5 Comedy Stars’ Perfect Movies
Even our favorite comedy stars don’t hit it out of the park every time. For every Tommy Boy, Chris Farley had an Almost Heroes. For every Liar, Liar, Jim Carrey had a Mr. Popper’s Penguins. For every Zoolander, Ben Stiller had a Zoolander 2. You get the idea.
But for most funny stars, there’s that one perfect vehicle that exploits every instrument in their comic tool belts, the film that arrives at that exact moment when they’re ready to explode into our collective comedy consciousness. Here are five humor heavyweights that found just the right movie at the right time.
“It's definitely the highlight of my career, I can say that. Honestly."
That’s Black talking about School of Rock, his career-defining 2003 flick about a wanna-be rock star faking his way as a substitute teacher at a snooty prep school. Why was School Black’s perfect vehicle?
* It allows Black to bring his Tenacious D persona -- the over-the-top rock wailer -- to the fore in a way that actually makes narrative sense.
* Unlike Tenacious D’s own movie, The Pick of Destiny, School of Rock grounds Black in our reality, allowing him to be a character, not just a caricature.
* The movie cleverly plants Black’s overgrown adolescent persona into a classroom full of kids too mature for their own good.
"I was trying to capture -- and I knew Jack could do this -- that feeling when you were a little kid and the one adult who treated you like a peer, who treated you like you were a real full human being,” says director Richard Linklater.
“I still get compliments from kids,” says Black. “‘Oh, I started playing music because of School of Rock.'"
Because of one explosive bit of physical comedy, you might remember Bridesmaids for Melissa McCarthy’s Oscar-nominated turn as Megan. (More on McCarthy below.)
But Bridesmaids works because of Kristen Wiig. “You expect her to nail the physical comedy,” says Los Angeles Times columnist Glenn Whipp, “but it’s her work in the smaller moments of despair that gives Bridesmaids an emotional truth that makes it such a triumph.”
While Wiig’s SNL characters were iconic, they were one-note and often abrasive (Gilly, Penelope, Target Lady and friends). Bridesmaids was our first chance to see Wiig as an actual person, full of tics and insecurities but still worthy of our affection.
Before Murphy fell in love with hiding behind layers of prosthetics in The Nutty Professor or cashing in with kiddie flicks (Dr. Dolittle, Daddy Day Care), he exploded in Beverly Hills Cop by just being Eddie Murphy.
He still gets to flex as different comic characters, but he does it as Axel Foley, the quick-thinking cop from rough-and-tumble Detroit who adopts whatever persona he needs to trick the slick idiots of Los Angeles.
Director Martin Brest “coaxes a silver-bullet performance from star Eddie Murphy that’s practically criminal in its accuracy,” said The Hollywood Reporter. The electrifying turn made Murphy the world’s biggest movie star for a decade.
Sure, McCarthy broke out in a big way in Wiig’s Bridesmaids, but it’s always easier to be funny in short bursts. Spy, reuniting McCarthy with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, puts the comedy star front and center.
What could have been merely a series of pratfalls -- dopey McCarthy falling down on the job as an improbable secret agent -- instead becomes a movie that Bitch Media calls “finally worthy of Melissa McCarthy’s comedic genius.” If you’re a fan of McCarthy’s ability to hilariously spew profanity, you’ll love Spy. “It works like jazz,” says Feig. “I can’t get enough of it.”
The film destroyed at the box office ($235 million worldwide) and Feig long ago wrote the script for a sequel. What are you waiting for, Hollywood?
More than most stars, Ferrell has several films that could qualify as the one that best captures his comic genius. Step Brothers is a definite contender, though he shares the accolades with John C. Reilly. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby would qualify for most comedy stars -- it does a great job of showcasing Ferrell’s particular brand of idiocy.
But we’ll go with the absurdities of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Ferrell somehow finds a way to take center stage, playing the jazz flute, misreading the teleprompter, and sporting outrageous erections, while allowing one of the all-time great ensemble casts to shine. You’re sharing the screen with Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate, Fred Willard, David Koechner and you still dominate the laughs? Come on!
You stay classy, Will Ferrell.
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Top image: Dreamworks Pictures