Movies · Reviews

Year in Review: The Best Comedies of 2009

By  · Published on January 1st, 2010

End of the year lists usually come in tens or some sort of multiple of ten but here, as you will see, there are only seven slots. No, I’m not purposely trying to be subversive, nor was this result of laziness, and I assure you that it wasn’t an attempt to gyp you out of those bottom three slots. There just weren’t ten great, unequivocally funny comedies released this year. Land of the Lost and Year One, were sporadically humorous, but mostly stupid, Funny People, despite its title, was more of a drama, and Observe and Report, well, if you want to put that on your own personal end of the year list I completely understand and won’t judge you.

This list was compiled using one very simple guideline: The movie must provoke laughter consistently. This laughter can be in the form of a cackle, a howl, a succession of guffaws, or good-old-fashioned, down-home chuckle.

7. Drag Me To Hell

It’s nice to see that all of those colossal-budget Spider-Man movies haven’t dulled Sam Raimi’s campy edge. Drag Me to Hell is, on the face of it, a horror movie with all of the shocks, gypsy curses, and kitten slaying that you might expect from the genre, but it’s also incredibly fun. Raimi masterfully tempers all of the eeriness with the perfect amount of old lady bodily fluid, making this one of the year’s most unexpected comic delights.

6. Zombieland

Zombieland proves that in spite of the abundance (perhaps, over abundance) of Zombie films released in recent years, there is still room for innovation. This unforeseen hit is as much about what it means to be human as it is about what it means to be eaten by Zombies. It’s also surprisingly witty and features the best cameo appearance by a Ghostbuster in movie history.

5. Away We Go

Co-written by literary heavyweight, Dave Eggers, and directed by Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes, Away We Go is by turns hilarious and touching. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph star as a couple traveling across the country in search of the perfect place to raise their unborn child. Both actors deliver subtle performances colored by a sweetness that will have you rooting for them.

4. I Love You, Man

Paul Rudd is the kind of guy that straight men go for – both in the platonic way that Jason Segel does in I Love You, Man but also, I think, in the let’s-grab-a-bite-and-if-the-mood-is-right-make-out-a-little way. He’s cute, but not intimidatingly so, he knows how to “slap-uh” the bass, and, as evidenced by his performance in this extremely quotable comedy, he’s always good for a laugh or two.

3. (500) Days of Summer

Lately, it seems that Joseph Gordon-Levitt can do no wrong. In (500) Days of Summer he is Tom – a lovesick greeting card writer pining for a girl named Summer, played by the impossibly cute and quirky Zooey Deschanel. The ebb and flow of Tom and Summer’s relationship feels authentic and much of the humor is rooted in that realism. Directed by music video auteur Marc Webb, (500) Days of Summer proves that romantic comedies don’t have to be schlock and that they can, and probably should, feature Hall & Oates dance numbers.

2. Adventureland

In the tradition of The Graduate, Adventureland’s depiction of post-college ennui is right on point. Writer-director Greg Mottola ably balances quips about the practicality of a liberal arts degree with constant nut punching. Jesse Eisenberg is excellent as the ultra-literate college grad who finds himself working at a second-rate amusement park and falling for Kristen Stewart’s girl-who-constantly-tugs-at-her-hair-while-staring-down-at-the-ground-and-sighing shtick.

1. The Hangover

Sorry to be so predictable but would you really have wanted things to end any other way? Directed by Old School’s Todd Phillips, The Hangover is relentlessly hysterical, structurally inventive, and already poised to become a comedy classic. It was released the same weekend as Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost but unlike that uninspired, big-budget flop The Hangover was genuinely funny; and at the end of the day, isn’t that all we really ask of a comedy?