The state of American studio comedy right now

JUNE 24 — It’s often been said that the public gets the popular movies it deserves, which I think is true because, as trivial as movies may be to the eyes of a lot of serious people, they do reflect the times we’re in. 

Even something as inconsequential as movie comedies tend to differ according to the times they’re produced in. Genius slapstick gags a la Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and the likes are practically unthinkable in this age of sound, even if they did make a short comeback in the mid 90s thanks to the genius of the Farrelly brothers, who are more or less forgotten nowadays.

The witty, razor sharp, and bullet-fast dialogue of screwball comedies from the 1930s and 1940s seem very likely to fly over our short attention spans nowadays. 

Just look at the noble failures like Peter Bogdanovich’s tribute to screwball in She’s Funny That Way, or even the Coen brothers’ Hail Caesar as proof. 

And surely the pun-tastic lunacy of The Marx Brothers’ films has no place in modern day comedies, because I’ve never seen it attempted in any comedies in recent memory.

Even the crude raunchiness of 80s comedies like Animal House and Porky’s don’t seem to be making a comeback anytime soon, thanks to the failures of films like Bad MomsBad Teacher, or whatever Bad the studios can think up next. 

Aside from the adult-child school of American comedy made popular by auteurs like Adam McKay, Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips, it doesn’t seem like Hollywood knows what sort of comedies they should be making to rake in some easy cash nowadays.

The closest we have to comedies now are mostly spoofs of or unwieldy combinations with other genres, usually the more action-oriented ones like spy movies (Spy), buddy cop movies (21 and 22 Jump Street), road movies (Identity Thief, We Are The Millers) and sports movies (Blades Of Glory) and I think we’ve arrived at some sort of plateau (or is it simply a low?) which has seen very few studio comedies entering the market this year.

Aside from Baywatch, there really hasn’t been many studio comedies making an appearance in Malaysian cinemas this year, but of course that hasn’t stopped me from seeing some of the supposedly major ones, so here’s a short round-up of what I’ve seen so far.


On paper, a movie that stars Amy Schumer and directed by Jonathan Levine (steadily decreasing in quality from All The Boys Love Mandy Lane to 50/50 to The Night Before to this) sounds like a no-brainer. 

But if there ever was a completely miscalculated comedy bomb this year, it’s this one. As much as I love Schumer, I probably laughed or giggled less than three times throughout the movie, that’s how painfully unfunny this one is. 

True to Hollywood form right now, this one’s more or less a road comedy, as we get to witness a mother-daughter team travel their way in South America to safety after being snatched by gangsters during their holiday. 

It started out sounding like a sequel to Trainwreck, with Schumer more or less resuming her trademark comic persona, but it ends up looking and sounding like a desperately tragic actual trainwreck. Give this one a pass, I say.

Fist Fight

More sporadically funny than Snatched, Fist Fight is a passable coming-of-age comedy in which the one doing the coming of age is an adult, and a high school teacher at that. 

Starring Charlie Day (of Horrible Bosses fame) and Ice Cube, the set-up is admittedly quite funny when whiny teacher Andy (Day basically rehashing his Horrible Bosses role) gets challenged by scary teacher Ron (Cube basically spoofing his gangsta persona) to a fist fight at the end of the last school day of the year because Andy snitched on Ron and got him fired. 

But the whole idea that the movie finds it admirable that Andy basically learns to finally stand up for himself through physical violence smells really fishy and confused to me. 

Still, the climactic fist fight itself is a whole lot of fun to watch, and director Richie Keen keenly stages it like a real action movie fight, so at the very least  the movie delivers on the promise of its title.


It could be that my childhood nostalgia has got something to do with it, but I enjoyed this badly-reviewed movie quite a lot actually. Growing up watching the TV show it’s based on, albeit not remembering much about it except for the name, outfits and cheesy motorcycle chases (and Erik Estrada, of course), it’s another one of those Hollywood comedies masquerading as a movie in another genre, this time a buddy cop movie. 

Starring Dax Shepard (also the movie’s writer-director, but probably more famous for being Mr Kristen Bell) and Michael Pena as the pair of mismatched cops, the former a rookie and the latter an undercover FBI agent investigating a series of heists that may involve some corrupt cops, there’s genuine chemistry between the two and I laughed quite a lot, even if the jokes are really quite offensive, which is par for the course in American studio comedies nowadays. 

If you don’t mind profanity, potty humour, an endless barrage of homoerotic innuendos, a really, really basic plot, and are just looking to have a bit of a laugh, this one might be a real surprise. 

In short, if you enjoyed the 21 Jump Street movie, this one will be right up your alley.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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