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What Makes a Movie a Comedy?
What makes a movie a comedy can be quite subjective and leaves plenty of room for debate. What I think is hysterical, you might find dull as a box of hair, and what makes you laugh from head-to-toe, I might find deeply offensive. There are, however, a few universal techniques that make comedy films funny:
1. Timing: Comedic timing is critical. This applies to the delivery of lines, the editing and the pacing of the movie. A joke that's rushed or a gag that's held too long can fall flat.
2. Relatability: Comedy often comes from scenarios that are relatable to the audience. Situations that are exaggerated versions of everyday life, or characters that embody relatable traits, often strike a chord with viewers.
3. Unexpectedness: Humor usually arises from surprise or the unexpected. This could be an unexpected punchline, a surprise event or a character reacting in a way that's not anticipated.
4. Wordplay: Clever use of language, puns, innuendos, double entendres and witty dialogues can all contribute to the humor in a movie.
5. Physical Comedy: Slapstick humor, facial expressions, body language and physical gags can be inherently funny. This type of humor often transcends language and cultural barriers.
6. Character Flaws: Characters who are oblivious, pretentious, clumsy or have exaggerated flaws can lead to humorous situations or dialogues.
7. Satire and Parody: Comedy can be derived from satirizing or parodying social norms, popular culture, famous persons or different film genres.
8. Irony: Situational, dramatic and verbal irony, where the outcome of a situation is opposite to what was expected, can often lead to humorous scenarios.
9. Absurdity: Surreal, bizarre or absurd situations that wouldn't occur in normal life often create comedic moments.
10. Embarrassment: Situations where characters find themselves in embarrassing, awkward situations can also be a source of humor.
Some Successful Comedies
Here are four successful comedies, including their place in film history, that have reached audiences around the world:
1. Ghostbusters (1984)
Director: Ivan Reitman
Screenwriter: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
Principal Actors: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis
Brief Storyline: A group of parapsychologists start a ghost-catching business in New York City.
Cost: $30 million
Success at Box Office: Over $295 million
Importance in Film History: Ghostbusters is widely regarded as one of the best comedy films of the 1980s. Its unique blend of humor, science fiction and horror elements helped pave the way for future genre mashups.
2. Home Alone (1990)
Director: Chris Columbus
Screenwriter: John Hughes
Principal Actors: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and Catherine O'Hara
Brief Storyline: An 8-year-old boy must protect his home from two burglars after his family mistakenly leaves him behind on Christmas vacation.
Cost: $18 million
Success at Box Office: Over $476 million
Importance in Film History: Home Alone is considered a classic family comedy and has had a significant cultural impact. It cemented Macaulay Culkin's status as a child star.
3. The Hangover (2009)
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenwriters: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Principal Actors: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha
Brief Storyline: After a wild bachelor party in Las Vegas, three friends wake up with no memory of the previous night and the bachelor missing.
Cost: $35 million
Success at Box Office: Over $469 million
Importance in Film History: The Hangover revitalized the R-rated comedy genre and led to a resurgence of similar films.
4. Groundhog Day (1993)
Director: Harold Ramis
Screenwriter: Danny Rubin, Harold Ramis
Principal Actors: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliott
Brief Storyline: A cynical weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again.
Cost: $14.6 million
Success at Box Office: Over $105 million
Importance in Film History: Groundhog Day is considered a classic. Its innovative storyline concept has been imitated in numerous other movies and TV shows.
Here are my favorite comedies:
1. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Director: Billy Wilder
Screenwriters: Billy Wilder, I. A. L. Diamond
Principal Actors: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon
Brief Storyline: After witnessing a mob hit, two musicians disguise themselves as women to escape from the gangsters.
Cost: $2.9 million
Success at Box Office: $49 million
Importance in Film History: Known for its clever script, memorable performances and daring premise, the film pushed boundaries for its time and is still considered a standout in the comedy genre.
2. Annie Hall (1977)
Director: Woody Allen
Screenwriters: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Principal Actors: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Brief Storyline: A New York comedian falls in love with a midwestern singer.
Cost: $4 million
Success at Box Office: $44 million
Importance in Film History: Annie Hall revolutionized the romantic comedy genre with its innovative narrative structure and introspective humor, earning several Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Screenwriters: Monty Python (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Michael Palin)
Principal Actors: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Michael Palin
Brief Storyline: In this surreal and absurd interpretation of the Arthurian legend, King Arthur and his knights embark on a low-budget quest for the Holy Grail.
Success at Box Office: £2.3 million
Importance in Film History: The film introduced the unique British humor of Monty Python to a worldwide audience, and it continues to be a cult classic, influencing many comedy writers and filmmakers.
Whether it is the stars, the writing or just the storyline that makes a comedy work, comedies that stand the test of time are rare. When you find one, watching it again and again is never out of the question.
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