Having recently watched eighties classic Airplane! I came to the conclusion that I didn’t think I had seen a comedy in recent years that had made me laugh so much. The gag-a-minute machine gunfire of jokes makes this a stand-out comedy, and it would seem that this level of laughter has not been achieved in Hollywood films of late. Alongside Airplane!, the 80s also have Life of Brian and the rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap with cemented places in the comedy Hall of Fame. Even my personal favourites of the last 10 years have been the films of Edgar Wright, which deftly manage laughs against action and character development, whilst his quasi-parodies of the zombie and Brit-cop genres mirror some of the greatest comedies of all time.
Meanwhile, The Guardian has recently been publishing Top 25 lists of film genres; an intriguing read involving those films of modern decades being compared to those from previous eras. The top two comedies of the 21st century in the list were Borat and Team America, which, while being equally funny and quotable on first viewing, most certainly suffer from the law of diminishing returns. The former in particular loses its element of surprise as quickly as Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition.
However, the number one comedy in The Guardian’s list was Annie Hall; undoubtedly a great film, with some genuine laughs (the coke sneeze, anyone?), but far from the funniest film ever. This does serve to make the point that ‘greatest comedy’ and ‘funniest film’ are two very distinct entities.
Even so, I personally feel that Hollywood have become stagnant with regard to comedy. Todd Phillips, director of The Hangover and recently labelled “America’s Funniest Man” by Empire magazine (total bollocks) is releasing a new film, Due Date, starring Zach Galifianakis (yet again). It has an inevitably similar plot to earlier efforts, and generally stinks of unoriginality.
One can only hope that a new age of comedy stars will come through and breathe life into this struggling genre. And if Scott Pilgrim happens to be the forerunner, I’ll be all the happier for it.