This year for comedy has been very… quality over quantity. I’d say that there were at least three exceptional comedies this year, each of them films that I would have been happy to name “comedy of the year” any other year. Beyond that though, it’s been pretty barren. In fact I had to do some outside the box thinking in order to find two other nominees that I was even slightly happy to nominate. It should also be noted that what I’m looking for here are movies that make me laugh… a lot.
- American Hustle: I think that classifying American Hustle as a comedy is pretty dubious. In fact I’m only nominating it because I was desperate to fill out the category and it seemed like less of a cheat than Blue Jasmine, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska. Still, when I think about it there really are a lot of scenes that are going for laughs, especially the ones between Louis C.K. and Bradley Cooper and the ones where Jennifer Lawrence is being wacky. I wouldn’t necessarily tell someone to go see it expecting a laugh riot, but it does seem a bit more dedicated to comedy than some of the other nominees.
- Iron Man 3: I initially wasn’t going to nominate this here, but the more I think about it the less it seems like a cheat. Shane Black is more or less the father of the modern action/comedy and that made him ideal for this franchise which long ago used Robert Downey Jr.’s comedic persona to differentiate it from its competition. The fact that the film more or less sacrifice’s its villain for the purposes of a jokey twist pretty well indicates that the film is more interested in making its audience laugh than it is in creating a dramatic superhero movie, but hey, that was pretty funny.
- This is the End: This is the End is in many ways a glorious mess of a movie, but boy o’ boy is it funny. I normally don’t much care for comedies that were clearly made really loosely for the purposes of encouraging improvisation, but there was enough talent here to make it work. Not every joke lands (that “Gangnam Style” reference would have been dated in 2012), but there are so many that do that it doesn’t really matter.
- The World’s End: I haven’t been as enamored by the “Three Flavors Cornetto” trilogy as a lot of the internet, but I was charmed by this last installment, which just might have been my favorite of the three. This one is less of a parody than the previous installments. Sure, its riffing on sci-fi a little bit, but most of the comedy here has less to do with that than with the interactions between the characters. This is probably the most honed and planned out of all the comedies here.
- The Wolf of Wall Street: There was a lot of talk this year about whether or not the films nominated for the Best Musical/Comedy category at the Golden Globes were really comedies. I think the other four nominees were debatable, but this one was not. The Wolf of Wall Street might have the budget of a prestige drama and it might tell a true story, but make no mistake, this is a comedy. If it weren’t a comedy it wouldn’t stop to watch DiCaprio’s character and Jonah Hill’s character riff about the later character’s cousin/wife or bring in subtitles to signal what DiCaprio and Jean Dujardin are really thinking during their negotiation. It could think of a bunch of other examples, but the point is, this movie goes for the laughs