Summer Movie Preview 2011: Comedy

Comedy has not been one of the stronger genres thus far in 2011. Only “Just Go With It,” the Adam Sandler Valentine’s Day comedy, grossed more than $100 million domestically yet scored poorly with critics. Many of these films could reverse the trend, starting with two films in May: one a sequel to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time and the other being compared to said comedy, but targeted toward women.

The potential for laughing this summer could be greater than years past, so lock in some of these dates for your future … dates.

Bridesmaids (May 13)

Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy

Summary: An eternally single woman (Wiig) is asked to plan her best friend’s (Rudolph) bridal festivities, yet she faces some fierce competition from the other bridesmaids as things begin to go wrong.

The Word: You’ve probably heard that this film is being compared to “The Hangover” but for women, especially given that it was produced by Judd Apatow. That poor choice of comparison aside (it sets the bar way too high), the aim here is to create a film targeted to women that doesn’t have to be an awful rom-com. Then again, doesn’t that make it targeted toward men? Either way, both sexes should get something out of “Bridesmaids.”

My Thoughts: Wiig seems like one of the best bets for making a female ensemble comedy hilarious, if you should have to bet on any writer/actor in Hollywood. Since premiering at South by Southwest, “Bridesmaids” has gotten great media attention and critical praise, so she must have done something right. Whether or not we have a hit on our hands at this weekend’s box office is a complete other story.

Bridesmaids Trailer

The Hangover Part II (May 26)

Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong and Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong

Summary: This adventure takes the gang to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. In déjà vu fashion, the wolfpack takes out Stu’s younger future brother-in-law out for the night and they manage to wake up with various things they don’t remember including a replica Mike Tyson tattoo for Stu, no hair on Alan’s head and a monkey.

The Word: Most major studios understand that when you have a hit comedy on your hands, you should never press your luck with a sequel, but I’d ignore that adage too if my comedy became the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever. What does that say for the quality of “The Hangover Part II?” Not so sure, but from the looks of it, the idea was stick to the formula, up the ante.

My Thoughts: Lightning will not likely strike twice here, but there’s reason to hope that these lovable characters can entertain a second time even if their plot was thrown together quickly and some of the buzz has worn off. Either way, expect the film to make bank at the box office, which is saying a lot considering how much cash the original raked in.

The Hangover Part II Trailer

Bad Teacher (June 24)

Directed by Jake Kasdan
Written by Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake, Phyllis Smith

Summary: A deplorable, foul-mouthed middle school teacher (Diaz) wants nothing more than to get hitched to someone with cash so she can live her “dream,” but she thinks the new teacher that she has her eye on (Timberlake) will only respond if she gets breast implants. She decides to improve her students’ scores on the upcoming standardized test in order to win a bonus that would pay for them.

The Word: Diaz will prove if she’s still got something in the tank in this much more comedic (and certainly more vulgar) role. Jason Segel, however, is in familiar territory, which should help. Timberlake stars in one of two R-rated comedies this summer, so by summer’s end we’ll know if he’s got staying power as an actor. The film’s motto, however, would have to be “live by the Diaz, die by the Diaz.”

My Thoughts: I think Diaz can pull it off unless all the funniest jokes are in the red-band trailer that I’ve linked to below. With “Glee” serving as an example of how adult humor can thrive in the school environment, perhaps that could well be in the cards for “Bad Teacher.”

Bad Teacher Trailer (Red Band)

Horrible Bosses (July 8)

Directed by Seth Gordon
Written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell

Summary: Three guys (Bateman, Sudeikis and Day) have miserable work lives thanks to their cruel and unusual bosses (Spacey, Farrell and Aniston). Seeing as quitting is not an option, they conspire to kill them with the help of an ex-con named Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx).

The Word: This knockout cast ranks among the summer’s best if not the year’s for a comedy. Although Aniston has to hold up the female demographic end of things, the other guys cover an impressive range of talents and niches. Bateman looks to be the lone veteran while Sudeikis (“SNL,” “Hall Pass”) and Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) are on the rise. Spacey adds a nice classy touch while Aniston and Farrell seem to play the most against their type, the former as a sexually inappropriate dentist and the latter as a neurotic dude with a combover.

My Thoughts: A genius concept here to mix blue collar humor and black comedy and I think it could really pay dividends. If nothing else, Jamie Foxx plays Motherfucker Jones … I mean, come on. Seeing Aniston do something a bit more risqué reminds me of Diaz in “Bad Teacher” and could perhaps set off a trend of middle-aged rom-com stars getting their sexy back by being a bit less PG-13.

Horrible Bosses Trailer

Zookeeper (July 8)

Directed by Frank Coraci
Written by Nick Bakay, Rock Reuben, Kevin James, Jay Scherick and David Ronn
Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb

Summary: A zookeeper (James) finds out that the animals in his zoo have been holding something back: they can talk, and they have broken their silence to help him with a special lady in his life that he can’t seem to land.

The Word: The last time James tested his leading comic mettle was for “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” one of the surprise hits of January 2009. One of the few directors to work with Adam Sandler, Frank Coraci (“The Waterboy,” “Click”), directs with a script from the minds behind “Norbit” and “Guess Who” with some additional work by James and some of his “King of Queens” writers/producers.

My Thoughts: As if we’re actually supposed to be amazed by talking animals in movies these days. I think this movie would’ve been great in 1996, but come on. And there’s no original twist to it, which makes it even worse. Then again, I would’ve said the same thing about “Paul Blart” and look how that did at the box office. Perhaps James just has the appeal — “Zookeeper” doing well could prove it.

Zookeeper Trailer

Friends with Benefits (July 22)

Directed by Will Gluck
Written by Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, Will Gluck, Harley Peyton
Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson

Summary: Two friends who are tired of bad relationships decide to have a relationship based solely on sex, which as it turns out, has complications.

The Word: Where did you see this before … oh yeah, last January’s “No Strings Attached.” Despite the same exact plot, however, the vibe from this film is more so comedy. Will Gluck, director of last fall’s little hit “Easy A” commands an excellent supporting cast including Patricia Clarkson, who played a similar line-crossing mother in “Easy A.” Harrelson is an unusual choice for a gay best friend as well, which means this fuckbuddy comedy could be vastly different from “No Strings” or most comedies for that matter.

My Thoughts: I think Gluck can do it again after seeing how funny the supporting roles come across and that Kunis and Timberlake seem to have better comic chemistry than Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. “Benefits” has a favorable mid-summer time slot, but July is overstocked with comedy options and romantic comedies too as “Crazy, Stupid, Love” debuts the next week, another film with some promise.

Friends with Benefits Trailer

The Change-Up (Aug. 5)

Directed by David Dobkin
Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Starring: Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Olivia Wilde, Leslie Mann

Summary: Two best friends, a married man with twin infants and a bachelor find themselves envious of each other’s lives. When they piss in the same magic fountain, they wake up the next day in each other’s bodies.

The Word: Reynolds jumps from rom-com to guy comedy, familiar territory for Bateman as also evidenced by “Horrible Bosses,” for this tried body-swap formula comedy from David Dobkin, the director of “Wedding Crashers” and the writers of “The Hangover.” Those titles should perk up the ears of the middle-aged demographic as both those comedies performed extremely well across all demographics.

My Thoughts: People might not respond so much to the track record of the writers and director and more so to the fact that this movie has been done before, just never as a bromance. Sure, anyone who reacts well to the trailers will likely be more inclined to do so after realizing the pedigree behind it, but as far as unoriginal plots go, this has to be one of the most obvious rip-off ideas. There does look to be some potential in the Bateman/Reynolds dynamic, however, and it’s hard to pass up on Olivia Wilde who will star just the week before in “Cowboys & Aliens.”

The Change-Up Trailer

30 Minutes or Less (Aug. 12)

Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Written by Michael Diliberti, Matthew Sullivan
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson

Summary: Two criminals kidnap a pizza delivery guy (Eisenberg), strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank. He enlists the help of his buddy (Ansari) to be his accomplice.

The Word: Many have awaited Ruben Fleischer’s follow-up to the hit comedy “Zombieland.” He does so with star Eisenberg and a few other reputable comic talents including McBride from the Apatow school of comedy, Ansari of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and Swardson of the Sandler school of comedy. The film looks to blend comedy and action much like “Zombieland” did.

My Thoughts: I’m a little underwhelmed by the trailer, but it was on the shorter end, so I expect a bit more in a future trailer before my mind’s made up, especially from the action side of things, which appears to truly be Fleischer’s specialty. It’s also nice to see Ansari get a higher-profile role, though I can’t say he and Eisenberg strike me as the best match. Certainly they’re both very very different. Optimism abounds, however, given all the pieces in place. “The Other Guys” was a similar film (just with bigger stars) that did well last year in that month.

30 Minutes or Less Trailer



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