Summer 2013: The Funny People

I wrote an extensive article on how I sincerely hope that the comedy genre will see a resurgence this year and provided a good layout of evidence as to why that was a possibility. In today's portion of the Summer Movie Extravaganza we touch on five of those films that I discussed at length in The Resurrection of Comedy in 2013. Each of these films has the opportunity to become the Ted of this year and the majority of them will probably end up on the favorable sides of critics given the stars, the directors, and their past credits as well as the kinds of stories they are telling and counting on to evoke comedy from. I am slightly concerned for one of them as it has all the credible components going for it, but the trailers have not been overly promising. We've yet to see a trailer for one of them, but since it serves as a kind of final film in a companion piece trilogy there is much excitement surrounding it and I'm sure we are due for a glimpse at some footage any day now. I am generally more accepting of comedy than I feel the majority of film critics tend to be, but even I can admit the crop of comedies lately has been pretty rough. Whether it be the disappointing box office returns of last summers The Watch or Judd Apatow's continuing fall from grace with critics as his This is 40 failed to become the culturally or critically established hit that his first two films did. There is something that just needs to hit with audiences and some comedies have it in spades while others don't. It is all about timing, freshness, and innovation when it comes to the laughs and though I have some skepticism on one of the titles included here I truly believe the rest of these comedies could easily be huge crowd-pleasers and box office champions when their times comes this summer.

The Funny People

Clockwise from top: This is the End, The Heat, The Worlds End, The Internship, The Hangover Part III.
We'll begin with the film that opens first and kicks off the summer for all things funny to follow while hopefully setting a positive tone at the same time. Many people are skeptical of The Hangover Part III as it is the supposed final installment of a trilogy that was never intended to be a trilogy and the second part has been universally panned by both critics and viewers alike. I know I'm in the minority here, but despite the same plot and devices being used in the The Hangover Part II the comedy was different, drawing references from the original only in certain points that reminded us of why it was so appealing in the first place. To appease those that had issues with the lack of originality in the plot of Part II director Todd Phillips and his writing partner Craig Mazin (Identity Thief) have crafted a new platform for the wolfpack to go out and have an adventure on. From the glimpses we've received in the trailers it seems clear that there is no bachelor party, no wedding, and no sign of the side effect that the film is named after. Instead, Allen (Zach Galifianakis) is being taken to a treatment center after the death of his father (Jeffrey Tambor) when he and his best friends are derailed by a menacing John Goodman who has a score to pick with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and wants the wolfpack to track him down for him. This is all well and good and the trailer provided a few solid laughs and a great gag that I'm guessing will have a better and more extravagant payoff in the actual film, but will the fans be happy with these changes or will it stray so far from what made the first film a hit that people will feel too distanced from what they loved about the movie? I highly doubt it because, for me, it has always been about the chemistry between the three leads and as long as that is intact here (and it looks to be out in full force) things should go down as smoothly as they ever have. Plus, there is a nice little inside joke that keeps Doug (Justin Bartha) out of the action once again. I'm rooting for this one not only in the respect that it does well at the box office and redeems the series from the failure that many consider the second film to be, but also that it is accepted as a critically solid comedy, a good film, and one that shuts all the haters up.

While I am eagerly awaiting The Hangover Part III more than many of the films this summer and this year even, there is one other comedy that has me equally excited and that is the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg directed This is the End. A movie that has been ruminating since 2007 when Rogen and Jay Baruchel made a short film, Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, that seemingly always had the aspirations of becoming a full length feature. While Rogen and partner Goldberg both directed and wrote the film they have gathered up so many of their friends to play versions of themselves that the real treat of the film is going to be the opportunity to see these celebrities make fun of themselves and get an inside look at the kinds of conversations they have surrounding their public personas and their careers as of late. This all of course centered around the fact that the world is coming to an end. Just looking through the films IMDB page promises the biggest ensemble cast of comedians that has likely ever been assembled. Besides the main cast which not only consists of Rogen and Baruchel but Craig Robinson (The Office), Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down), Jonah Hill, and James Franco there will also be spots featuring Emma Watson, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mindy Kailing, Kevin Hart, Rihanna, David Krumholtz, Martin Starr, and Aziz Ansari. If that doesn't intrigue you I'm just going to assume you don't have a taste for comedy at all, but if there is one summer comedy that could turn out to be a blockbuster I would put my money on this one. Sure, it is opening the Wednesday before Man of Steel and so there is no chance it is going to win the weekend battle, but it will most definitely do good business and could easily sail past a $125 million domestic finish if word of mouth is strong.

While on the topic of the world coming to an end we might as well go ahead and discuss both another film that touches on the apocalypse and a kind of final film to a trilogy. While Edgar Wright's The World's End is not in any way a direct sequel to either of his other collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) he does consider this to be somewhat of a companion piece to those films and a final film in their so-called "Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy". While we have yet to see any footage of the film and only a handful of posters and stills there is still much excitement surrounding the film as it has a built in fan base from the previous two films and just being a big fan of Wright myself I'm really looking forward to what this film has to offer and how it compares to their previous works. Based on a screenplay from Wright and Pegg the story is said to center around five childhood friends who decide to go through an epic pub crawl in order to reach the fabled, The World’s End pub. In the course of this adventure they come to discover that the fate of humankind is on the line. This may sound like a very British thing to structure a story around, but these guys make very British films and that brand of humor is what makes it so appealing to those fans here in the States. As someone who has a good amount of family in the United Kingdom and lived there for a few years when I was a child it is part of the culture I try to keep up with and stay aware of and there is no better way to do this than to watch these guys hang out with one another and expel the silly they have come up with. Besides the obvious casting of Pegg and Frost the film also features Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, and Rosamund Pike. Pegg has said this is much darker than anything they have done before and that it isn't a genre parody either. Personally, I don't care if it follows the same format or not, I'm just excited to see these three guys team up once more and deliver whatever it is their minds have unleashed.

For the final two films in this category one is decidedly hot and capable of producing a massive hit while the other feels an attempt to re-capture some magic from a few years ago and re-ignite a career hotstreak for a few comedians that haven't had a solid hit in a long while. The first of these is The Heat and it practically has everything going for it. Hot off the heels of Bridesmaids director Paul Fieg and star Melissa McCarthy have teamed up once more and brought the always reliable box office draw of Sandra Bullock along with them. The film was originally scheduled to be released earlier this month, but 20th Century Fox pushed it back to the middle of Summer to face off with the Channing Tatum actioner, White House Down. This not only shows real faith in the film as far as reliability for success but also bodes well for the quality of the film. Sure, McCarthy might have rushed to take on a few too many projects after Bridesmaids made her a star (see Identity Thief) but she has yet to not be successful at the box office and I imagine that will come to an end with this film. On the other side of things is the re-teaming of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson for The Internship. Even the latest character posters for the film are playing up the fact that these guys were in Wedding Crashers together and that it was funny so you know this one will be too. I'd like to believe that and I'm a big fan of The Frat Pack group that consists of these guys along with Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, and Owens brother Luke, but the trailer simply doesn't look as funny as it should and while there is no report of a rating yet I can only imagine my hopes for the film going down if it receives a PG-13. Vaughn suffered a devastating blow with The Watch last summer and Wilson hasn't had a huge box office hit since 2008's Marley and Me (granted he received a ton of good attention for Midnight in Paris in 2011). It also doesn't help that the film opens against the Will Smith vehicle After Earth and is followed up the next week by fellow comedy This is the End and then Man of Steel which could render it invisible on peoples radar, but I hope the quality of the film overturns those expectations. We shall see.

Check back tomorrow for The Family Features...    

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