The biggest problem with a sequel to a successful comedy is that it’s hard not to either disappoint, or basically remake the first film. Such is why The Hangover sequels have been so disappointing. Often, the best solution is to get the gang back together, but do something completely different. Here’s out top ten list of films that brought back a lot of the same collaborators for something tonally similar, but altogether more interesting than a simple sequel.
10. Coming to America
Eddie Murphy made one of his best films of his career with John Landis’s Trading Places. It traded perfectly on Murphy’s charm as a glorified huckster and smart-ass. But by the time 1988 rolled around, Murphy was one of the biggest stars in the world and could no longer get away with playing the scrappy underdog. But Landis and Murphy teamed up again, this time with Murphy playing the prince of a fictional African nation who comes to America to find his bride. Though Murphy often plays the straight man in the film, he’s often playing that role against himself as this film had Murphy in all sorts of make up (including playing an elderly Jewish gentleman). Though that schtick eventually wore itself out, this is Murphy and Landis at the top of their game, and they acknowledge their previous work together by bringing back two characters from Trading Places. Also Soul Glo. Also, Sexual Chocolate.
9. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter
Few filmmakers understood Jayne Mansfield’s comic persona like Frank Tashlin. With her endowments, she obviously had something going on, but most directors could only think to use her as prop. What marks Tashlin’s work as so exemplary is that Mansfield is clearly in on the joke in The Girl Can’t Help It, and so she worked with Tashlin again in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. Both are great films, but Hunter is their masterpiece as it pairs her with Tony Randall at the top of his game. Tashlin also understood the cartoon fantasy appeal of someone like Mansfield, and he knew how to play that for all it’s worth. With sharp writing, and some of the best visual gags in cinema, Hunter is a treat from beginning to end.
8. Best in Show
Though Christopher Guest showed his talent for improv comedy filmmaking as an actor in This is Spinal Tap, he brought new life to the genre when he directed Waiting for Guffman, which holds up as a comic masterpiece. It was there he found his ensemble, many of whom he’s still working with, and brought them together next in Best in Show. The faux-documentary follows his motley crew of weirdos as they all assemble for a dog show. And his group, which includes but isn’t limited to Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Bob Ballaban, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, and more, delivers great joke after joke.
7. Horse Feathers
By 1932, the Marx Brothers had figured out cinema, and their movies became less filmed plays and more actual films. The year after they made Monkey Business, they reteamed with director Norman Z. McLeod for Horse Feathers, which is one of their best films. Here Groucho plays Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, who is hired to be the dean of college, but all anyone wants is for them to have a winning football team. He recruits Chico and Harpo to help him win, and he tries to keep Zeppo, playing his son, away from the college widow. From the door gag (“Swordfish”) to the end football game, this is Marx Brothers anarchy in its prime.
6. Love and Death
By 1975, Woody Allen had found one of his great leading ladies in Diane Keaton, and post-Sleeper it was obvious the duo made for a great comic couple. And though it would be easy to put either Annie Hall or Manhattan on this list, in some ways Love and Death is his last great pure comedy. What’s fascinating about it is that all of the themes about mortality and trust and sex were all there, but this is an infinitely sillier film than his latter efforts. But it works because Allen knew he and Keaton had incredible onscreen chemistry, and this — his satire of Russian literature with a lot of Ingmar Bergman thrown in — is endlessly rewatchable.
5. Hot Fuzz
Edgar Wright was the director of the TV show Spaced, and that led to Shaun of the Dead, which teamed him with his Spaced stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Obviously, the trio belonged together working on the big screen, and so they followed it up with the second in their Cornetto trilogy Hot Fuzz, which took a similar approach to genre, but instead of mining horror for comedy, they looked at action films, and the bromances that were often a side effect of such heavy doses of testosterone. The end result is one of those great Saturday films that works well as both appetizer and desert during an action movie marathon.
4. Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Stopped Worrying and Loved the Bomb)
Though many of Stanley Kubrick’s later films are dryly comic (watch Eyes Wide Shut again, and think of it as a dark comedy), Kubrick made only one out-and-out comedy, and it’s the darkest film of his career. Dealing with the time’s nuclear proliferation and the cold war, he saw he had a great comic partner in Peter Sellers, who he worked with previously on Lolita. This pairing, which let Sellers play three distinct roles, created one of the blackest and most hilarious films of all time.
3. Step Brothers
Are we at the point now where we can safely call Step Brothers a masterpiece? Probably not, but though Adam McKay and Will Ferrell had been working together since Ferrell’s SNL days, they only added John C. Reilly to the mix in Talladega Nights. Their follow up was Step Brothers, and the two belonged together on screen. Their childlike actions mixed with Adam McKay’s comic genius has so many high points that singing “Boats and Hoes” or bringing up Adam Scott‘s excellent performance is just the tip of the iceberg.
2. Monty Python’s Life of Brian
To follow up Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the six member group decided their next target would be Jesus. But as they’ve said, they realized they liked Jesus but he was kind of boring, and also he said some pretty good things. So instead they decided to mock organized religion and bureaucracy, and were called zealots and heathens for it. But in the process they delivered not only their best film, but one of the most scathing and insightful portraits of how worship can go wrong.
1. Trouble in Paradise
By the 30′s, the studios were known for their styles and genres. Paramount perfected glamor between Joseph Von Sternberg and Ernst Lubitsch, who was known for his sophisticated bedroom comedies. Lubitsch reached his zenith in 1932 when he worked again with Miriam Hopkins on Trouble in Paradise. The film followed two thieves (Hopkins, Hebert Marshall), who rob each other and fall in love. But trouble brews when their next mark is a rich heiress (Kay Francis) who doesn’t mind being robbed when it’s by someone as charming as Marshall. From the opening titles that bring the text up “Trouble in” and then show a bed in the background, this is a movie about f___ing, which is even more shocking when you consider it’s more modern and more knowing that pretty much any film made in the eighty years after the fact. That it’s a perfect movie is just icing on the cake.
What’s your favorite “Get the band back together” comedy?