Are comedies making a comeback to the big screen? It seems like it. In a way, they never left. Robert Downey Jr.’s occasional quips in “Iron Man” (2008) took over. As superhero movies elbowed out other genres off screens, Marvel films zeroed in on delivering laughs. The formula had grown stale when Taika Waititi premiered his take on Thor. It’s fitting to see how out of the ashes of “Thor: Love and Thunder”’s failure comes a new batch of straight - and queer! - comedies to reclaim audiences in the theaters. Here’s a rundown of the most recent, latest, and upcoming comedies of 2023.
Many critics - myself included - watched with dismay as Greta Gerwig picked this project as her follow-up to “Lady Bird” (2017) and “Little Women” (2019). It seemed like a comedown, or worse yet, a selling out. Little did we know, the bizarre, prickly movie she had in store for us. “Barbie” is that rare thing, everything to everybody: a glorified commercial, an IP product, a stealth seminar in movie history, a candy-colored feminist manifesto, and most of all, a comedy.
The screenplay, by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, is filled with killer one-liners that Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling deliver with great timing. “She thinks I’m a fascist? I don’t control the railways or the flow of commerce!” laments Barbie in one of the jokes that might fly over our heads if distracted. This movie has plenty to be distracted by, beginning with the production design. I can only imagine it gains weight in further visits. Any self-respecting movie buff needs to see it.
Director-writer Emma Seligman reunites with Rachel Sennott, star of her debut feature “Shiva Baby” (2020), for a sophomore effort that takes sexual innuendo back to high school comedies. Sennott and Ayo Edibiri - fresh off the success of TV’s “The Bear” - are lesbian friends trying to hook up with the popular girls who don’t give them the time of the day. They improvise an extracurricular activity: a self-defense workshop for girls. Or rather, a fight club that puts them on a collision course with the patriarchy. The football players embody male chauvinism at its worst. Nicholas Galitzine, the dreamboat of Prime Video’s “Red, White & Royal Blue,” goes full meathead. Think of this as a teen female riff on “The Fight Club” (1999).
Usually, new comedy movies get short thrifts in critical circles and the awards circuit. At least until a talent that just can't be denied comes along. That is the case of Jennifer Lawrence, equally adept at hard-hitting drama like "Winter's Bone" (2010) and finding humor in human foibles in "Silver Linings Playbook"' (2013). Both movies got her Oscar nominations. Guess which one earned her the coveted statuette?
Lawrence comes back for laughs in this social satire inspired by a Craigslist ad. Maybe that will make it qualify for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar! Helicopter parents offered a car to any young woman willing to date their socially inept kid over the summer. Lawrence plays Maddie, a bartender and Uber driver who desperately needs a car to make enough money to pay her house taxes. In a rapidly gentrifying beach town, the wealthy newcomers who created her problem seem to offer a solution. Wackiness ensues when she meets Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), who happens to be a massive nerd. The movie was a sleeper hit in the summer of 2023 and is currently available on VOD.
In 2002, Nia Vardalos wrote and starred in the indie hit romantic comedy “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” The movie became a worldwide success, making $368M at the box office. Not bad for a low budget film! The sequels have trickled down slowly, and now, 21 years after the original, we get the third chapter. The plot finds our favorite couple, Toula (Vardalos), Ian (John Corbett), and the whole family traveling to Greece to reconnect with their roots. They are fulfilling the last wishes of her deceased father (the late Michael Constantine). Fan favorites Andrea Martin, Lanie Kazan, and Gia Carides return.
Sebastian Silva was an early star of the Chilean New Wave of filmmakers that took world cinema by storm. You can stream at Popflick his first international hit, “The Maid.” Over the years, he has followed his strange sense of humor, collaborating with American stars like Michael Cera in “Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus” (2013) and Kristen Wiig and Alia Shawkat in “Nasty Baby” (2015). His cult status increased by directing episodes of “Los Spookys,” the series that made Julio Torres a star. His latest movie is a self-referential joke, with real-life social media star Jordan Firstman looking for Silva after he mysteriously disappears in Mexico City. The movie is streaming on Mubi after a limited Art House theatrical release.
After the heady sci-fi satire of “Downsizing” (2017), Alexander Payne returns to basics with this warm comedy. The action takes place in 1970. Paul Giamatti stars as Paul Huhnam, a grouchy teacher at a boarding school for boys, left in charge of the kids who can’t go home for Christmas break. Dominic Sessa is the student with whom he forges a special bond. “Only Murders in The Building” breakout star Da’Vine Joy Randolph also joins the cast. Don’t be surprised if Giamatti sneaks into the Best Actor competition at the Academy Awards and gets the nomination that eluded him in his previous Payne collaboration, “Sideways” (2004). The movie gathered great reviews at the festival circuit and will open on November 3.
Fresh from the box-office success of “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” (The Daniels, 2022) and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Stephanie Hsu headlines this buddy comedy - should it be gal comedy’? - about a group of Asian American friends who travel to China to reconnect with their roots and track down the birth mother of one of them. Alas, the four are as American as they can be, and the cultural clash will bring many chances for hilarious shenanigans. Deeply felt questions about rootlessness coexist with silly jokes about sex and drugs in Adele Lim’s directorial debut.
We have our share of comedy offerings at Popflick. We already sang the praises of Sebastian Silva’s Golden Globe-nominated “The Maid.” Your funny bone will also be tickled by “Addicted to Fresno,” a cult comedy from the director of “But I Am a Cheerleader,” with the combined star power of Natasha Lyonne, Audrey Plaza, and Judy Greer. Aardman Studios made its mark with “Creature Comforts,” a series that offers a satirical view of modern life through talking animals. Our Classics selection includes the legendary Buster Keaton in “One Week,” Charlie Chaplin in “The Gold Rush,” and screwball gems “My Man Godfrey” and “Nothing Sacred,” both with a never better Carole Lombard.
A documentary that explores our complex relationship with nature itself and our contradictory behavior of caging what we fear may be lost.Stream Now
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