In the movie world, fall is typically not a great time for humor, as the scant number of comedies that come out during the season are overshadowed by serious awards contenders from well-known directors and big-budget franchises. This fall will see high-profile, non-comedy releases like Spielberg’s Abe Lincoln biopic, Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and the first part in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, plus further installments in the James Bond, Twilight, and Paranormal Activity sagas. Despite all these serious movies hogging the spotlight, there are still a few comedies of note coming our way this autumn, including Judd Apatow’s next directorial effort This is 40, Bill Murray taking another stab at Oscar glory as FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson, and Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand costarring in the Lorne Michaels-produced The Guilt Trip.
Adam Sandler is voicing Dracula in this computer-animated movie in which the famous vampire runs a five-star hotel for monsters, but try as he might I doubt Sandler will be able to make a scarier movie than Jack and Jill. Trouble occurs when Dracula throws his daughter (voiced by Selena Gomez) a big birthday party and she starts to fall for a young non-monster (voiced by Andy Samberg). Hotel Transylvania is directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Dexter’s Lab and Samurai Jack, and also features the voice talents of AdamSandlerPals like Kevin James, Jon Lovitz, Molly Shannon, Steve Buscemi, and David Spade. Please contact the AdamSandlerPals to perform at your next corporate event.
One of Tim Burton’s first-ever movies was the short Frankenweenie, a Frankenstein parody about a boy who brings his dog back to life with science that was shelved by Disney in 1984. Three decades later, Burton has reunited with Disney and remade Frankenweenie as a full-length stop-motion movie, featuring the voices of Martin Landau, Christopher Lee, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, and oddly no Johnny Depp. If anything, Frankenweenie disproves my theory that Tim Burton disintegrates into dust when he is more than five feet away from Johnny Depp.
Long-time 30 Rock writer/performer Kay Cannon’s first-ever movie, Pitch Perfect, about an all-girls college acappella group, is one of this fall’s more promising comedies. The large ensemble cast includes Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Adam DeVine, Elizabeth Banks, and John Michael Higgins, amongst others. I’ve been saying for a while now that the world needs an edgier Glee.
The screenplay to this ensemble comedy, writer Jason Micallef's first, landed on the Black List, an annual ranking of Hollywood's best-like unproduced scripts in 2008. Starring Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Alicia Silverstone, Hugh Jackman, Rob Corddry, and Kristen Schaal, Butter is about a young African-American orphan who discovers her talent for butter sculpture thanks to her adoptive family. The girl then takes on the driven, hard-edged wife of the champion butter sculptor in that year's competition, in a story that intentionally parallels the 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. That's silly, though, because everyone knows that if the 2008 election had been a butter-sculpting competition, Hillary would be our commander-in-chief right now.
The script for this indie comedy-drama also landed on the 2008 Black List, which ranks the industry’s best-liked unproduced screenplays, but the film debuted to mixed reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. The Oranges stars Leighton Meester, Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Alia Shawkat (who also narrates), Adam Brody, Allison Janney, and Oliver Platt and follows a pair of families who are best friends and neighbors until some big-time drama goes down. Listen up, Arrested Development junkies, because this Alia Shawkat-centric dysfunctional family comedy is the closest you can get to AD until this new season rolls around sometime next year.
Co-written by Lena Dunham and Ry Russo-Young (and directed by Russo-Young), Nobody Walks stars Olivia Thirlby as a woman in her early 20s who moves to L.A. and stays in the house of a wealthy couple (John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt). Nobody Walks won a special Jury Prize at Sundance and will give Lena Dunham-hating jerks something to fill their blogs with in the downtime before Girls’ second season.
Here Comes the Boom
These days, it’s hard to find a comedy geek who’s not constantly bemoaning Kevin James for taking his sweet time to make a Paul Blart sequel, but James’s next movie, Here Comes the Boom, might just be the next best thing. Directed by Frank Coraci (who also made Zookeeper!), Boom stars Kevin James as a biology teacher who was once a gifted college wrestler who becomes a mixed martial arts fighter to earn enough money to save his high school’s music program. So, this is pretty much Kevin James’s Breaking Bad.
Oscar-winning writer/director Martin McDonagh won a lot of critical acclaim for his last movie, In Bruges, and he’s back this fall with Seven Psychopaths, a crime comedy about a struggling Hollywood screenwriter who gets wrapped up in a dog kidnapping. The film features an all-star cast that includes Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, and more people too, I’m assuming, because movies usually have more than five people.
Josh Schwartz, creator of Chuck, The O.C., and Gossip Girl is making his directorial debut with this Nickelodeon teen comedy about a young lady who’s forced to take her younger brother to a hip Halloween party and then loses him. That may not sound very appealing, but the script is by long-time Colbert writer Max Werner and the supporting cast features ringers like Johnny Knoxville, Kerri Kenney, Ana Gasteyer, and Thomas Middleditch, which should elevate this movie to being more than just a Halloween-themed Project X.
This new Disney computer animated comedy from Rich Moore, a former animation director of Futurama and Glory Era Simpsons, follows an arcade game villain who escapes from his game to prove he’s a good guy and jumps from game to game. The voice cast is wildly-talented too, including John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Lynch. Most fun of all, Wreck-It Ralph will feature cameos from real-life video game characters like Mario’s nemesis Bowser and a Pac-Man ghost. No word yet on whether the ship from Galaga or one of the Pong paddles will be making cameos.
Silver Linings Playbook
Director David O. Russell’s first movie since 2010’s The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook is a comedy-drama based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, and Chris Tucker star in this tale of an ex-teacher (Cooper) who moves in with his parents and tries to work things out with his ex-wife after returning from a stay in a mental institution. Sounds like every teacher I’ve ever had.
Hyde Park on Hudson
After Bill Murray lost his Lost in Translation Oscar to Sean Penn in 2004, there was plenty of talk around the blogosphere about how Murray was robbed. Since then, Bill Murray hasn’t made a more blatant attempt at vying for Oscar glory than starring in Hyde Park on Hudson, a drama with comedic elements that stars Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt during a visit from King George VI. The trailer makes the movie almost look too Oscar-y, but time will tell whether or not this late-in-the-year release will be a major awards contender.
This is 40
Judd Apatow’s first directorial effort since 2009’s Funny People, This is 40 is a Knocked Up spin-off that stars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as their same characters from that film. Given that Apatow is the reigning king of Hollywood comedy, he’s assembled an eclectic group of funny people to fill up the supporting cast, including Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy, Lena Dunham, Albert Brooks, Charlyne Yi, Robert Smigel, Jason Segel, and John Lithgow. Megan Fox somehow ended up in this too! If Magic Mike became known colloquially as “the Channing Tatum stripper movie,” I really hope This is 40 becomes known as “the Paul Rudd taint movie.”
Billy Crystal and Bette Midler star in Parental Guidance as a pair of grandparents helping their daughter (Marisa Tomei) to look after her kids who soon find that their generation’s parenting methods differ from modern ones. The movie was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, the acclaimed screenwriting duo responsible for classic comedies like Splash, City Slickers, and Parenthood. Given the facts, I refuse to believe that Parental Guidance was filmed after 1991. It must have just been in some sort of secret studio vault this whole time. No amount of scenes featuring Billy Crystal acting befuddled by an iPhone can convince me otherwise.
The Guilt Trip
It’s pretty rare to see Lorne Michaels producing a movie that doesn’t star an SNL alumnus, but Michaels is making an exception for The Guilt Trip, a new Christmas comedy that stars Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand as an inventor and his mom on a life-changing road trip. Written by Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) and directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal), The Guilt Trip boasts a stellar supporting cast that includes Adam Scott, Danny Pudi, Casey Wilson, and Colin Hanks. I'm rooting for this one because it's about time Lorne Michaels had some success in comedy.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.