Worst Person in the World (4*)
Don’t Look Up (4*)
Licorice Pizza (3.5*)
Free Guy (2.5*)
Raya and the Last Dragon (2*)
Coming 2 America (1.5*)
Mitchells vs the Machines (1*)
The Academy usually doesn’t recognize comedy-genre movies – I guess they feel Oscars need to go to more ‘serious’ movies. Often I tend to agree with that, I guess because I’m not exactly a fan of comedies – and I don’t know exactly what that says about me.
The genre usually includes most of the animated movies. They are, usually, oriented to family entertainment and tend to be on the light side. Four of this year’s animated films were also considered comedies, but I didn’t like three of them. Raya and the Last Dragon was beautiful in its detailed depictions of different lands and costumes, but the story was convoluted and didn’t flow. Luca, literally a fish-out-of-water story, was great for the first twenty minutes, but then became boringly predictable and uninteresting. And Mitchells vs the Machines was, quite possibly, the worst movie I’ve ever seen with an incredibly disjointed story, chaotic graphics, and characters that were just not interesting. All of them might be good for family entertainment, but adults shouldn’t expect very much. The fourth animated flick, Encanto, was actually charming. I enjoyed the graphics, the story was fun, and the music was ear-catching. So, even if you’ve seen it already, it is worth a repeat performance.
The live-action comedies I would recommend include 2022’s Best Picture winner, CODA. CODA was surprising in almost every way. It had its comedic moments, especially when the daughter has to describe her parents sex-lives to the doctor, and is a delightful movie for any family where the kids aren’t real young. Although included in the comedy genre, this isn’t just that – the messaging about family and how members have to, sometimes, make big sacrifices as part of loving each other is important and very relevant in today’s fragmented world.
The same kind of caveat could be applied to Worst Person in the World. It definitely had funny scenes, but it is really about a millennial woman confronting a “quarter-life crisis”. She has lots of tough decisions to make about career and love-life. The acting by Renate Reinsve seems so natural that it is probably accurate that she herself is having to go through the same kinds of decisions. So, like CODA, is this a comedy, or more of a drama?
Cruella, on the other hand, is also a drama, but is hilarious and downright fun to watch. The chemistry between Emma Stone and Emma Thompson is just wonderful to behold. I’m understanding that they have both signed on for a sequel, and I have no doubt it will be on my list when it comes out. Although maybe not appropriate for really young children, it would also be great family entertainment.
Don’t Look Up is not going to appeal to all people and I think that explains why it ended up near the bottom of both audience and critical ratings. Personally, I thought it was a very good movie that incorporated, often in irritating ways, the very short-attention-spans of our modern day culture that it tries to lampoon. But, at the largest level, if you don’t believe that climate change is an important problem, then you should probably avoid this movie – the asteroid is just a metaphor!
Licorice Pizza was the second movie I reviewed this year. I loved Paul Thomas Anderson’s script and direction and, because I lived through the 70s as a young adult, I loved the music. But the key to this film is the breakout performance from Alaina Haim. She has several scenes where she demonstrates that we will be seeing her in future films. Set in the 70’s (a “Licorice Pizza” is a black vinyl long-playing record), there are multiple scenes that are both funny and set the stage for some important character development. This film may not be at the top of your must-see list, but it should be down there some where.
Two films that don’t need to be on that list are Free Guy and Coming 2 America. I’m not sure why either one of them were made. Free Guy pretends to be full of special effects, but none of them are relevant to the story, which, itself, isn’t really very interesting. So many other films have reflected on the problems of artificial intelligence in a much more “intelligent” manner. Although Jodie Comer almost held the movie together all by herself, there just wasn’t enough for her to work with. Skip this one.
And that goes for the Eddie Murphy/Arsenio Hall sequel, Coming 2 America. Why did a studio green light this? I suspect that die hard Eddie Murphy fans might enjoy some of the obtuse and obvious comedy, but most people can hit the skip button.
So, out of this year’s eleven comedies, I can recommend six of them. If that isn’t enough, then there are four movies from last year that had humorous elements, although I don’t think the primarily belong in this genre. But if you want some additional movies to round out your list then take a look at Soul, Another Round, Emma., and Mank. That gives you ten “comedy” films to tickle your funny bone. Enjoy!