20. Greener Grass
What the next two movies have in common is they’re both directed by a pair of women who also play the main characters. Also, they’re both ridiculously funny in their own uniquely visionary way. Based on a 2015 short they wrote and starred in, Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe‘s Greener Grass is a surreal suburban satire that’s like an Adult Swim production steered by the daughters of Todd Solondz and Yorgos Lanthimos. It’s set in a weird world in which all adults wear braces and the competitiveness of neighborhood moms is only slightly exaggerated. DeBoer is particularly arresting as an overly apologetic pushover trying to fit in. She gives away her new baby. Her son turns into a dog. Meanwhile, there’s a killer on the loose. Greener Grass is the most absurdly poignant comedy since Wet Hot American Summer albeit less plot-driven.
19. The Breaker Upperers
Jojo Rabbit writer/director Taika Waititi served as an executive producer on The Breaker Upperers, a movie by Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek about two women who run a service where they break up with people for their clients. It’s a cruel job, in which they sometimes go so far as to claim their clients have gone missing or died. Sami and van Beek have incredible chemistry as a duo, the kind where you almost don’t see them as individual performers because they’re so symbiotic. The last time I’d laughed out loud so consistently was with What We Do in the Shadows (co-written by and co-starring Waititi), which makes me want to watch any comedy that comes out of New Zealand. Or maybe just celebrate the genius of editor Tom Eagles, who does an impeccable job here with regards to the movie’s perfect comic timing, especially in montages. He also cut What We Do in the Shadows, Jojo Rabbit, and Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Speaking of Waititi movies, thanks in part to the success of his Thor: Ragnarok, as well as the Deadpool series, the superhero genre continues to aim for laughs. The DC franchise, which has had a greater reputation for darkness and seriousness, finally went full comedy with Shazam!, which is basically a remake of Big as a comic book film. It’s also a bit of a loving sendup of the genre, albeit less brazenly as Deadpool. Its comedy serves the story more than the other way around, as does its action. Zachary Levi is such a winning personality for the title character, who is the grown-up alter-ego of a teenage boy, so much that we don’t care that he doesn’t line up well with his younger self (Asher Angel), and Jack Dylan Grazer is a charming sidekick — more Keith Coogan in Hiding Out than Jared Rushton in Big. Shazam! isn’t just a laugh now, forget later kind of blockbuster comedy either, as it wraps itself so warmly with its family-focused themes. I can’t wait for the inevitable sequel.
The next two are great comedies focused on British-Asian characters and their connection to a specific music act. Yesterday is an underrated feature for which people have focused too much on its outlandish premise. But the movie, which was co-written by UK rom-com mastermind Richard Curtis and directed by Danny Boyle, knows its own ridiculousness in being about a singer/songwriter getting famous on Beatles songs after a worldwide glitch causes that band to have never existed. The Faustian-adjacent premise isn’t the point any more than its setting also being a world suddenly devoid of cigarettes and Coca-Cola is important. The world without the Beatles idea is just the best delivery system for its lampooning of fame and the music industry and its familiar rom-com foundation involving a big lie of some kind. Leads Himesh Patel and Lily James are also just so likable that the movie could also take place at the bottom of the ocean on another planet or whatever additional out-there element and they’d still make this one of the most watchable sitcom movies of the year.
16. Blinded by the Light
Blinded by the Light is nowhere near as preposterous as Yesterday, though as someone who has absolutely no love for Bruce Springsteen music, it is hard for me to believe anyone is so obsessed with him as the main character here. And I even know people who love him that much in real life. The comedy, adapted from Sarfraz Manzoor‘s memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll, follows a young man who is turned on to the Boss while living in England in the 1980s, and the songs inspire him in his own pursuits as a writer. It’s a testament to the movie’s charms that I wound up loving the characters and their story and everything even as I remained the very opposite of a Bruce Springsteen fan. It’s a pretty specific film due to its being a true story but it’s really a universal film due to its being a relatable story.