4 Comedies That Have to Be Watched More Than Once to Appreciate
Do jokes lose their funny once you’ve heard the punchline? When it comes to comedy movies, the answer is, “Depends on the joke.” There are so many gags packed into some comedies that a single viewing isn’t enough to appreciate them all. Here are four classic comedies that deliver rewards with every repeat viewing…
“It was the first time I’d seen a movie where I missed so many jokes because the audience was laughing so hard at the previous gag,” says Molly Shannon in Surely You Can’t Be Serious: The True Story of Airplane. “My brain had to catch up to the jokes as they came rapid-fire, nonstop. I had never seen that much comedy. If I laughed at a joke too long, I missed the next one. So, at first, I watched the movie in a theater and thought to myself, I have to see this movie again — tomorrow.”
Even if you’re paying attention, Airplane! rewards repeated viewings with the tiny jokes it hides in the margins. Ever notice the baby who gets thrown in the air when the plane crashes into the airport? Robert Stack’s “reflection” walking out of a mirror? How about the “So there” in the credit warnings?
It even had a post-credit joke before that was a thing.
This is Spinal Tap
You get the obvious jokes the first time around, but you notice things like cold sores showing up on various band members’ lips on subsequent viewings. Was director Rob Reiner trying to hint at something beyond musical brotherhood for Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins? It’s a fun way to read it now, but the real story is a deleted subplot had each member sleeping with the lead singer of their opening band, all getting herpes for their trouble.
But part of the fun on subsequent watches is connecting Spinal Tap weirdness to real-life heavy metal dysfunction. Nigel’s plea for differently shaped bread was based on Eddie Van Halen’s demand that brown M&Ms be removed from backstage candy bowls.
You also get to play “Spot the future star,” with little-known actors like Fran Drescher, Dana Carvey, Bruno Kirby, Ed Begley Jr., and Fred Willard popping up and disappearing like comedy Whac-A-Moles.
A kids’ movie? Sure, but grown-ups will find hidden surprises the more times they watch. Take Farquaad, for example. After an adult hears the name a few times, who wouldn’t think, “Wait a minute — did they just say call him something obscene?” And that scene where he’s in bed looking at provocative pics of Princess Fiona in a magic mirror… what exactly is Farquaad up to anyway?
Anyone who grew up with Disney movies will appreciate finding all the Easter eggs, from Peter Pan trying to sell off a Tinkerbell-ish fairy to a Gepetto, who seems unsatisfied with his wooden-boy creation. Heck, the kingdom of Duloc is a parody of Disney theme parks.
Catch Princess Fiona pulling off fighting moves from The Matrix and Street Fighter II. Is that one of the three bears — turned into a rug? The subsequent sequels are full of pop-culture nods as well, from Spinal Tap to Rocky Horror Picture Show. It takes multiple watches to appreciate them all.
The Austin Powers Movies
Movies that are full of visual details always reward rewatches. I’m betting you’ll find something new every time you watch one of the Austin Powers musical opens. How many ways can a filmmaker mask Mike Myers’ genitals anyway?
You might need a magnifying glass to pick up some of the visual jokes. One of the knobs on Dr. Evil’s spacesuit is labeled Peepee. An Austin to-do list has a crossed-out task that reads, “Catch Dr. Evil in the first act.” The tiny tag on Mini-Me’s jail fatigues reveals his prisoner number is ½. A news scroll extols the virtues of Myers’ hometown of Toronto (“best city in the world”), including a Stanley Cup for the Maple Leafs. All the Powers movies have fizzy visual jokes hidden around the spy action — enjoy them a third or fourth time around.