Hollywood Comedy Movies – From Charlie Chaplin To Jim Carrey

Comedy movie started long back in the 1900. The first movie to be produced was by Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope of his assistant Fred Ott in Record of a Sneeze. This could also be considered the first to show comedy aspect of the movie.

Comedy films began to appear more during the era of silent films, prior to the 1930s. These comedy movies were originally based on visual humor. The prominent figure that we all know as Charlie Chaplin was one of the famous clown-style actors of the silent era. It was through Charlie Chaplin that the Hollywood comedy movies became famous and soon came the Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

Then in the 1920s came another trend of animated cartoons. They were the most popular Hollywood comedy movies of the time. The several popular characters of that era were Felix the cat, Krazy Kat and Betty Boop. However, the popularity of these movies was hindered due to lack of sound and color.

The end of 1920s, the Hollywood comedy industry marked a change brought about by the introduction of sound into the movies. This has allowed the industry to create dramatic new film styles and use verbal humor. These films were soon replacing silent movies. These films used dialogue of comedians such as the W.C Fields and the Marx Brothers. Charlie Chaplin was the last comedian to have acted in the silent films, and his films during 1930s were devoid of dialogue, although they did employ sound effects.

When the United States entered into World War II, Hollywood movies changed its course to themes related to the conflicts and Hollywood comedy movies portrayed more on military themes. The war era experienced a boom, where restrictions on the traveling made nearly a quarter of the money spent was on attending movies.

In the 1950s, the interest shifted where the TV became the focus of adult social situations on family oriented comedies. During this time the release of Hollywood comedy films declined. The 1960s saw an increasing number of broad, star-packed comedies. In 1970 Hollywood comedy movies reflected the anti-war sentiment, which was prevailing then. Amongst the leading figure of this time were Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. They wrote, directed and appeared in their hilariously funny and witty movies.

In the 1980s the gag based comedy Airplane, a spoof of the previous decade disaster film series was released and Hollywood comedy movies paved its way for more of the same including Top Secret and the Naked Gun film. The popular comedian of this time included Dudley Moore, Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. Jim Carrey, the Canadian actor and a comedian came into Hollywood comedy movies in the late 1980s where he won the role in Damian Lee Canadian skiing comedy, Copper Mountain.

The most popular Hollywood comedy movies were of John Hughes, which includes Ferris Buellers Day Off and Home Alone series of 1990s. The later films focused more to family audience, this was a revival in comedy movies. The spoof comedy movies remain popular till date.

Another development in the Hollywood comedy movies was the use of gross-out humor, which is usually, aimed at younger audience in films like, There is Something about Mary, American Pie and many more. This trend of gross-out movies continued with adult oriented comedies picking up the box office till date.

Animated Comedy Movies

Comedy movies have been around since film saw its beginnings, but the animated genre has gained popularity throughout recent years. Though animation is particularly popular with children, comedies geared at adult audiences have also been released in this spectacular format. It’s more commonly seen on the television networks (with animated adult comedy shows such as Family Guy and South Park) but it has been done on the big screen.

Which animated comedy movies should you watch? It depends what you are looking for. These family and mature audience films of the gene are a great place to start.

Animated Family Comedy Movies

The Madagascar Films (2005; 2008) – These films serve up adventure and plenty of laughs, with a cast of animal characters who suddenly find themselves in the wilds of Africa after only having known life within the sweet captivity of the Central Park Zoo. The characters are voiced by some of today’s best loved comedians including Chris Rock, Ben stiller and Sacha Baron Cohen. A third film is set to be released in 2012.

Monsters VS Aliens (2009) – Got a family full of sci-fi fans and of course, lovers of comedy movies? You’ll all enjoy this computer animated comedy about a woman who is struck by a meteorite on her wedding day, transformed into a giant, taken captive by a secret government compound and befriended by a group of strange but lovable monsters  who’ll join with her to combat aliens and save the world!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) – The beloved children’s book is brought to life by a hilarious cast and modern animation. Join Flint, the wanna-be inventor, who finally sees some short lived success as he falls for the girl, creates enough food to fill the bellies of everyone in town and later deals with the comical catastrophe that ensues!

Animated Comedy Movies

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) – There’s trouble in Toontown in this classic favorite. Families with older children might consider this film for a family night pick. Some scenes may give younger children a fright. The film is a wonderful combination of comedy, mystery, fantasy and live action mixed with animation. 

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999) – South Park took hold of its success and went the comedy movies route when it was brought to the big screen in 1999. As usual, fans’ favorite characters -Kyle, Stan, Cartman and friends- are in the midst of comical adventure, with no shortage of foul language and extremely crude humor. 

Eight Crazy Nights (2002) – If you’re an Adam Sandler fan (and of his more adult films) you may enjoy watching him dish out the laughs (and plenty of song, those this isn’t your typical musical number) in full cartoon style animation.

Two Funny Comedies, “Talladega Nights” and “Wedding Crashers”, But Only One is a Good Film

Wedding Crashers – 3 Stars (Good)
Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby – 2 Stars (Average)

There are comedies that can make you laugh that are not good films because they lack any meaningful substance or worthwhile message. An example would be “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby”, worth a few laughs with Will Ferrell as Ricky Bobby, but not able to get you emotionally involved in a character’s plight.

Then there are comedies that can make you laugh that appear to have a lack of substance, but slowly pull you into a character as you become emotionally involved with his situation. An example would be “Wedding Crashers” with Owen Wilson as John Beckwith.

So what makes one film good and another just average? The difference is in the script, the direction and the acting.

For openers, Talladega Nights was written by Will Farrell, who also plays the lead role, and by Adam McKay, who is the director. My experience has been that when the director of a film also writes the script, the script, the direction and the movie all suffer the majority of the time. When the lead actor of the film is also a writer of the film, the situation becomes compounded, like the blind leading the deaf through a minefield.

Both Farrell and McKay try to tell a story with their comedy but fail because not only is the comedy unbelievable, but the character of Ricky Bobby is not likeable enough to convince us that there is human drama unfolding here.

McKay joins a long list of other writer/directors who have bombed in these dual roles, including Vanessa Parise (terrible rating) for Kiss the Bride; Peter Weir (average rating) for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; Nancy Myers (average rating) for Something’s Gotta Give; Thomas Bezucha (average rating) for The Family Stone; Michael McGowan (average rating) for Saint Ralph; Jared Hess (terrible rating) for Napoleon Dynamite; Robert Rodriguez (terrible rating) for Once Upon a Time in Mexico; and Paul Thomas Anderson (terrible rating) for Punch-Drunk Love.

Exceptions to this dual role as writer/director are Kirk Jones (excellent rating) in Waking Ned Devine, and Tim McCanlies (excellent rating) for Secondhand Lions. Both Jones and McCanlies are master storytellers in these films, and other writer/directors who have failed could learn a lot from them.

Wedding Crashers, another funny comedy, is just the opposite of Talladega Nights in that Steve Faber and Bob Fisher can tell a good story, and David Dobkin can direct a good comedy film. Their effort comes together because Owen Wilson as John Beckwith is likeable and has the acting style and ability to emotionally connect with the viewer.

We can see ourselves in his predicament-living a life of fun and pleasure at the expense of others, and then developing a conscience that foreshadows personal growth.

After taking advantage of so many lovely, unsuspecting bridesmaids, he slows down enough to notice Rachel McAdams as Claire Cleary, who shares his sense of humor and light-heartedness. The more he looks at Claire, the more he wants to look at Claire.

Claire, however, is spoken for by a person she has not yet discovered is really a self-absorbed, dictatorial, manipulative, rich jerk, whereas John Beckwith appears more worthless but is wanting and willing to change his ways.

It is interesting that Vince Vaughn as Jeremy Grey’s character, Beckwith’s wedding crasher partner and best friend, is not nearly as likeable, although he also decides to get married to Claire’s immature, dippy sister Gloria Cleary (Isla Fisher).

I saw the unrated and uncut version of Talladega Nights, and the uncorked (not rated) version of Wedding Crashers, the theatrical version was rated R with sexual content, nudity and filthy language.

Despite watching the additional footage not shown in theaters, and enduring the sexual content and language, I would watch Wedding Crashers again but would not watch Talladega Nights again if you offered to pay me.

Moviegoers are fooled less often than you may think, and it becomes evident at awards time. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, was nominated in 2007 for the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Movie Comedy, but did not win. Wedding Crashers was nominated in 2006 for the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Movie Comedy and did win.

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley