94. Rules Don’t Apply

It’s been fifteen years since Warren Beatty acted in a film and eighteen years since he directed one.  It’s extremely cool that I get to include him for both in my March to 100.  Rules Don’t Apply isn’t the first film to feature a major Hollywood actor portraying eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio prominently tackled the role in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator).  But it is the first one to take the entrepreneur’s bizarre, reclusive behavior and use it as a springboard to construct a fictional tale, by Beatty and Bo Goldman.

The story isn’t truly about Hughes; it’s more about the effect that Hughes has on all of those around him.  The true focus is mostly on young Hollywood hopefuls Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich).  Mabrey wants to be a star whereas Forbes is content with behind-the-scenes success.  Both of them see Hughes as their best shot at glory and their paths cross when Forbes is assigned by Hughes’s team to be Mabrey’s driver.

Collins and Ehrenreich both excel in their roles.  Ehrenreich is on the rise and will likely become a household name when his Han Solo prequel drops in 2018.  For Collins, this film could be her coming out party.  As long as the right people see it, it’s potentially a star-making performance and no light shines on the film without first being refracted through her.  Together, the two are an endearing duo that take otherwise mundane dialogue and inject it with life and energy.  The film is undeniably quirky and wouldn’t work without an ensemble cast who truly gets it.  Beatty has found that cast and the Collins/Ehrenreich pair confidently lead the way.

At least, for the first two-thirds of the film, they do.  Then, Rules Don’t Apply bizarrely changes gears and shifts the entire focus to Beatty’s Hughes.  That causes a huge problem, and it has nothing to do with Beatty’s performance or the version of Hughes that he commits to the page.  The problem is that, up to this point, Hughes has been a supporting character.  He doesn’t even appear for the first thirty minutes, or so.  During this time, we come to know and Marla and Frank and we also become addicted to watching Collins and Ehrenreich perform.  And then, they’re suddenly ripped away and shoved to the background in favor of a fictionalized version of an unlikable and unrelatable historical figure.  We only care about Hughes in the sense that we care about the control and effect that he has on Marla and Frank.  But, now, here we are, with lots of Hughes and little-to-none of Frank and Marla.

At this point, the film begins jumping quickly from place to place, as if it knows (and it surely does) that it needs to hurry up and get back to our true leads.  Despite that, the process takes entirely too long.  The film loses its momentum and its charm until finally making its way back to them when it’s time to wrap it all up.  If Rules Don’t Apply was based on a true story, I could understand.  But it’s not.  Abandoning the charismatic young stars for the entire final act in order to serve a component of the story with little consequence to them or the audience is a huge misstep and severely damages the film as a whole.

For the first two acts, I was in love with Rules Don’t Apply.  Then, I surprisingly found myself wishing it would hurry up and end.  If Beatty had stayed focused on the main narrative and remained committed to the character arcs of Marla and Frank, this film would have likely forced its way into my Top Ten.  As it stands, it’s 67% great film, 33% ego play.  If nothing else, I sincerely hope that Rules Don’t Apply contributes to two blossoming careers.  I feel confident that Ehrenreich will be fine.  Collins gives the best performance of the film and deserves notice from the biggest and best producers and directors in the business.  The film is worth watching just for her and if it launches her into other, more visible projects and puts her squarely in the limelight, then it was all worth it.

I wish Beatty had returned with a film that I could get behind with more enthusiasm.  You’ll love Marla and Frank but try not to get too attached because they’re going to abruptly vanish on you just when it gets most interesting.  What follows isn’t “bad”.  It just ignores the emotional investment that the film has already demanded of the viewer, resulting in a painful, and brutality unnecessary, form of separation anxiety that sadly drags an otherwise entertaining film down into the depths of choredom.

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94. Rules Don’t Apply

93. Allied

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Allied got a fair amount of attention in recent months as it was rumored that Brad Pitt cheated on Angelina Jolie with his co-star, Marion Cotillard during the filming of the movie.  I don’t know and I don’t care if that’s true (though it would be ironic if, after meeting Jolie on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, an action spy comedy, he would meet the demise of their relationship on the set of an action spy drama).  What I care about is that the trailers and TV spots sucked me in with their focus on story, mystery, and atmosphere and that Robert Zemeckis is once again behind the camera.

It takes a little while for Allied to get to the well-publicized hook, but the time leading up to it is well-spent.  The relationship between Pitt’s Max Vatan and Cotillard’s Marianne Bouséjour is fleshed out at a believable pace and firmly established throughout the first act of the film.  It’s helped along by the undeniable chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard and then punctuated by a relatively brief but supremely effective action scene that serves to ensure that audiences don’t get complacent and forget that Vatan and Bouséjour aren’t your typical romantic leads.

Also established as their relationship grows is the fact that Bouséjour is the outrightly superior spy between the two.  She takes the lead on their missions.  She displays confidence whereas he makes small mistakes.  In fact, there’s a scene early in the film where Vatan shows remarkable dexterity with a deck of cards, placed there by Zemeckis as a direct contradiction to how Vatan is always showing his hand in the metaphorical spy game.  It was a nice, subtle piece of symbolism that parlays just how much thought goes into laying all of the groundwork for the inevitable twist to come.

From there, the film becomes a fun, solid – if not terribly imaginative – mystery.  The heart of the story isn’t in the twist, itself, but on the potential consequences of the twist on the family at its core.  It’s an extremely personal tale that’s rooted in a story of a much larger scope.

Along the way, Cotillard and Pitt deliver in every scene – whether it be together or on their own.  Pitt does a fine job of walking the line between husband and soldier, his internal conflict just under the surface, dangerously close to breaching, at all times.  On her end, Cotillard communicates the subtleties of Bouséjour’s allegiances perfectly; she could truly be loyal to Germany or not.  And she forces the viewer to desperately long for her to be who she claims to be.  But you’ve seen how masterful Bouséjour is at misdirection and you’ve heard the things she’s said about her work so you just can’t help but wonder.  The film clocks in at around two hours long, pre-ending credits, and the time speeds by, almost entirely due to the inexorable watchability of the lead duo.

The story, itself, is fun though, as alluded to above, not especially groundbreaking.  But that’s okay.  If every film was groundbreaking then no film would be.  The fun lies in looking for the clues and hints to Bouséjour’s allegiances.  And the clues are there.  That attention to detail adds an additional layer of depth and complexity to the film that makes up for any perceived lack of originality.  Originality comes in many different forms and, in Allied, it’s all in the minutiae.

Allied isn’t going to crack my 2016 Top Ten (which is getting crowded enough as it is), but it’s a good time at the movies with two powerful and vulnerable performances that supplies it with that little extra boost.  Unlike many mysteries, the audience is actually given the information necessary to unravel the enigma on their own.  I personally liked that and I actually felt proud of myself for picking up on them and figuring it out before the final reveal.  So, there’s a level of viewer rewardship that isn’t often present in film, for those who choose to play along in their heads.  All of that combines to provide a solid adult thriller just before the onslaught of year-end blockbusters and Oscar bait.

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93. Allied

92. Moana

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Disney has been on quite a roll, both creatively and financially, since Wreck-It Ralph arrived in theaters in 2012.  They proved it wasn’t a fluke with Tangled and then cemented themselves, once again, as the leaders in animation with the absolute gem that was Frozen.  Things aren’t slowing down anytime soon for the Mouse House as they appear to have yet another hit on their hands with Moana (the seventh film on my list of Ten Fourth-Quarter 2016 Films to be Excited About).

Following the adventures of Polynesian islander Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) and demigod Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) as they set out to right a wrong committed years ago, thereby breaking the resulting curse, Moana somehow simultaneously eschews Disney tradition while also staying firmly rooted in its wheelhouse.  I personally prefer the Disney films that feature human characters rather than anthropomorphic animals.  And within that genre, Disney has mastered the tale of the female protagonist.  Moana reinforces that legacy while also adapting to modern sensibilities pertaining to what it means to be a strong, modern woman.

Moana and Maui make a good pair but they are philosophically separated by one fundamental difference.  Maui defines himself entirely by his magical hook gifted unto him by the gods.  Without it, he has no self-confidence.  He suffered a serious loss earlier in life and has never been able to mentally or emotionally recover.  Blaming his shortcomings on the absence of his missing hook absolves him (in his mind) of personal responsibility.

On the other hand, Moana (one of Disney’s most likable characters) is completely sure of herself.  She’s smart, resourceful, and fully capable.  She doesn’t need rescuing.  She doesn’t need saving.  She knows that her true strength is found within.  But, she learns the hard way that – as powerful as she is – she still needs help.  She struggles to find this balance and occasionally goes too far in the wrong direction, becoming entirely dependent upon someone or something else to accomplish a goal for her.  When she does this, she fails.  Every time.  But when she stands tall and assumes the responsibility for the task at hand, while perhaps allowing herself a little assistance, she becomes one of the more capable movie characters of the entire year.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Moana is one that will sadly go unnoticed by many viewers but is quite a novelty for a film with a female protagonist.  It’s also a perfect illustration of just how Disney is leading the way when it comes to female empowerment in film: there is no love interest.  If you pick up on this while watching the film, it’s a huge breath of fresh air.  There’s no sense of inevitability or resignation to the relationships in the story.  And there’s obviously no sense that women are defined by the men in their lives.  Frozen pulled this off, as well, despite the presence of Kristoff.  That film prioritized family and sisterhood over romance.  But, in Moana, Disney finally gains the confidence to just jettison the obligatory boyfriend-in-waiting entirely and let Moana stand tall on her own.  (Pixar did this in the aptly-named Brave, as well, yet I argue that it’s a bigger deal in a Disney film because that theme has been their Golden Goose for decades.)

The film is funny and has great music, but neither of those aspects are on the level of the aforementioned Frozen.  But where Moana comes out ahead is in the cool factor.  It’s got the Rock.  It’s got epic action sequences.  It’s got breathtaking locations.  And it’s got fantastic beasts (way more fantastic than that other movie).  I was hooked by every element of the film from start to finish: the deeper filmmaking components and the cosmetic aspects both shine.  The animation, in particular, is awe-inspiring.  There’s a moment when Moana is singing while heaving the sail of her boat.  If you notice, there’s a fleeting second when, despite being deep in verse, her eyes dart upwards to ensure that the sail is casting properly.  Not only does this add a touch of realism, but it also helps to further define her character as being sharp and focused at every waking moment.  It’s this astonishing attention to detail that generally sets Disney so far above its competition in both the technological and storytelling realms.  Don’t let the little things pass you by.

If it wasn’t 2016, Moana would be the best animated picture of the year.  However, it has to compete with an instant classic in the form of Kubo and the Two Strings.  The Academy Awards should be interesting, though, as I think Moana has a good shot at winning in that category, anyway (not enough people saw Kubo, though those who did will likely vote for it).  Zootopia can stake a claim, as well, however, so I’ll be curious to see how it plays out.  Regardless, Disney is very much its own strongest competition, these days, and in Moana, they have not only one of the best animated films of the year, but one of the best films of the year, period.

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92. Moana

#Throwback Thursday – Mr. Popper’s Penguins

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Original US release date: June 17, 2011
Production budget: $55,000,000
Worldwide gross: $187,361,754

From comedy director Mark Waters (best known for Mean Girls) comes Mr. Popper’s Penguins, an adaptation of the 1938 children’s book of the same name by Richard and Florence Atwater.  I am unfamiliar with the book, myself, but I remember being a little perplexed when I fist saw the trailer for the film.  Jim Carrey has long been one of my favorite actors and 2011 was well past the time when he was at the top of the industry.  I couldn’t help but wonder if he was slumming it, a little bit.  The film both looked and sounded silly and like something that was unsure of who it was trying to lure into the theater.  But, I’m a dedicated fan, so I paid my money and sat down on opening weekend.

And Jim Carrey was the sole reason I was there.  Carrey actually wasn’t the original actor set to play the titular role of Tom Popper.  Originally, Ben Stiller was cast and exited the project when the original director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) left the film.  No one can know what the film would have been under their guidance, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw from Waters, Carrey, and crew.

Carrey is the heart of the film.  I’m not willing to state that it couldn’t have worked without him, but the overall package gets a boost, thanks to his involvement.  Tom Popper’s character arc is honestly rather common and clichéd, but Carrey’s performance and delivery adds an extra touch of charm to the proceedings.  It’s obvious from the outset that Popper is not a bad guy, but has just lost himself in his misplaced priorities.  Getting that sort of message across while remaining endearing can be a challenge, but Carrey breezes through it like the professional talent that he is.

In addition to Carrey, Clark Gregg of Marvel fame (as Phil Coulson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) portrays Nat Jones, the zookeeper determined to wrest the penguins away from Popper.  Gregg is great but his character is probably the biggest issue I had with the film as he’s portrayed as a villain, but he’s really not one.  Every thing he does, every move he makes is in the interest of the penguins and their health and safety.  He never acts selfishly or out of spite.  He’s just a guy doing his job which he frankly seems to be quite caring and passionate about.  Like I said, I’m unfamiliar with the book but regardless of Jones’s role in the original story, I feel like it should have been rewritten for the film to give children (and adults, I guess, too) a reason to truly dislike him outside of him trying to keep the main character from breaking the law.

The scene-stealing hidden gem of the movie is Ophelia Lovibond (also from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, portraying Carina in both Thor: The Dark World and, more prominently, Guardians of the Galaxy).  Her alliteration-addicted Pippi, as assistant to Popper, got the first real laugh of the film from me and delights every time she appears.  It’s a shame her star hasn’t shot higher in the years, since, but she’s young and sometimes all that’s needed is one perfect role.

Speaking of laughing, the film is surprisingly funny.  It’s also expressly heartwarming.  The two characteristics combine to elevate the film above its inherited artistic status as a kid’s film about animals.  The heartwarming components, while effective, are – much like Popper’s character arc – somewhat clichéd.  But that’s compensated for by the unexpected laughs.  And the laughs, while solid and consistent, aren’t typically the gut-busting sort one might expect from a Jim Carrey film.  But, that is similarly offset by the unavoidable charm of the picture.  Throw in Carrey and Lovibond as the icing on the cake and Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a film that epitomizes the idea of being greater than the sum of its parts.

The film probably isn’t going to achieve any sort of status as a classic, but it’s much more than you would expect based on what you might remember from the ineffective marketing.  I would never have seen it without Carrey’s involvement – and it very well may not have been as good without him – but I’m pleased it all came together as it did.  Mr. Popper’s Penguins is not a film about penguins.  It’s a film about family involving penguins that will probably make you chuckle against your will on more than a few occasions.  Give it a shot, if you haven’t already.

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#Throwback Thursday – Mr. Popper’s Penguins

91. The Edge of Seventeen

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The Edge of Seventeen was the release from last weekend that I was truly looking forward to most (which makes sense, seeing as how it was number six in my list of 10 Fourth Quarter 2016 Films to Be Excited About).  Due to the schedules of my local theater, it made more sense for me to catch Fantastic Beasts, first.  But there was little doubt that this one was the main event; between the cast (Steinfeld is an unappreciated talent), the fantastic trailer, and the astounding reviews, The Edge of Seventeen has positioned itself as must-see for any true film lover.

And must-see, it is.  On occasion, there are movies where one can just tell within the first minute or two that it’s going to be something terrific.  The Edge of Seventeen was one of those for me.  Immediately, the dialogue and characterizations grab the viewer, supported by the charismatic yet believable performances of the flawless cast.

And let me start there.  Hailey Steinfeld is a top talent in the business, regardless of age, gender, filmography, or any other qualification people often attempt to place upon talent.  No.  Her talent is simply pure and very much unqualified.  This entire film rests on her shoulders and she balances it with the ease of Atlas.  Throughout the film, she effortlessly stings us with sharp comedic timing and delivery, brings us to tears through stark emotion, and often toes the line between the two.  She has been doing pretty well for herself on the pop music scene (her voice is flat-out tremendous) but I really hope she keeps acting her top priority.  I selfishly want to see more of her in the movies and more performances like this one.  She has proven that her Academy Award nomination at the age of fourteen (Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, True Grit, 2011) was no fluke.  In a fair world, Steinfeld would be a huge star and the general public would be unable to recognize Kristen Stewart.

As a teacher, I will state that Woody Harrelson’s Mr. Bruner might be my favorite movie character of the year.  Oh, how I feel his pain.  But I also feel his joy and his willingness to help.  Steinfeld’s Nadine is having trouble coping with loss and abandonment and this teacher is the only one she feels she can turn to.  Their interactions are a highlight of not only this film – but of the entire year in film.  They play off of each other so naturally that it almost turns into a high school version of Lethal Weapon whenever they speak.  I want them both to be in a Marvel film, together – Steinfeld as a fresh young hero (Squirrel Girl?  I know, Anna Kendrick wants it, and I like her.  But Steinfeld is better.) and Harrelson as her mentor.  This is easily my favorite performance from Harrelson and my only regret is that his part wasn’t bigger.

But Steinfeld and Harrelson couldn’t have done it alone.  This film is astoundingly the first film to be directed (and second to be written) by Kelly Fremon Craig.  Well, I hope she stays around.  I have zero criticisms.  None.  The wit, the heart, the characterization, the story – all of it is perfect and on point.  Every line has meaning.  Every joke lands.  Every scene has weight.  Every relationship matters.  This is filmmaking at its best.  Welcome to the movies, Ms. Craig!

The Edge of Seventeen is everything we say we want from the movies.  This film is basically everything that I lamented about Fantastic Beasts not being.  Interesting dialogue, endearing characters, relatable relationships, laughs, fun, tears, emotion . . . all the stuff that matters.  This is a down-to-earth film about realistic people trying to figure out the basics of life.  Just like the rest of us.  None of the principle characters are villains.  They aren’t bad people.  They’re just trying to live their lives and, sometimes, that means getting in the way of other people who are simply trying to do the same.  And when those people are people that you love, it makes life difficult.  Tricky.

But here’s what shouldn’t be difficult or tricky: the choice to see The Edge of Seventeen.  As an audience, we (and by “we” I mean “most of you”) failed Kubo and the Two Strings.  Don’t fail this one.  Reward success and talent.  Go see The Edge of Seventeen and revel in a film that is simultaneously art, entertainment, and a reminder that we’re all in this thing called life together.

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91. The Edge of Seventeen

90. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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As you all probably know, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the new attempt at extending J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe.  Serving as a prequel to the Potter saga, Fantastic Beasts brings back long-time Potter director David Yates and introduces the Academy Award-winning Eddie Redmayne (Best Actor in a Leading Role, 2015, The Theory of Everything) into the American chapter of the magical universe.

It’s difficult to follow in the footsteps of something as beloved and successful as the Harry Potter saga.  With a film the likes of Fantastic Beasts, fan expectations are high as they look to be sucked back into the world with which they are familiar, yet something new is necessary in order to feel like the new property is anything other than a cheap copy of the first.  Hence, the move to America and the focus on older characters.

There’s no question that Fantastic Beasts doesn’t feel like the Potter stories.  Those original tales typically radiated an exuberance that’s missing, here.  However, one characteristic is similar to the Potter films (at least the latter ones), and it’s not one of the good ones.  The color palette, as in the darker Potter films that Yates also directed, is drab and dank.  This is in direct contrast to the magical word that these characters inhabit and plays a significant role in dragging the film down and sucking the fun out of it.

Playing another role in that dubious achievement is the score by James Newton Howard.  Lacking any energy throughout the majority of the picture, Howard’s music attempts to soothe the viewer into a coma, even during scenes that seem to be geared towards action.  In no way is the score poorly written or comprised of “bad” music; it simply fails to accomplish the goal of elevating the film and sending the message that the events playing out on-screen are relevant and exciting.  It’s a rare – perhaps even the only – misstep from the legendary composer.

For a film that literally touts how amazing its creatures are, right there in its own title, the character design of the Big Bad is remarkably devoid of any imagination.  In fact, not once during the entire film was I truly in awe of any of the visuals that were unfolding on the screen, which is a shame because I know the visual effects artists work hard and just do what they’re told.  But the villain’s design is not only cosmetically mundane, but its functionality is limited, resulting in a similarly humdrum “action” climax.

The cast is a strong one, but their performances are crafted to match the rest of the film: understated and largely forgettable.  I can’t say for certain, but I feel comfortable speculating that this was due to Yates’s direction and not their own professional choices.  As with Howard’s score, no one does a “bad” job.  Everyone is perfectly serviceable.  But the charisma and charm so joyously found in Harry, his pals, and his authority figures is almost entirely absent from the entire cavalcade of characters in Fantastic Beasts.

Only at the tail end of the film, following the climactic battle, do we get any semblance of true feeling and personality from the people with which we just spent two hours.  And, honestly, these final minutes somewhat redeem everything that comes before them.  The cast shines.  They truly emote.  We see that they feel for each other and, as a result, we can finally feel for them.  Why it takes so long to get to this point is something I suspect I’ll never fully understand.  Before these moments, the characters are simply there to deliver their lines and move the (rather thin) story to its next waystation.  They’re the writing utensil in a Connect-the-Dots activity, and they deserve better material than that.

It seems like J.K. Rowling and David Yates forget what made Harry’s story so special, beloved, and successful.  The magic in those books and movies was never found in the creatures or spells.  All of those were lifted from previous stories, fables, and legends, anyway.  The true magic was in the characters, the stories, and the mythology.  In Fantastic Beasts, we get almost none of that, as one magical creature after another is paraded out to little fanfare, a villain is halfheartedly developed on the side, and the heroes go through the motions of setting all aright, all while quoting laws and bureaucracy, rather than displaying any sort of personal investment in any of the proceedings.  Without that personal investment from them, there is no personal investment from the audience.  And that personal investment is what made Rowling’s original stories into the cherished parables that they are, today.

Rather than aspiring to make a connection with its audience, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a sleepy little movie that settles and coasts on the reputation of its predecessor, counting on the goodwill earned by Potter to get fans back into theaters, but doing little to transition Potter fans into Newt Scamander fans or to convert the uninitiated into a brand new fandom.  It’s a lazy film that manages to squeak out about five minutes of hope for the future at the very end.  However, I have to wonder how much more the future has in store for this property.  A total of five films are planned, but . . . well, we’ll see.  In the meantime, if you want true magic at the movies, there’s still currently one place you can find it.

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90. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Interlude – Top Five Favorite Comedies

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My Top Five Favorite Comedies

Okay, so the headline is slightly misleading.  Wait, come back!  Only “slightly”!  While I often enjoy comedies, I really only have three “favorite” comedies, and then a bunch of others that I enjoy on various levels.  But nobody is going to click on a Top Three list.  And I really wanted to do this column because 1) I can’t make it to any new movies, this weekend, but I wanted to post something, and 2) I think we all need a laugh, right now.

So, I’m presenting to you my three personal favorite comedies and two more that came to mind before all of the rest because of . . . you know . . . reasons.  For me, so many comedies that are widely considered all-time classics are just . . . okay.  So, my list is almost certainly to be unlike anyone else’s.  But I hope you check some of these out if you haven’t  (or if it’s been a while) and get some enjoyment out of them.  Away we go!

5. Wanderlust

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This 2012 comedy from director David Wain and starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston came and went without a whole lot of attention.  And that’s a shame.  The movie, itself, is consistently funny and Rudd and Aniston are surrounded by a stellar supporting cast but this one makes the list for primarily one single scene.  Paul Rudd demonstrates that he may be the greatest comedic actor in Hollywood (a talent which also assists him in stealing every scene he’s in during this year’s Captain America: Civil War) by single-handedly delivering what I consider to be the funniest performance I’ve ever witnessed in any movie.  Ever.  It’s not for kids.  It’s not even for many “adults”.  But Rudd takes a solid comedy and, by himself – in less than two minutes – elevates the entire film and makes it entirely unforgettable.

4. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

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I know, I know.  “The first one is always better!”  Well, that’s simply a myth.  Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls was better than its predecessor in virtually every single way including the most important one: it was funnier.  In fact, the one and only time in my entire life that I laughed until I cried while watching a movie was during this film.  And the rest of the nearly sold-out audience was right there with me.  Much like my number five movie on this list, that laughing fit came about due to one scene in particular (which wouldn’t have worked without Jim Carrey’s incredible performance) but the entire picture is an onslaught of wit, unpredictability, and maniacal exuberance from Carrey.  And, on occasion, I still greet people by exclaiming, “Bumblebee Tuna!  Bumblebee Tuna!”  The resulting combination of confusion and repulsion has allowed me to consistently weed out those not truly deserving of my friendship.  So, thanks, When Nature Calls!

3. Clue: The Movie

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Here’s where my true list of beloved comedies begins.  So many people mention The Rocky Horror Picture Show as though it’s the only reason Tim Curry should be so revered.  Feh!  “FEH!” I say!  Aside from his startlingly frightening portrayal as Pennywise in the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s classic It, there’s his astounding Wadsworth in Clue: The Movie.  Functioning as a locked-box mystery (and based on the enduring board game), Clue is a nonstop cavalcade of clever one-liners and brilliant satirical performances.  As unrelentingly hilarious as each of the cast members are in their roles (and literally every.  Single.  One of them.  Delivers.  It’s an actual seven-way tie for who gives the best performance.), the characters have no idea that they’re hilarious.  And whether you’re collecting recipes with Mrs. Peacock or learning math from Mrs. White, you’ll be laughing the whole time.  In a genius creative decision, the movie was filmed with three different endings, which were placed randomly at theaters, so that audiences wouldn’t know which one they were getting.  The movie frustratingly bombed, anyway (even in 1987, Americans Didn’t Want Movie “Originality”!).  Yet, it has gone on to become the classic it deserves to be heralded as (there’s even a remake in the works).  Everyone needs to see this one at least once or twice or forty times in their life.

2. Dumb & Dumber

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Jim Carrey makes his second appearance on the list, this time teaming up with Jeff Daniels in The Farrelly Brothers’ all-time classic, Dumb & Dumber.  I’m not sure there’s ever been a more quotable movie than this one, nor one that made it harder for me to choose my favorite part (leaning towards the snowball).  The writing from the Farrellys and Bennett Yellin is ironically quick-witted and the consistency and quality of the performances from Carrey and Daniels are the stuff of legend.  I’ve never seen such an intelligent movie so commonly be referred to as “stupid”, but make no mistake – though Harry and Lloyd possess less-than-average intelligence, the film, itself, does not.  There’s one clever line after another.  One unpredictable quote follows the next.  And two completely committed performances finished the package off and helped make Dumb & Dumber a comedy that set the bar for any other comedy that came afterwards.

1. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

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I love every single thing about this movie.  I love the entire cast: Jason Segal, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, and – in smaller roles – Bill Hader, Liz Cackowski, Jack McBrayer, Jonah Hill, and Paul Rudd (who should be serving multiple prison sentences for once again stealing scenes).  I love the Hawaiian setting (while watching the film, I thought that I’d love to stay at a resort like the one they were staying at.  I went one better by booking a trip to Hawaii and staying AT the resort they were staying at.).  I love the story.  I love the character arcs.  And I love the laughs.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall has plenty of heart, but never forgets that its goal is to score laughs.  It ends up being a cinematic total package that forces guffaws and feelings, while also scoring points for perhaps even causing some viewers to assess their approach to their own lives.  This movie played a large role in providing me with the greatest week of my life, so maybe I’m biased, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a top-flight comedy that goes above and beyond to be so much more.  It’s easily my favorite comedy of all-time.

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Interlude – Top Five Favorite Comedies