Comedy is one of the longest-running genres in cinema, producing numerous screen legends from The Marx Brothers to Madeline Kahn, as well as numerous classics, from The Gold Rush to Hot Fuzz. Fans of the genre thus look forward every year to the new crop of films, eager to see what they may bring, and this year is no different. Here are ten comedic features we’re looking forward to seeing in 2014, in alphabetical order.
1) Bad Words
Much of Jason Bateman’s career resurrection has centred around his ability to successfully play the comic foil. While his ability to do is deservedly lauded, as shows like Arrested Development would not work without his presence, it often leads to the actor garnering the less colourful roles in any given project, ending up as more of a reactive presence. Bad Words, however, seems poised to put Bateman on the other side, and his decision to helm the feature shows his confidence in the product. This promises to be worth a look simply to see the performer as the comedic driving force, and how he fares behind the camera is icing on the cake.
Wes Anderson has become one of the more unique voices in the cinematic landscape, with an unmistakeable style and an ability to tackle serious subject matter in a lighthearted style. While the attachment of his name alone would be enough to make any feature worth looking forward to, The Grand Budapest Hotel is particularly intriguing because of its cast, a number of whom are working for the first time with Anderson. How performers like Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, and Saoirse Ronan fit into Anderson’s aesthetic, as well as alongside veteran Anderson collaborators like Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, make this one of the more promising comedies of 2014.
Comedian David Cross has proven his ability to write hilarious material many times, be it for The Ben Stiller Show, Mr. Show with Bob and David, or The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Cross has yet to try his hand at feature film screenwriting, however, something that is set to change with Hits. Making his feature film directorial debut, Cross’ creative involvement makes this worth seeing on its own, but it’s not the only positive aspect of the movie, as its cast includes Matt Walsh, David Koechner, Erinn Hayes, Wyatt Cenac, and Michael Cera. All in all, this is a very promising feature, and one that will be worth watching in 2014.
Writing duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have shown their ability to write funny yet heartfelt films before, and with last year’s This Is The End, they showed their directing chops as well. However, what sets The Interview apart from all the previous efforts of the duo is the presence of a strong female comic in the form of Lizzy Caplan. Despite the group’s male-centric comedies, turns by performers such as Emma Stone and Emma Watson have been hilarious, and it will be fascinating to see how someone like Caplan, as well as Veep’s Timothy Simons, shakes up the prevailing dynamic.
No mention of comedic films in the year would be complete without mention of Woody Allen, who has maintained a film-a-year output for over a decade, and shows no signs of slowing down, despite already being a key influence on a generation of comics. Not only does Allen’s involvement make the movie sound interesting, but so does the period piece setting, which puts it in the early part of the 20th century. In addition, a cast that includes Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, and Hamish Linklater has us looking forward to this feature, regardless of the fact that a release date has yet to be set.
The Western genre and the comedic genre have had very few crossovers, the most notable of which is Mel Brooks’ classic Blazing Saddles. Another entry in this area would itself be worth noting, but it’s the presence of Seth McFarlane that adds another layer to this feature. McFarlane has proven to be adept at parodies in his tv shows, and with his feature directorial debut being a huge hit, what he brings to the table this time around should be worth keeping an eye on, especially with McFarlane in the lead role time time. A cast that includes Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, and Sarah Silverman only makes this more intriguing.
The 2011 film The Muppets brought Jim Henson’s creations back into the public consciousness in a big way. While the sequel may be dampened by the departure of Jason Segel, the driving force of the first movie, the human cast this time around are, if anything, more impressive. Comedy legends Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais lead a cast that includes Christoph Waltz, Tom Hiddleston, Ty Burrell, Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo, and Zach Galifianakis, which would make the film an exciting prospect even without muppets. With Bobin and Stoller both returning, this promises to be worth a watch, if only to see how the new team follows up on the 2011 feature.
8) Search Party
Over the past few years, several performers have risen to comedic prominence through major roles on sitcoms, among which four prominent ones are Alison Brie, Krysten Ritter, Shannon Woodward, and Adam Pally. With differing comedic styles, however, it will be intriguing to see how the four work together, and it is this opportunity that Search Party presents. Marking Old School co-writer Scot Armstrong’s directing debut, the film’s cast doesn’t end with the aforementioned four, as the likes of TJ Miller, JB Smoove, Jason Mantzoukas, Jon Glaser, and Rosa Salazar are also among the ensemble, and the prospect of seeing how these performers play off of each other makes this one to look forward to.
Melissa McCarthy’s star has seen a meteoric rise in the last 2 years, as she turned her breakout performance in Bridesmaids into leading roles in hit comedies. However, the one thing McCarthy hasn’t had in her movies to date is creative input. That is set to change with Tammy, the script for which McCarthy wrote with director (and husband) Ben Falcone. McCarthy’s co-star in the project is also worth noting, as it’s none other than Susan Sarandon. Both Sarandon and McCarthy have significant range, as fans of McCarthy’s work on Gilmore Girls can attest to. How they work together, as well as how McCarthy’s turn at writing comes out, makes this movie worth a watch.
10) Vampire Academy
Two of the most influential high school movies of the past 25 years has been Heathers and Mean Girls, both of which have garnered praise from critics and the public. A teamup between people behind both films thus promises to be a fascinating one, and this is what Vampire Academy provides, as Mean Girls director Mark Waters helms this feature, from a script by Heathers writer Daniel Waters. The supernatural element of this particular film only adds to the interest, for despite the pop-culture explosion of vampires in recent years, there haven’t been many attempts at mining them for comedy. The talent and premise give this film the potential to be a comedic surprise, which it hopefully fulfills.
Of course, these are only some of the comedies we are looking forward to in the year, with movies such as 22 Jump Street and Dom Hemingway also showing promise. Other features, such as The Lego Movie and How To Train Your Dragon 2, while not primarily comedies, also carry strong comedic elements that have the potential to make them worth a watch. None of these, of course, account for the possibility of pleasant surprises in the genre, as well as features that have been picked up for distribution but haven’t yet been given a release date. In addition, there are films premiering at festivals over the next few months, such as David Wain’s They Came Together, that would also be intriguing to see. All these put together point to a promising year in comedy, one that hopefully lives up to the potential these early weeks display.
– Deepayan Sengupta