DVD Tuesday: 13 great summer comedies

by W. Andrew Powell

Homer and Bart in The Simpsons Movie

Homer and Bart in The Simpsons Movie

Summer is here and whether you’re looking for a funny film to lighten your weekend, or something to keep you amused on a rainy day at the cottage, this week I take a look at 13 classic comedies perfect for the warm days ahead.

Recently released on Blu-ray for the first time, Caddyshack is simply one of the best comedies of the last three decades. Starring Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and that mischievous little gopher, Caddyshack helped define an entire era of comedies. Between Dangerfield’s performance as the slobbish golfer, and Murray’s antics to take out the vermin that’s threatening to destroy the perfect greenery of the Bushwood Country Club, the film is hilarious, fun, and a perfect example of a great old fashioned ‘R’ rated comedy.

Speaking of classics, while Airplane! may not be one of the best comedies ever, it’s certainly another classic comedy from 1980. Starring Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hays, and Julie Hagerty, to name but a few, the film was a high-flying spoof which poked fun at all of the airplane disaster films of the 1970s. It’s a weird and wonderful film that includes a number of very funny cameos by the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Barbara Billingsley, not to mention some very quotable comic lines that never seem to get old.

Office Space
Writer and director Mike Judge made a name for himself with Beavis and Butthead, but his most lasting contribution to pop culture will most likely be Office Space, which features Ron Livingston and Jennifer Aniston in a story that perfectly spoofs the modern working environment. Livingston’s character, Peter, is the anti-hero we all dream that we could be, forgetting about our obligations and getting even against the bureaucracy that controls the average blue collar office. Office Space is also just plain fun and hilarious, with a sweet little romance that involves a young Aniston doing what she does best; playing the somewhat goofy dream girl.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Mike Myers is a modern comic icon, but no matter what he’s done with Shrek or Wayne’s World, it doesn’t get much better than Austin Powers. The film franchise not only gave the actor one of his most memorable roles as the retro-cool British special agent, one of many great characters in just a few years, but also gave the actor the opportunity to play multiple roles, including the equally hilarious Dr. Evil. Plus, who can forget Seth Green’s first real iconic role as Scott Evil? A truly funny summer popcorn comedy.

Bruce Almighty
Speaking of Canadian comic icons, this list would not be complete without at least one film by Jim Carrey, and while I was tempted to include Ace Ventura, I don’t think it gets much more amusing than Bruce Almighty. Also co-starring Jennifer Aniston as the love interest, not to mention Morgan Freeman as God, the film is an often touching look at faith, love, and maybe most of all, Carrey’s range of funny faces. I also don’t often say this, but it includes some of the best special effects I’ve seen in a comedy, including the simple but awesome shot of Bruce parting the “waters” of his soup.

The Simpsons Movie
How many years did fans have to wait before The Simpsons Movie made it to theatres? Amazingly enough, the movie was actually worth the wait and featured a family-friendly story that also carried a well thought out environmental message. The animation was also a serious notch above the quality of the television series, opened with a great cameo by Green Day, and packed more pop culture references than a dozen regular episodes combined. Pixar might have the animated Oscars all wrapped up, but the genius of The Simpsons is that the show remains relevant and funny after more than 20 seasons.

Producer Judd Apatow is some kind of genius at making hard-‘R’ rated comedies that somehow still have a heart, and none prove that more than Superbad, starring Michael Cera and Jonah Hill. While the film is infrequently gross, and not even remotely kid friendly, Superbad is touching, and often rudely intelligent, breaking the common mold for the teenage comedy. Featuring a bunch of guys who just wanted to get lucky, Superbad is actually a wickedly funny high school buddy film about love and growing up. It’s also the perfect summer comedy to watch with a big group of friends.

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
Speaking of buddy comedies, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle may not be that intelligent, but it’s a hilarious stoner comedy with two very different stars: John Cho and Kal Penn. The film had the duo chasing their dreams of White Castle burgers across the countryside as they get lost, arrested, and run into a never-better Neil Patrick Harris as a cartoonish version of himself. Easily one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, and another great film to watch during a summer party.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The second Apatow film on my list is more of the love story than the buddy comedy and features Jason Segel as the awkward composer Peter, who hunts down his recently-ex-girlfriend in Hawaii in the hopes of winning her back. While he’s there though, Peter starts to forget about Sarah Marshall, played by Kristen Bell, and finds himself drawn to the lovely Rachel, played by Mila Kunis. The film is another example of how Apatow’s films are frequently fun and fresh, very original, and yet still very heartfelt.

50 First Dates
Who would have thought that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore would make a cute couple, but 50 First Dates was a sweet and funny romantic comedy that made Adam Sandler not only likeable again, but seem like a legitimately sweet guy. In the film he plays Henry, a guy afraid to commit to anyone until he meets Lucy, his perfect girl who just happens to suffer from short-term memory loss. For Henry, that means that every day is like the first one with Lucy, and he has to prove his love all over again in the hopes of ultimately winning her heart. It’s sweet, cute, and funny with a killer soundtrack filled with great 80s cover songs.

(500) Days of Summer
This might be the only film on my list that doesn’t fit the perfect comedy mould, but I could hardly write a list of great summer films without including the dramedy, (500) Days of Summer. To be honest, this is less of a comedy and much more of a drama with comic overtones, but led by actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom and Zooey Deschanel as Summer, the film is nonetheless frequently funny. Levitt’s character quickly falls in love with the flighty Summer, only to find himself unsure of what he really has with her, and yet he’s still drawn to love her. The film is a marvellous piece of filmmaking, and one of the best films of 2009. If you missed it, I can’t recommend it enough as a great little film that also embodies the spirit of summer love.

I Love You, Man
Back to the concept of the buddy film, I Love You, Man is the story of Peter, played by a never better Paul Rudd, who realizes that as his wedding approaches, he doesn’t have a best man. Trying to find the best friend of his dreams, Peter meets the odd but free-spirited Sydney Fife, played by Jason Segel, a perfect best friend who unfortunately starts causing issues with Peter’s fiancée. It’s a Rush-filled comedy about friendship that proves we need more films starring Segel and Rudd.

The Princess Bride
Last, and certainly not least, is the classic 80s family adventure comedy, The Princess Bride. Based on William Goldman’s famed book, which he adapted for the big screen, the film was directed by the great Rob Reiner and stars Cary Elwes as the swashbuckling Westley, a man searching for the love of his life before she is married to the evil prince. This classic and funny fairy tale is a wonderful family-friendly summer comedy that is frankly heart-warming, and yet still funny, especially thanks to Elwes and the very funny Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, not to mention André the Giant, Carol Kane, and Billy Crystal.

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