CATEGORIES Best & Worst of 2009The comedy tide turned a bit in 2009. Titans dropped (Will Ferrell in 'Land of the Lost') while underdogs soared (Zach Galifianakis in 'The Hangover'). Alpha males were KO'd (Vince Vaughn in 'Couples Retreat') while beta males were throw punishing right hooks (Paul Rudd in 'I Love You, Man') -- in quality, at least; box office is another story.
Check out our list of top 10 laughers of the year -- which, we should mention, doesn't include the divisive 'Invention of Lying,' 'Bruno,' and 'Observe & Report.' While many people laughed, too many yawned (or walked out; cue the 'Bruno' hate in the comments section). Then there's Pixar's 'Up,' which is hilarious, but the trail of tears a viewer walks to get there keeps it off the comedy table. We're still crying. The comedy tide turned a bit in 2009. Titans dropped (Will Ferrell in 'Land of the Lost') while underdogs soared (Zach Galifianakis in 'The Hangover'). Alpha males were KO'd (Vince Vaughn in 'Couples Retreat') while beta males throw punishing right hooks (Paul Rudd in 'I Love You, Man') -- in quality, at least. Box office is another story.
Check out our list of top 10 laughers of the year -- which, we should mention, doesn't include the divisive 'Invention of Lying,' 'Bruno,' and 'Observe & Report.' While many people laughed, too many yawned (or worse; cue the 'Bruno' hate in the comments section). Then there's Pixar's 'Up,' which is hilarious, but the trail of tears a viewer walks to get there keeps it off the comedy table. We're still crying.
10. 'The Proposal'
Critics didn't love this movie, but audiences, especially those of the female persuasion, went nuts for it. That's usually the case for Bullock's vehicles, and while it trudged over familiar romantic-comedy plot lines, it did rise above all others in its ilk. Ryan Reynolds, Betty White, and Craig T. Nelson all turned in their funniest performances in years. One part 'The Devil Wears Prada,' one part 'New in Town,' and one part 'Green Card,' this chick flick invokes true laughs in an otherwise male-dominated comedy year.
9. 'The Slammin' Salmon'
Everyone should give Broken Lizard a standing ovation for discovering the true comedic talents of Michael Clark Duncan. As former heavyweight champion Cleon Salmon, he steals the movie away from the veterans of 'Super Troopers' and 'Beerfest.' The entire film is set in a restaurant and aces the jokes 'Waiting' missed horribly on. Like other Broken Lizard offerings, most viewers may not discover it until DVD. That'd be unfortunate -- watching Duncan scream and punch his way through this one is best done in a large group.
Like 'Office Space,' Mike Judge offers up another great film about a man coming to terms with middle age as well as his personal and professional failures. Jason Bateman plays Joel, the uptight owner of a flower-extract company, while Ben Affleck is surprisingly spot on as his pothead friend. Mila Kunis and Kristen Wiig both nail their roles as Joel's object of desire and object of frustration. Bateman's deadpan performance, meanwhile, ensures he will continue to be in every movie Hollywood produces.
7. 'Funny People'
Finally, longtime friends Judd Apatow and Adam Sandler team together on a very personal project for both of them (and one not called 'Don't Mess With the Zohan'). Playing a slightly fictionalized version of himself, Sandler deals with his own mortality by befriending a struggling comedian (Seth Rogen) and chasing his married ex-girlfriend (Leslie Mann). Apatow's typical bromance and dramedy abound, but he almost bit off more story than the movie can chew (see the film's 146-minute runtime). It's his 'Moby Dick.'
6. 'The Informant!'
After proving his dramatic range, Matt Damon set out to show his comedy chops (we've cleared 'Stuck on You' from our memories). First, he displayed his blue humor alongside Sarah Silverman. Next, he nailed quirky as Mark Whitacre, a chubby, bipolar, undeniably likable FBI informant. Based on a true story, the film reunites director Steven Soderbergh and Damon for a distinctly different brand of caper film than the 'Ocean's' series. Smart, fun, and surprising, 'Informant!' may just land Damon an Oscar nomination(!).
5. 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'
The writing team that created 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,' Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, reunited to bring Roald Dahl's book to life. While Anderson's humor has always been somewhat innocent, few guessed it would translate so seamlessly to a family-friendly film using claymation and talking animals. George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray lend their vocal talents in what will be the only real competitor to 'Up' for Best Animated Feature.
4. 'World's Greatest Dad'
Bobcat Goldthwait is best known as the crazy standup comic and 'Police Academy' star with the annoying voice. Robin Williams is known as the talented actor with the annoying habit of choosing terrible comedies. Hopefully, this film will begin a sea change for both of them (even if 'Old Dogs' says otherwise). This is hands-down as dark as a dark comedy gets. As a director, Goldthwait brought us beastiality in Sleeping Dogs Lie and an alcoholic children's performer in Shakes The Clown, so we shouldn't be surprised. Still, we were, and you'll be just as surprised with what you laugh at here.
Wait a second, another zombie comedy? Didn't 'Shaun of the Dead' already nail that genre? Yes, but first-time director Ruben Fleischer has proven that the world needs at least one more. While apocalypse films are everywhere lately and zombie flicks have lost steam to vampires, Woody Harrelson and company do an amazing of job of keeping things fun and not treading familiar ground. This will be played on-loop at Halloween parties for years.
Nothing can be written here that hasn't already been written about this film. It dominated the box office all summer and shocked everyone besides director Todd Phillips, who bet his salary on its success. The only eyebrow-raising thing we could possibly do is put it in the number two spot. That's not why it's here. It belongs here. While a hilarious and career-breaking movie, it leaned heavily on shock humor and that weakens it.
1. 'I Love You, Man'
Loved by most critics, unfortunately it wasn't the hit it should have been in the theaters. This is the ultimate "bromance" comedy -- so let's kill that word now, shall we? Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are the new 'Odd Couple' and prove that great comedic male relationships don't have to be all about conflict. Written textbook tight, the movie doesn't lag for a second, and gives Andy Samberg his funniest film role yet. You'll love it.