As you have probably figured out, we love comedy. And watching comedy flicks is a favorite of ours. However, not all the comedies out there are ‘as advertised’. Many of them are contrived, stale, and a rehash of something we’ve all seen before. Those of you with more rounded cinematic tastes know that films made independently of the “system” usually pack more substance — and the comedies definitely reflect this. We’ve been watching indie comedies for years and many of them have been overlooked and not seen by the general public. Wanna’ know what some of these gems are? Read on and find out.
The Foot Fist Way
For those of you who have watched “East Bound and Down”, you already know that Danny McBride is a genius when it comes to angry, out-of-shape guy comedy. This film was made on credit cards by three guys who went to school together in North Carolina. McBride was the one with enough acting experience to pull off the role, so he took the lead and then became a rising star in Hollywood after Will Ferrell saw the movie and got it into distribution.
Plot: A kid’s martial arts instructor travels to meet his idol, a B-movie action star.
Favorite Line: “Have you got your cup on? Because I will hit you there.”
Pieces of April
This has more drama than comedy, but Oliver Platt delivers several great scenes as the father in this low budget film. It was made for less than $150,000 and stars the future Mrs. Tom Cruise — Katie Holmes, for those of you not in the know — and Derek Luke fresh off of his Antwone Fisher success. We like it because it surrounds Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving films are severely underserved on screen.
Plot: Holmes has her family coming over to her apartment for Thanksgiving dinner and chaos ensues as she prepares and juggles everything.
Favorite Line: “Please give me my stupid f***ing turkey!”
This is considered an indie because it was financed mainly by Lions Gate and they were considered an indie operation at the time. It stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, as well as George Carlin, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek, Alan Rickman, and Chris Rock, and directed by Kevin Smith. The jokes surrounding religion, God, and all that kind of stuff are priceless. For our money, this is Kevin Smith’s best work. Except for the “snow-ball” scene in Clerks. That’s hard to top.
Plot: An abortion clinic worker has to prevent two angels from reentering Heaven. Jay and Silent Bob lend a hand. Enough said.
Favorite Line: “Anyone who isn’t dead or from another plane of existence would do well to cover their ears right about now!”
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
A little seen top-notch comedy. We’re classifying it as an indie, because not many studios wanted to touch it and they did it to fulfill contracts. Then pretty much buried it. Shane Black directs his first film — after writing Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight — and it has all the comedy and action you can expect from him. Robert Downey, Jr. is always funny, but Val Kilmer is at his funniest since Top Secret. It has amazing dialogue and perfectly delivered lines.
Plot: A thief pretends to be an actor to avoid arrest and ends up investigating a murder with a girl he dated in high school and a gay private detective.
Favorite Line: “I peed on the corpse! Can they do like, an ID from that?”
This flick has a lot of chicks in it, but dudes have been known to laugh at it, too. Like us dudes. It revolves around office workers, which most of us can relate to. And has a host of great talent: Lisa Kudrow, Parker Posey, and Toni Collette. Jamie Kennedy is also in it, for all of you that are into that sort of comedy. The director (also a chick) hasn’t gone on to direct much since, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking this indie out.
Plot: A dorky temp meets a bunch of other temps and the group goes up against the full time staff when a crisis occurs.
Favorite Line: “See that old woman over there? That’s me in a few years!”
Call it The Ten Commandments Comedy Film. Paul Rudd is in it and he’s pretty funny. Jon Hamm is in it and is funny before the world saw how funny he could be on SNL. It has ten separate stories inspired by The Ten Commandments…and what is funnier than those set of rules of which we have broken a few? [Note: Killing our neighbor is not one of them. Yet.]
Plot: Ten stories, connected by The Ten Commandments. With comedy.
Favorite Line: “I’d sentence all 12 of you to death by my foot up your ass.”
Little Miss Sunshine
For some reason, a lot of people didn’t see this. From beginning to end, it’s funny, but also has some strong things to say about family (cue the violins). Greg Kinnear is great as the dad and Alan Arkin even better as the grandfather. Steve Carrell steps away from his Michael Scott persona to play the gay uncle and the chubby little girl’s dance sequence at the end is embarrassing, funny, and touching all rolled into one.
Plot: A dysfunctional family travels to California so their daughter can compete in a beauty pageant. Hilarity ensues.
Favorite Line: “Everyone just pretend to be normal.”
Written and directed by the star of the movie, Michael Showalter, this comedy was almost completely ignored by the movie going public. It shouldn’t have been. It’s got some sharp dialogue and Showalter turns in a pretty funny performance. As does Elizabeth Banks in one of her earlier performances. The tag line — “A romantic comedy for anyone who’s ever been dumped” — had us roped in right away. It’s a shame others didn’t follow.
Plot: A guy is going to get married and the movie follows the days leading up to that…with a few surprises along the way.
Favorite Line: “You got my knickers all up in a pinch here.”
Living in Oblivion
Truly an independent comedy. This film is about making an indie film and follows the cast and crew around for a day of shooting. Steve Buscemi is hilarious as he tries to keep everything together and James LeGros is in his best role (Point Break excluded) ever. The choice to have part of the film in color and the majority in black and white has more to do with the ‘indie’ than the ‘comedy’, but it works for us either way. Oh, and Catherine Keener is naked. And has hairy arm pits. Not funny.
Plot: A small crew and a few actors make a low-budget film.
Favorite Line: Everything Dermot Mulroney said.
The Good Night
This was directed by Gwyneth Paltrow’s brother, so that’s why she’s in it. It’s kind of a weird film and classified as a comedy/fantasy, but it makes us laugh. Martin Freeman plays a former pop star now writing crappy jingles and seeks out help from people like Danny DeVito to control his dreams — where he has a fantasy life with Penelope Cruz. Funny…and who can blame him?
Plot: A former pop star practices lucid dreaming techniques to help him control his dreams and continue to live his fantasy life.
Favorite Line: “Did you or did you not f*** a lumberjack named Randy?”