Humor is a funny thing. No two people have the exact same sense of humor. So, a list like this is the most subjective of all types of lists. My personal sense of humor is somewhat refined but, more than anything, I want something that I don’t see coming and something clever. Wit makes me laugh. Wit delivered well is even better. Frankly, I don’t laugh much at the movies. Most movies marketed as pure comedies fail to truly make me laugh, even if they do amuse me on some level. As a result, there’s not a single movie on this list that was marketed as a pure comedy. All of the films here were well-written and well-executed in all arenas. And when they tried to be funny, they succeeded through wit, charm, and delivery, whereas most traditional comedies relied on slapstick and LCD humor. So, behold a more-discerning film fan’s . . .
Five Funniest Films of 2016
5. Swiss Army Man
In Swiss Army Man, Daniel Radcliffe plays a corpse by the name of Manny who has been befriended by the lonely and dejected Hank (played by Paul Dano). This is Radcliffe’s best performance, yet, and the film as a whole is quite a charmer. As Hank teaches Manny about life, Manny reacts with childlike innocence and good-natured optimism, playing in direct contrast to Hank’s hopeless outlook on life. Manny is literally dead but loves life. Hank is literally alive but wants to die. The humorous exchanges between the two are a riot and the film only loses a few points because some of it is toilet humor. Most is not, however. Swiss Army Man is an ingenious explosion of fun, mixed in with some touching and meaningful pathos.
4. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Lost in the woods and searching for rescue, Hec and Ricky (Sam Neill and Julian Dennison) make the perfect modern-day odd couple in this heartwarming dramedy from writer-director Taika Waititi. The dichotomy formed by Hec and Ricky’s wildly opposing personalities is pure gold and creates ample opportunity for plenty of involuntary laughter. The only reason it’s not higher on the list is because the dramatic aspects of the film (which are of equally-high quality) often take precedent, lowering the quantity of humor in the film, but never the quality. The ultimate sign that it’s a genuinely funny film? It even made my dad laugh. Movies never make my dad laugh.
3. The Nice Guys
I didn’t expect to like The Nice Guys. The only reason I saw it was because it was getting outstanding reviews. Even then, I was skeptical. But, I bought my ticket, and sat down in a nice, comfortable luxury theater . . . and laughed. I laughed a lot. As private eyes investigating the apparent homicide of a porn star in the seventies, Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make the perfect pair for the perfect buddy film. Crowe is the straight guy and Gosling is the funny man who turns in one of the most entertaining performances of the year. I’m so glad I saw this one; being open-minded pays off, more often than not.
2. La La Land
I was prepared for a great movie when I sat down in the theater to watch Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. But I was not prepared for the quick wit and sharp humor that comes so fast and so often throughout the length of the film. As in The Nice Guys, Gosling delivers the laughs with a casual ease, solidifying himself in my mind as one of the best comedic actors in the business, today – even if that’s not particularly what he’s known for. And Emma Stone is right there with him, dusting off her own comedic skills, previously seen in films such as Easy A and Zombieland. There’s plenty of heartfelt drama in there, too, but along the way, Stone and Gosling know how to tickle the funny bone and audiences are responding.
1. The Edge of Seventeen
The fact that American audiences largely overlooked The Edge of Seventeen is all the evidence I need that there’s something wrong with the system. “What system?” you ask? The system. The marketing system or the audience system or some other system. I don’t know! What I do know is that there was nothing wrong with The Edge of Seventeen. And, of all the things it did right, comedy was perhaps what it did most right of all. Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson both delivered solid, genuine laughs and played off of each other perfectly. As with all of the other films on this list, this movie was a mixture of comedy and drama, but I think it nailed the comedy component just a little more consistently and a little more often than the rest. We need more funny films like The Edge of Seventeen.
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