Dramas aren't drawing audiences (unless they're dramas loaded with action), but comedies continue to do well at the box office. That said, there were a lot of disappointing laffers released in 2009 (Year One, Land of the Lost, Observe and Report, etc). Thankfully, there were enough decent comedies to make up for the ones that just didn't work. Here are my picks for the funniest movies of 2009. Remember, these are my personal favorites - feel free to disagree.
The absolute best time I had at the movies all year came from watching Zombieland. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg are the unlikeliest zombie-fighting team ever, and the way these guys play off of each other is absolutely hysterical. Add Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin to the mix along with the best cameo in years, plenty of zombie kills, a smart script, great action sequences, and smooth directing, and you've got the perfect 'escape from reality and just have fun' moviegoing experience.
The Hangover broke box office records following a tidal wave of positive word-of-mouth online, tweets proclaiming its hilarity, and great reviews. The ballsy buddy film set a new record for an R-rated comedy, smashing the record set by Beverly Hills Cop 25 years ago. As of December 2009, The Hangover had amassed $277 million during its domestic theatrical release, and who knows how much more it'll take in on DVD/Blu-ray. Why the fuss? Because The Hangover has just about everything thrown into it - a chicken, a tiger, a baby, Mike Tyson - and it all works. Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, and Zach Galifianakis take every joke as far as possible and then go further, and the result is laugh out loud funny.
Wes Anderson's responsible for some of my favorite comedies (Rushmore, Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums) yet I wasn't immediately sold on Fantastic Mr Fox. The animation looked freaky, the trailer did nothing to raise my interest, and I thought big name actors (led by George Clooney and Meryl Streep) had been brought in to try and raise the buzz level and nothing more. Boy, was I wrong. Anderson's a sly fox who doesn't disappoint with his first venture into animation. There's nothing 'freaky' about the way this story comes to life on the screen. An animated film for adults - the humor will go over kids' heads - Fantastic Mr Fox is strikingly beautiful, witty, and hugely entertaining.
Up is yet another in the long string of animated hits from powerhouse Pixar. Millions have now fallen in love with an elderly man who uses balloons to fly his house to South America and the obnoxious nine year old Wilderness Explorer who accompanies him on his journey. It's touching, it's gorgeous to look at, but most of all it's sweetly funny. Up takes you on an emotional journey while never forgetting to throw in the laughs. And there's not a dog lover on this planet who can resist the charms of Dug the talking canine. The first time I watched Up I came home and gave my dog an extra hug. It's that kind of movie; it evokes a strong response and just makes you happy to have watched it.
I'm a sucker for a smart romantic comedy, and (500) Days of Summer is one of the most intelligent of rom-coms to come out this decade. The narrator begins the film by saying it's not a love story, yet there's a whole lot to love about (500) Days of Summer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a hard-working greeting card writer who believes there's one specific woman out there for him and that he'll know it the minute he finds her. Zooey Deschanel is Summer - as in '(500) Days of' - a free-spirited woman who doesn't believe in love at first sight.
Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds have been friends for years, and the two romantic comedy veterans had been on the look-out for a rom-com to do together for quite a while. I'm glad they waited for the right project to combine their talents on. The Proposal finds Bullock playing a workaholic forced into saying she's in a relationship with her underling (played by Reynolds) in order to stay in America and keep her high-powered job. Along with scene-stealer Betty White, Reynolds and Bullock prove you can make a snappy romantic comedy that doesn't play down to its target audience.
Matt Damon reunites with the director of the Ocean's films, Steven Soderbergh, for this tale of corporate intrigue. Damon stars as the vice president of a huge agri-business firm who turns tattle tale and spies on his co-workers for the government. But there's a catch: he's really, really lousy at it. Damon looks scruffy, pudgy, and like an average, everyday Joe in The Informant!, but his performance lifts this film way above the average comedy.
Matthew McConaughey plays a carefree bachelor who has no desire whatsoever to be in a committed relationship and who treats women callously. On the eve of his brother's wedding, he's visited by - you know where this is headed if you've ever read/watched/heard of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol - the ghosts of his former girlfriends. Of the two films released in 2009 based on Dickens' beloved story - this, and Disney's 3-D performance capture version - Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is by far the best. Teaming up with another romantic comedy veteran, Jennifer Garner, McConaughey is roguishly charming, melting hearts and guiding the story smoothly over any minor speedbumps.
Meryl Streep had a busy 2009, lending her voice to Fantastic Mr Fox, playing the attractive older woman at the center of love triangle in It's Complicated, and tackling the role of legendary chef Julia Child in Julie & Julia. Streep is good in all three of her 2009 films, but her incredibly engaging take on Julia Child, going over-the-top and seeming to love every minute of it, stands out Amy Adams also shines as an office worker who sets out to conquer Julia's entire Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook while blogging about her experiences. I can't cook, but this movie made me want to whip up a soufflé. It's a delicious treat you should not watching when you're hungry.
After Borat took the box office by storm in 2006 it was almost a given that if Cohen wanted to bring another one of his characters - gay fashionista Bruno - to life in a feature film, some studio would give him the go-ahead to do so. Universal Pictures won the bidding war, but not everything was bright and shiny for Bruno. Cohen did what he does best and not everyone was pleased with the result. To me, Bruno was exactly what I anticipated and so it didn't disappoint. The film delivered on its promise, even while lagging way behind Borat's box office numbers. Twitter helped to kill Bruno's opening weekend take, with people immediately Tweeting their opinions after leaving the film. I liked it, but I'm in the minority on this one.