he could manage to find himself some more consistent work. For better or worse, Murphy worked on this one with Brian Robbins, who directed him in “Meet Dave” and “Norbit.” Longtime “Seinfeld” writer Steve Koren penned this one, but his most recent films include “Evan Almighty” and “Jack and Jill.”
My Thoughts: A comedy like this would’ve worked well in 1998, but even then it would’ve been deemed unoriginal coming after Jim Carrey in “Liar, Liar.” All the pieces are in place for this to be another Murphy flop; Paramount has struggled with which day in March or April to release it and will only do so in 1,500 theaters.
Directed by Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Written by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill, Patrick Hasburgh and Stephen J. Cannell (TV series)
Starring: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane
Summary: A pair of cops, one with braun but no brains (Tatum) and the other the opposite (Hill) are selected to go undercover as high school students in order to crack a drug ring distributing a new synthetic drug. To do, they’ll need to be the coolest kids in school.
The Word: Television show remakes as movies seem to rarely work out well (if they even get made), but with “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller trying their hands at live action, that could change. The most noticeable factor here is Hill’s dramatic weight loss for the role, which many people will have trouble getting over. Despite the appeal for teens, the film is (like Michael Bacall’s other March film, “Project X”) Rated “R.” Everyone knows Hill is funny, but not everyone has seen how “Pretty Boy” can handle comedy.
My Thoughts: I find Tatum to be best-suited for comedy, and this movie will be his shot to prove it. I couldn’t care less about the relation to the TV series, but I do like that this didn’t get your run-of-the-mill comedy treatment, as evidenced by the choice in directors. Hopefully what we see on TV is just the tip of the iceberg that is a lot of strong R-rated humor and maybe even action.
Directed by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, Adam Herz (characters)
Starring: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Seann William Scott
Summary: Nearly 10 years after “American Wedding,” the gang that changed the face of comedy reunites and just in time for their high school reunion.
The Word: As with a number of major franchises in the early 2000s (“Scream” comes to mind), the “American Pie” series has decided to make a comeback nine years later, or at least set aside the straight-to-DVD college party movies for the moment. The whole gang returns, but will their drawing power be anywhere near where it was? Only Hannigan has maintained a successful career over the entirety of that span thanks to CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” Universal has handed the keys over to the duo behind the “Harold & Kumar” movies in hopes of a memorable reunion special.
My Thoughts: Although the filmmakers have been untested outside of “Harold & Kumar,” there’s a reason those films have a rather devoted following. It seems they’ve been able to keep early-2000s humor fresh the longest and age their characters appropriately. Early teasers and trailers have shown promise, but the marketing blitz will need to pick up if this film wants to return to any semblance of glory.
Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Written by Mike Cerrone, Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Starring: Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Sofia Vergara
Summary: Dropped on the doorstep of a convent in a duffle bag, Moe, Larry and Curly are raised by nuns. While trying to save their home, they stumble upon both a murder plot and a reality TV show.
The Word: Most of us hoped the Farrellys wanted to do a biopic on the Stooges, but it turns out they just wanted to make their own “Three Stooges” movie. They’ve had a bit of trouble connecting with audiences lately, but some classic “Stooges” humor could see them out of their rut. The commercial appeal of the film, however, especially with no more than minor television actors playing the infamous trio, could be called into question.
My Thoughts: I think “Stooges” humor is terrific, but I don’t expect it to work in a modern context. I also don’t like that the cast of “Jersey Shore” is anywhere near this film. If that was the Farrellys’ idea of how to make the Stooges relevant for a younger audience, they might be a lost cause as filmmakers. I have some hope because no one could pull this off with any semblance of honesty if not these two, but it’s not much.
Directed by Tim Story
Written by Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, Steve Harvey (book)
Starring: Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson, Chris Brown,
Summary: A less-than-stellar Pirate Captain wants desperately to win the Pirate of the Year Award, so much so that he’s willing to take down any competition. At the same time, he has pirate-hater Queen Victoria on his tail.
The Word: Instead of adapting Steve Harvey’s 2009 best-selling book about how women can understand men when it comes to love, this film actually casts Harvey as himself with his book changing the lives of these many characters. Talk about the ultimate plug: no author has gotten this kind of an endorsement turning his book into a movie before. With “Barbershop” director Tim Story at the helm, it should be poised to do quite well with no Tyler Perry comedy out this spring.
My Thoughts: The ensemble cast of this one is pretty impressive, though Chris Brown is sure to draw some ire the instant people see the trailer for the first time. Hart has built himself a reputation in the comedy world and is clearly the focus of the marketing. Romany Malco (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) and Jerry Ferarra (“Entourage”) are also some unusual choices sure to draw more people in. All that in mind, it could just be the mostly black cast version of “Valentine’s Day” or “New Year’s Eve” centered on a book. In fact, May’s “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is much the same way.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Written by Nicholas Stoller, Jason Segel
Starring: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt
Summary: Violet and Tom are madly in love and decide to get married, but life interferes with their nuptial plans on numerous occasions.
The Word: Stoller and Segel have been insanely prolific the last four years starting with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Their recent teaming on “The Muppets” script showed they don’t seem to be capable of churning out a stinker. Adding Emily Blunt to the mix as the leading lady has to be considered home run, as she brings humor to every role she plays, which helps when that role is in a comedy.
My Thoughts: I like all the pieces in play for this film, but I have one huge concern: what exactly is this film about? There’s no hook. Two people love each other and they try to get married but things keep getting in the way. Okay, that’s the funny start of a film. Then what? Will they be torn apart? Even so, I doubt a bad ending lies in store.