In between this superhero movie, that superhero movie and the other one, it’s sure to be another action-packed summer at the multiplex, but if we’re lucky, a couple of imminently quotable comedies will break through the ranks to truly save the day. Here are our ten best bets (two of which we’ve already seen and can totally go to bat for, and none of which are The Hangover Redux):
Bridesmaids (May 13)
Early word out of last month’s SXSW Film Festival was rightfully positive, as producer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Superbad, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) lets the ladies take the lead and gets more laughs out of bridal humiliation than countless other sitcoms. Then again, countless other sitcoms can’t claim a comedienne as capable as Kristen Wiig as their exceedingly neurotic anchor. It runs a little longer than it ought to, but even at nearly two hours, I’m willing to bet that it won’t feel nearly as long to any dragged-along boyfriends and spouses as the previous weekend’s Something Borrowed and Jumping the Broom. Trust us on this one.
Friends with Benefits (July 22)
Speaking as someone pleasantly surprised by Fired Up! and totally bowled over by Easy A, I’m ready to give director Will Gluck the benefit of the doubt at this point. Just as we’ve been faced with competing asteroid and volcano flicks, this is the year’s second no-strings-attached rom-com as Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis try their luck with a strictly-sex relationship. It’s not like Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman set the bar particularly high with their effort, but between Gluck and a cast that includes Emma Stone, Andy Samberg, Richard Jenkins, Patricia Clarkson, Rashida Jones and Woody Harrelson, I’m very hopeful.
30 Minutes or Less (August 12)
Ruben Fleischer’s follow-up to Zombieland reunites him with Jesse Eisenberg, playing a pizza delivery guy forced by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson to pull off a bank robbery. As I understand it, Aziz Ansari plays Eisenberg’s reluctant cohort, and I’m not sure that I need to say much more than that. Eisenberg. McBride. Ansari. The director of Zombieland. Yeah, I’m in.
The Trip (June 10, limited)
Originally a six-part, three-hour TV series broadcast in the U.K., this improv-heavy outing starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon was edited down to feature length and generally well-received at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Coogan, Brydon and director Michael Winterbottom worked together before on the decent 24 Hour Party People and the brilliant Tristram Shandy, so the prospect of seeing these three work together again is a tantalizing one; if you haven’t already seen the YouTube clip in which the duo challenge one another to do the perfect Michael Caine impression, then enjoy:
The Change-Up (August 5)
No one, and I mean no one, asked Hollywood for another body-switch comedy, but when our star-crossed leads are played by modern-day saints of sarcasm Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, one holds out hope that this can wind up being something of a late-summer, R-rated antidote to all the blockbuster bombast.
Horrible Bosses (July 8 )
Can you tell that I’m a sucker for Jason Bateman? He plays one of three friends determined to kill their rotten employers rather than quit their jobs, only for best laid plans to go awry. Going the Distance’s Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis are his partners-in-crime, while Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell play the titular heavies. In a cotton-candy summer, this could be a welcome dose of dark chocolate. (Mmmm, chocolate-covered cotton candy…)
Submarine (June 3, limited)
This acclaimed coming-of-age comedy marks the feature debut of Richard Ayoade, star of The IT Crowd and the genius behind Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Even if our own Amanda Mae Meyncke hadn’t flipped for it at Sundance earlier this year, I’d still be champing at the bit to see it.
Crazy, Stupid, Love (July 29)
The premise doesn’t scream brilliance – a newly-divorced Steve Carell gets dating guidance from playboy Ryan Gosling, who may find himself finally falling for Emma Stone (her again!) – but in the hands of directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (they wrote Bad Santa before writing and directing I Love You, Phillip Morris) and writer Dan Fogelman (Tangled), this could be rank well above the season’s other romantic comedy offerings.
Our Idiot Brother (August 26)
Two words: Paul Rudd. Okay, more than two words: affable hippie Paul Rudd begins to intrude on the lives of sisters Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer. If that weren’t enough, the cast also includes Steve Coogan (!), Rashida Jones (!!), Adam Scott and the always welcome Kathryn Hahn. The reviews out of Sundance were fairly favorable; regardless, I’d still follow this cast off a cliff. (I’d rather not, but I probably would.)
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (June 24)
To bring things full circle, here’s the other comedy on this list that we fell for at SXSW, a brutally honest look at the late-night host’s cross-country concert tour and the personal toll it took on him. Don’t get me wrong: Conan is still in prime form here as a comedian, but he’s also occasionally shown to be an exhausted entertainer who simply can’t please all of his fans, all of the time. That sure doesn’t stop him from trying, though.