Comedies often skate under the limelight. I don’t watch them as much as I should, and when I do, I often find myself pleasantly surprised. There are many little reasons why I often skip comedies. Mainly, when they are first released in the cinema, I tend to try and watch blockbusters, movies that rely on CGI and a big screen to hit its mark. One good thing about comedies is that they are just as good on DVD. However, when they are released on DVD, I have usually forgotten about them.
Also, they are always given average reviews. A knowing nod of approval and not much else. Rarely does a comedy class as a great piece of cinema, unless it is ground-breaking in some sense (American Pie, Blazing Saddles). Below I look at three reasons I feel that most comedies just hit under the mark and if they really deserve, the bad reputation they seem to attain.
3 – BUILDING UP THE CHARACTERS
The first half an hour of comedies are often fairly awkward. We have no idea who these characters are and the writers have to struggle to introduce them to us, and keep the laughs flowing at the same time. Even the best TV series have forgettable first episodes, as the writers get us accustomed to the character traits that are also the context to most of the jokes. Often, in films, the way to do this is to fall back on clichés, or worse, memorable actors.
This is why some comedies get the miss from me. I look at the trailer and thinks ‘Adam Sandler’ movie. In all honesty, Adam Sandler has a wide range of characters (Waterboy is so different from Zohan), yet to plug the movie the producers sell it as an Adam Sandler vehicle. I don’t want to look at a comedy, thinking ‘Adam Sandler’ though; I want a protagonist, who I can relate to. The funniest comedy moments are the ones that I can share. Sadly, building up that kind of character, and at the same time, making him unique to the film, takes time, something most comedies don’t have.
2 – THE PITCH IS OFTEN AWFUL
Time for the Twitter test: try and sum up a comedy movie in 120 characters. Let’s start with American Pie, a comedy that most of us can agree is good. Four teens try to lose their virginity before graduation. Sounds kind of run-of-the-mill, even if it was a groundbreaking film. Even Knocked Up seems cheesy: After an one-night stand gone wrong, a mismatched couple try to prepare for a child. Comedies just struggle to be pitched.
This is why I came so close to missing out on some great films: Bridesmaids, Mean Girls, 40 Year Old Virgin. They just don’t fill you with confidence, when you first hear about them. Also, there is a lot of rubbish out there. It’s the kind of genre that you can’t pick blindly: I tried and I lost my confidence in them.
1 – THEY CAN NEVER CLOSE
OK, so let’s say you give in and sit down to watch a comedy. It impresses. You’re an hour in and you have to admit that you are liking what you see. All the film has to do end on a high note. Sadly, this never seems to be the case. Judd Apatow is the worst for this. His three main films, 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People are really great, until the third act. All three films drag on slightly too long for their own good. Funny People, what started off as a funny, interesting insight at the lives of stand-up comedians, decided to fall into cringe-worthy old flame territory. Knocked Up was on the right lines, but it took too long with the ending. It was also the flaw with ‘The Simpsons’ movie: yes, we love the Simpsons, but there is a reason they’re usually only twenty minutes long.
It’s not just about length. Ted was great, but the film felt the need to include a villain character just to have a pay-off at the end. It took away from the overall moral of the story: that the real antagonists of the movie were Ted and John. It is almost as though the writers get so carried away with the comedy that they forget that the film does need to end: it fails to keep itself grounded.
However, I am starting to realise that I need to take a bigger gamble with these things. The other day I watched Role Models, simply because there was nothing else on TV. The trailer looked forgettable, the actors are the usual suspects (Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott), and it looked terribly unoriginal. However, surprisingly, I really enjoyed it. Sometimes, it might be an idea to take a few risks, when picking something to see at the cinema.