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Best recent comedy movies (and where to watch them in Australia)
A rundown of some of the newest comedy classics on the block that can help brighten up your day.
Groundhog Day. Shaun of the Dead. Superbad. You’ve likely heard of those three comedies because they rank among the best of all time. But while that terrific trio is more recent than classics likes Blues Brothers and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, they’re not last-year-or-so recent, so there’s a good chance you’ve already seen them (maybe even more than once).
This page is designed to give you an updated list of comedies from much more recent times – think 2019 and 2020 recent – so you can get a laugh in what most of us can agree is an incredibly unfunny year. That said, if you’re after great picks from a genre that’s more befitting 2020, you can take a look at our list of the best horror movies, some of which you’ll find on new streaming service Shudder that’s dedicated to scares.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Judging by the unfortunately disappointing box office results for – take a deep breath before saying it out loud – Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (phew), it’s safe to say a lot of people have yet to see it. But you really should. Despite a long title that’s somewhat misleading depending on how familiar you are with the Birds of Prey comic runs – this is, after all, way more a Harley Quinn (brilliantly embodied by Margot Robbie) movie than a Birds of Prey flick – this is an incredibly entertaining film.
After breaking up with The Joker, Harley Quinn sets out to find her place in the world, only to find that there are a lot of goons gunning for her now that she doesn’t have the protection of The Clown Prince of Crime. While this ultimately leads to the title making more sense, it’s the often hilarious internal monologue and off-kilter actions of Quinn that are the true highlights.
In fact, the entire cast, whether playing it straight edged or camping it up, is incredibly entertaining in a story that very rarely stops to catch its breath and is oozing with style.
While the preceding flick has one of the longest titles of more recent times, Onward guns in the other direction. If Onward is unfamiliar to you, it’s because it’s one of those movies that hit cinemas right as lockdown started happening around the world. But as a Pixar movie, and one of incredibly high calibre (as is the trend with Pixar movies), this is not one to be missed.
Onward follows the grounded fairytale of mythical creatures who, like humanity, have discovered technology and, these days, have everyday lives that are a lot like our own. When two elf brothers try to resurrect their dead father for a day, things go wrong during the spell casting and it’s a race against time to have a visitation from more than just their father’s legs.
What follows is a road trip movie filled with big laughs, great characters, and the right amount of drama to help solidify Pixar’s dominance as the best storytellers for children of all ages. It helps that the main cast trio is comprised of actors with fantastic comedic chops: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Chris Pratt, and Tom Holland are all hilarious.
Sonic the Hedgehog
There’s an unwritten rule when it comes to adapting video games to the silver screen: they have to suck. Apparently. That’s certainly been the trend with adaptations to date – with a couple of okay exceptions found in Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – but there are a mountain of duds that otherwise stink up the adaptation pedigree. In 2020, we’ve had a couple of solid comedic game adaptations with Sonic the Hedgehog and Pokémon Detective Pikachu (helped along by a reliably hilarious Ryan Reynolds).
When the first trailer zipped online, Sonic the Hedgehog got off to a false start with the distractingly terrible initial design of titular Sonic, but the adjusted version is the right fit for an ultimately heartwarming flick.
James Marsden is tasked with playing the straight man to the wisecracking antics of Ben Schwartz’s Sonic, while Jim Carrey back to true over-the-top-90s form as the arrogant tech-loving douchebag Dr Robotnik. The story about Sonic being trapped on Earth after being stranded from his home world isn’t particularly novel or deep, but it doesn’t need to be. Sonic’s real charm comes from the loveable super-speed hedgehog and Carrey’s best comedic performance in years.
Writer/director Rian Johnson copped a lot of flak after the release of Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. But whether you love, loathe, or are indifferent to The Last Jedi, Knives Out is an incredibly entertaining yarn from opening to end credits that must be seen. While this is ultimately a love letter to Agatha Christie classics, it’s a lot less straitlaced than those mega mysteries and more accessible to people who aren’t bit fans of murder mysteries (even though it’s very much a murder mystery at its core).
Harlan Thrombey is the recently deceased patriarch of an eclectic family, but his seemingly suspicious demise causes often hilarious tensions when Benoit Blanc – played by Daniel Craig who’s having too much fun to not steal every scene he’s in – is hired to investigate. Without giving anything away, Johnson flips the script early on in proceedings in a way that cleverly subverts the typical tropes of the mystery genre.
Still, when you have a main character who cannot tell a lie without vomiting, you know that Knives Out is intended to entertain above all else. A truly killer ensemble cast breathes life into a host of genuinely laugh-out-loud scenes as your also left wondering about how the various twists and turns of this terrific tale will play out.
Bill & Ted: Face the Music
If horror is the genre that encapsulates the dread of 2020, Bill & Ted: Face the Music is the free-spirited embodiment of hope that’s pure entertainment escapism. Far from a threequel that didn’t need to happen, Bill & Ted: Face the Music deftly tackles the seemingly gift-wrapped fates of William S. Preston (Alex Winter) and Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) in a way that explores accountability, family, and forgiveness.
Based on the first two movies – basically stoner movies of their time – you can safely come in expecting the same hairbrained schemes, goofy one-liners, and occasional timely air guitar moments in Face the Music. But as the story unfolds, it’s the new characters and often less-than-stellar older Bills and Teds who tend to give the biggest laughs in a plot that revolves around the titular duo attempting to steal their supposedly world-changing song from their future selves.
The charm is still there, but there’s a surprising amount of heart and a great dose of hope that helps elevate Face the Music above mere fan service and, arguably, to the top of the trilogy.
Before writer/director Taika Waititi entertained the world with the likes of Thor Ragnarok and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, he bought the rights for a novel called Caging Skies and wrote the Jojo Rabbit script. At the time, Waititi couldn’t get the movie made, but the positive public reaction to the then in-production Thor: Ragnarok may have swayed Fox Searchlight into reaching out to green light his movie years later.
There was one catch, though: eccentric Waititi had to play Hitler. Y’see, Jojo Rabbit is both fantastical and grounded, telling the story of a patriotic boy called Jojo who’s growing up in Nazi Germany. Jojo is a bit of a loser, which may explain why Hitler is his imaginary friend. His Nazi-skewing convictions are thrown into question, though, when he discovers that his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) has been a hiding Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), in their home.
If you’re a fan of Waititi’s earlier movies, this is undoubtedly his most confident storytelling yet and certainly his most important. While it’s consistently entertaining, its core message and some of the darker turns of the story loom large in our current global climate. Come for the laughs, but stay for the feels.
If you want to watch a fourth-wall-breaking superhero movie, go watch Deadpool or Deadpool 2. But if you’d prefer a self-aware superhero movie that’s also family friendly, Shazam! is definitely worth your attention. Sure, Shazam! is another superhero origin movie, but it’s one that’s so fun and fully aware of what it is that it’s impossible to not get caught up in its infectious energy.
Outside of a couple of out-of-place darker moments, Shazam! is a hopeful and lighthearted story that will have you grinning when it doesn’t have you genuinely laughing out loud. That’s no mean feat, either, considering it’s a story about a street-smart teenage orphan who earns the supernatural ability to magically transform into an adult superhero. More than a live-action version of SuperTed, though, Shazam! scores easy points for putting the focus more on family than it does on superheroics.
Those action set pieces are still there, but the real appeal of Shazam! is found in the basic banter between protagonist Billy Batson (Asher Angel), whether in teenage or Shazam (Zachary Levi) form, and his foster sidekick Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). Freddy is just one entertaining part of Billy’s latest foster family, and when Shazam! isn’t going out of its way to make you laugh, it’s accurately aiming for your heart.
Bad Boys for Life
Who says you can’t have your comedy served with a side of action? The long-gestation threequel to the Bad Boys duality doesn’t disappoint, even if it cements that, much like Bill & Ted, the smaller star is the lead of this particular series. This time around the dynamic duo of Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) are up against a vengeful mother-and-son combo who are both out for Mike’s blood.
This leads to Mike being sidelined for a bit of the movie, but Lawrence’s comedic chops are still strong enough to keep the laugh quotient high. Still, like the other movies in the series, Bad Boys for Life is at its best when the buddy bants are flowing as freely as the bullets. While they may be older, Smith and Lawrence still know how to riff off each other for plenty of great laughs.
The story isn’t much to write home about, but the action is solid and the comedic value is high enough that you’ll be glad to hear that Bad Boys 4 is already in the works.
Ladies and gentlemen, Guy Ritchie is back. After a disappointing dalliance with intended franchise starter King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and an okay-but-ultimately-unnecessary Aladdin live-action remake, Ritchie is back where he shines most in the crime genre he helped to redefine with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.
The Gentlemen has a star-studded ensemble cast whose primary purpose is to tell one hell of an entertaining yarn and, in so doing, make you laugh a whole lot along the way. The plot is simple enough: drug kingpin Michael Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is looking to go legit and make a pretty penny in the sales process. But he soon finds he’s up against visible and invisible threats when he tries to sell.
Part of what makes it a classic crime tale is Ritchie’s signature style of hilarious exposition, timely flashbacks, and his flair for making even the mundane moments memorable. The cherry on top of all of this, though, is the frequently funny cast, led by a delightfully degenerate performance from Hugh Grant who steals every scene he’s in. There’s not as much action as the average Ritchie flick, but what it lacks in body count, it more than makes up for in big belly laughs.
Jumanji: The Next Level
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is one of those weird success stories, where reviving a dormant franchise led to results that are better than the original. That’s not to say the original Jumanji isn’t an enjoyable movie, but Welcome to the Jungle took the magical board game of the original, modernised it in a logical way for the story’s universe and contemporary audiences, and delivered a modern classic that was incredibly entertaining from start to finish.
Fast-forward to a fast-tracked sequel in Jumanji: The Next Level, and while the results aren’t as the leap between the first and second flicks, The Next Level is still a clever and entertaining follow-up that could have easily been a lazy cash-grab sequel. In terms of plot, the high school students are back in the game, but they’re playing as mostly different avatars, which puts an entertaining spin on the familiar territory established in the last movie.
What’s more impressive is the inclusion of bumbling but loveable oldies Milo (Danny Glover) and Eddie (Danny DeVito). Glover and DeVito are already funny as their bickering real-world characters, but this hilarity is elevated to new heights in the Jumanji game when Dwayne Johnson is doing his interpretation of DeVito’s character and Kevin Hart is pulling off his best Glover impersonation.