Category Archives: Family Comedy

Stripes (1981)

 

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Rating: The Good – 68.9
Genre: Comedy
Duration: 106 mins
Director: Ivan Reitman
Stars: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy

Bill Murray and Harold Ramis team up as two layabouts who join the army in order to get some discipline only to find it a lot more work than they had figured. Directed by Ivan Reitman, the humour is very much of its era with lots of wacky scenarios but there are still many laughs to be had here. Murray has been much better but even at half steam he’s still the funniest man on the screen. Ramis is a good foil for Murray but does well on his own also. Stripes is one of those films that is very easy to watch particularly if you’re already in a good mood so just sit back and let it happen.

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Innerspace (1987) 3.71/5 (5)

 

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Rating: The Ugly – 67
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction
Duration: 120 mins
Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, Meg Ryan

As one of the more entertaining actors out there, Dennis Quaid was always going to work well in a Joe Dante film and neither disappoint in this original concept movie. Quaid stars as a test pilot who agrees to be miniaturized in a high-tech ship designed to travel through the human body. Things go awry when a spot of industrial sabotage sees him injected into the body of unwitting hypochondriac Martin Short. Considering that Quaid and Short don’t have any actual face-to-face scenes together until the very end of the movie, the chemistry between the two is remarkable and is a testament to their skill as both serious and comedic actors. Short has most of the fun scenes which involve all sorts of mayhem from dangling out of trucks to outrageously funny facial reconstruction scenes (don’t ask). Meg Ryan works very well as the feisty reporter/love-interest and Dante regular Robert Picardo steals the show as ‘the Cowboy’. As you’d expect the set-pieces in Innerspace are terrific and handled wonderfully by Dante but it’s the over all sense of fun that typifies all of Dante’s films that makes this so enjoyable.

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The Couch Trip (1988)

 

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Rating: The Good – 67.4
Genre: Comedy
Duration: 97 mins
Director: Michael Ritchie
Stars: Dan Aykroyd, Walter Matthau, Charles Grodin

The late eighties was a great time for Hollywood comedies, as there was a sense of ease and good fun about them. This underappreciated gem is one such movie. It stars Dan Aykroyd as a small time fraudster who escapes his mental hospital, assumes the identity of his psychiatrist, and heads to LA to cover for a well known radio therapist. Along the way he picks up legitimate looney Walter Mathau and begins working his magic on the rich elite of L.A. in particular the his new assistant Donna Dixon. Charles Grodin is a howl as the radio therapist recuperating in England from his mental breakdown while Richard Romanus and Ayre Gross are suitably slimey as his agents. Michael Ritchie (director of Fletch) plays this one just right allowing his cast plenty of room to find their characters’ level while still managing to zip the drama along. The gags are actually quite funny and some of the radio calls are classic. If you’re in the mood for some easy comedy, The Couch Trip will not disappoint.

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Spider-Man (2002) 2.93/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Good – 66.4
Genre: Fantasy, Action
Duration: 121 mins
Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe

Credit to Sam Raimi. At a time when dark superhero movies were very much the in-thing, he not only bucks the trend but also his own traditionally darker leanings (Evil Dead, Darkman, etc.) and makes a colourful, cheerful, John Hughes like version of the web shooting hero. And most surprisingly it worked – thanks to a clever script, good young actors, good older actors, and some real electricity between his two romantic leads. Tobey Maguire is perfect as the dorky kid turned dorky superhero while Kirsten Dunst does the girl next door better than any other modern actress. The film even manages to survive Willem Dafoe’s ham-fest and even thrive on its funniness. The special effects are a little CGI obvious in parts but that is off-set by the startlingly authentic and almost hypnotic movement of Spider-Man as he swings through the city.

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Ghostbusters (1984) 4.14/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 76.7
Genre: Comedy
Duration: 105 mins
Director: Ivan Reitman
Stars: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver

“When someone asks you ‘Are you a God?’, you say ‘Yes!!’” Although it’s been mainly remembered as nothing more than an enjoyable children’s film, Ivan Reitman’s film was written by and starred the golden generations of both Saturday Night Live and SCTV. The result is a totally original, unbelievably witty, and eminently quotable landmark in movie history. Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Bill Murray play three scientists who make a name for themselves as paranormal investigators and exterminators who go into business just in time for a major paranormal event to hit New York city. Overt humour, subtle humour, legendary comedy actors, unique story, groundbreaking special effects, and one of the most memorable movie soundtracks, Ghostbusters has it all. The three leads are perfect in their assigned roles and their long established understanding of each other gives their on-screen relationships real depth. Throw Sigourney Weaver into the mix as one of their clients and romantic interest for Murray’s legendary Dr. Venckman and there you have it. “Back off man, I’m a scientist.”

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Transformers (2007) 2.86/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 67.8
Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Duration: 144 mins
Director: Michael Bay
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel

Terrific adaptation of the popular cartoon that, like all the great blockbusters, works not as much due to its special effects but due to a smart script, good actors, and great chemistry between the leads particularly between Shia LaBeouf, Kevin Dunn, and Julie White as Sam and his parents. The special effects that bring the Transformers to life are marvelous so long as the robots aren’t moving too much. As soon as they start fighting, Bay employs the old quick-cut/tight-shot trick which makes it difficult for the audience to see what’s going on. That said, there are two sequences in which he shows some restraint and indeed inspiration. The first is the overpass scene where we see Optimus Prime at his most bad-ass and the second is that desert battle sequence which culminates in a spectacularly framed aerial shot of a heavy bomber blasting the crap out of the enemy.

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Christmas Vacation (1989) 3.29/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 79.2
Genre: Comedy
Duration: 97 mins
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Stars: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis

The Griswold’s finest hour is guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit as Clark attempts to create the perfect Christmas for his extended family. Of course, nothing goes as planned particularly as it appears that he isn’t going to get the Christmas bonus he’s depended on. Throw a few house fires, explosions, electrocutions, and his layabout cousin Eddie into the mix and you get one of the all time funniest Christmas movies. Chevy Chase and Beverly DiAngelo are as good as ever while Randy Quaid’s cousin Eddie is the icing on the cake. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is absolutely required Holiday viewing.

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Scrooged (1988) 4.43/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 77
Genre: Comedy
Duration: 101 mins
Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe

Richard Donner’s take on the old Dickens’ fable is one of the great Christmas comedies and has Bill Murray is in blistering form as the cynical and uncaring TV executive Frank Cross who gets visited by three ghosts….well you know the rest. Murray’s roles are typically a lot less restrictive in terms of personality requirements allowing the comedy maestro to have a field day with improvisation. However, even though a modern day Scrooge is inevitably a more prescriptive role, Murray still manages to improvise a whole raft of playful mannerisms and idiosyncratic personality dimensions that remain perfectly in line with the bad-ass Frank Cross. There isn’t a facial expression or eye-movement on Murray’s part that’s unintentional and the film is much the richer for it. The ghosts of Christmas past (David Johansen) and present (Carol Kane) are a riot while Karen Allen is great value as Cross’ old squeeze. Scrooged is one of the few comedies that doesn’t fade as it heads towards the end. Instead, it changes tack and becomes really quite uplifting – especially if you watch it on Christmas Eve!

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What About Bob? (1991)

 

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Rating: The Good – 76.6
Genre: Comedy
Duration: 99 mins
Director: Frank Oz
Stars: Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty

Bob (Bill Murray) is afraid of everything but that’s not the biggest problem he presents to his new psychiatrist Leo (Richard Dreyfuss) who can’t seem to get rid of him even while on vacation. This movie hails from a far less formulaic time as far as comedies are concerned and its lack of pretension and reliance on well made jokes and a tidy premise is refreshing. It’s not one of Bill Murray’s funniest performances but even at half throttle he’ll still bring a smile to your face. Furthermore, if there’s any slack, Richard Dreyfuss is on hand to pick it up. Dreyfuss is one of the few straight actors who can do comedy with an easy naturalness and he more than holds his own against Murray. In fact, his own unique brand of frantic humour drives the best moments in the movie and truth be told, his Dr. Leo is one of that era’s funnier characters. Frank Oz is a dab hand at these kind of comedies and his light-hearted approach combined with Miles Goodman’s mischievous score ensures What About Bob? remains perfectly pitched throughout. If you’re in the mood for some easy laughs, you could do a hell of a lot worse!

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Father of the Bride (1991) 4.32/5 (5)

 

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Rating: The Ugly – 62.1
Genre: Comedy
Duration: 105 mins
Director: Charles Shyer
Stars: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Kimberly Williams-Paisley

Steve Martin found himself the king of the family comedy in the 1990’s and this was the best of them. He and Diane Keaton are the married couple, George and Nina Banks, whose house is turned upside down when their daughter returns home from college with a fiancé in tow. Cue all the anxieties of the modern father amplified as only Martin can as their house is turned upside down in preparation for the wedding. The characters are well written with George’s somewhat endearing pettiness and stinginess creating the pretext for many funny scenarios. They really are quite funny considering the natural restraints the family comedy genre places on such material. Keaton is a terrific foil for Martin as she plays her hand just right. There’s a nostalgia factor in play too for those who grew up on these types of comedies so prepare to be transported back to a more innocent time midst all the modest and comfortable laughter.

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Housesitter (1992) 2.86/5 (4)

 

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Rating: The Good – 67.7
Genre: Comedy
Duration: 102 mins
Director: Frank Oz
Stars: Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn, Dana Delany

Another charming little comedy from Frank Oz that has Steve Martin playing an architect who enters into a fictitious marriage with pathological liar Goldie Hawn in order to convince his ex-girlfriend to get back with him (or something). The film is very easy to watch and it will keep you chuckling throughout. As is the case with most Steve Martin films from that era, it is elevated by Martin’s utterly superb comic timing. Two scenes in particular will have you howling. One involves a fireplace and the other a ridiculously funny rendition of Tura Lura Lural.

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