The best comedy movies on Hulu

The best comedy movies on Hulu

Clockwise from top left: Booksmart (Annapurna Pictures);  Super (IFC);  Sorry To Bother You (Annapurna Pictures); Palm Springs (Hulu); Tragedy  Girls (Gunpowder & Sky); Chicken Run (Dreamworks  Pictures); Hitch  (Columbia Pictures)
Clockwise from top left: Booksmart (Annapurna Pictures); Super (IFC); Sorry To Bother You (Annapurna Pictures); Palm Springs (Hulu); Tragedy Girls (Gunpowder & Sky); Chicken Run (Dreamworks Pictures); Hitch (Columbia Pictures)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular movie? Click the author’s name at the end of each slide for some in-depth coverage from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as films come and go.

Some titles on this list also appear on our best movies on Hulu list, but we decided comedies deserved their own spotlight since dramas are often included on our year-end lists far more than comedies. The criteria for inclusion here is that (1) the film is available with the basic Hulu subscription; (2) the film is classified by Hulu as a comedy—a very broad term for them, apparently; (3) The A.V. Club has written critically about the movie; and (4) if it was a graded review, it received at least a “B.” Some newer (and much older) movies will be added over time as Hulu announces new additions to their library. (And we aren’t exagerating about the broad definition of “comedy.” We would not say The Cabin In The Woods or The Measure Of A Man are comedies, but here we are.)

Looking for other movies to stream? Also check out our list of the best movies on Amazon Prime, best movies on Disney+, best movies on HBO Max, and best movies on Netflix list. And if you’re looking to laugh, check out our list of the best Netflix comedy specials and the best comedy movies on Netflix.

This list was most recently updated March 2, 2021.

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2 / 63

2 Days In Paris

2 Days In Paris

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Screenshot: 2 Days In Paris

On paper, Julie Delpy’s 2 Days In Paris might well read like a light French farce, full of wacky characters and playful relationship banter that only turns serious toward the end of the film. The reality is much more raw. Playing a thirtysomething couple making a brief stopover in Paris after a vacation to Italy, Delpy (Before Sunrise) and co-star Adam Goldberg snipe at each other with casual venom, refusing to acknowledge or accede to each other’s calls for comfort or reassurance. When he says she’s special, she shoots back “Like in the retarded way, which is why I’m going out with you.” When she gives him more information than he wants about something, he says “It’s like dating public television.” They both seem a little neurotic and a little self-centered, but mostly, after two years together, they’ve apparently run out of reasons to be kind. And while their give-and-take is almost playful, both actors put an uncomfortable edge on it, fit to keep viewers squirming with alternate waves of sympathy and disgust. [Tasha Robinson]

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3 / 63

50/50

50/50

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen
Screenshot: 50/50

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion,” Dolly Parton’s character says in Steel Magnolias. Surely she would have loved 50/50, a film about cancer that aims for that sweet spot. At age 27, screenwriter Will Reiser contracted a nasty, multisyllabic form of cancer on his back, and with this film, he tells a personal story that looks a lot like a movie. Turning an agonizing experience into a viable Hollywood entertainment involves a little contortion, and at times, 50/50 seems too buffed-out and commercially minded to read as real. But it achieves the laughter-through-tears effect anyway, thanks to the lightness and wit of Reiser’s script; strong, committed performances; and some real insight into the difficulties of being supportive—or, on the other end accepting that support. Ideally cast as Reiser’s stand-in, Joseph Gordon-Levitt digs into a character role that also gives him a chance to show off the comedic chops he developed during his years on 3rd Rock From The Sun. After early scenes establish his character as neurotically health- and safety-conscious, dramatic irony comes a-callin’ when Gordon-Levitt starts experiencing acute back pain and his doctor says he has a rare, aggressive form of cancer. Before he can even process the news, he begins chemotherapy treatment at the hospital, and his friends and family struggle with the situation. His best friend (Seth Rogen) does his best to keep things light, but his mother (Anjelica Huston) smothers him with concern, and his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) doesn’t have the stomach for it. His young, inexperienced hospital therapist (Anna Kendrick) has trouble reaching him too, but they soon fall into a groove. [Scott Tobias]

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4 / 63

9 To 5

9 To 5

Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman
Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman
Image: 9 To 5

The employee driven to a murderous rage by a horrible boss is a staple of office comedies, from Office Space to the characters in the unimaginatively titled Horrible Bosses. Colin Higgins’ 9 To 5, released in 1980, distinguishes itself from the pack with a screwball spin on second-wave feminism and a trio of excellent leads—Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton—conspiring to eliminate their brutish, pigheaded boss (Dabney Coleman). 9 To 5’s overt emphasis on gender politics plays out in ways both far too on the nose (at one point Coleman is literally trapped at home watching Days Of Our Lives) and surprisingly biting (though many of the women’s humane, productivity-boosting ideas are lauded, senior management still mock the idea of equal pay). Two other things save 9 To 5 from tipping into bland, overly broad revenge fantasy. First, the cast is phenomenal: All three stars acquit themselves spectacularly without appearing to fight for screen time. Tomlin’s sharp, beleaguered professional and Fonda’s newly empowered housewife both transcend the simplicity of their characters, and Parton’s star power in her first film nearly overpowers her more seasoned costars. Second, 9 To 5 has an unexpected weird streak. Most notably, the three women have a series of literal fantasies where each of them murders Coleman, including one where Tomlin is animated as Snow White. 9 To 5’s corporate environment, Consolidated Companies, isn’t quite as cartoonish as other workplace settings, but its approximation of real offices and real misogyny make the wackiness all the more welcome. [Eric Thurm]

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5 / 63

Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Adam Sandler and a Sprouse
Adam Sandler and a Sprouse
Screenshot: Big Daddy

Demographically savvy in its mixture of scatological gags, gentle romantic comedy, and crowd-pleasing sentimentality, Big Daddy is Adam Sandler’s best movie, a surprisingly touching and consistent comedy that finds him reaching out to new audiences without abandoning the transgressive meanness that has enlivened his best work. A big part of the film’s success is derived from the chemistry between Sandler and the Sprouse twins, who make better foils than the obligatory love interests with whom the actor has been saddled in the past. Of course, Big Daddy features an obligatory love interest of its own—Joey Lauren Adams as a spunky, workaholic lawyer—but the filmmakers wisely keep the focus on the disarmingly tender relationship between Sandler and his two young co-stars. [Nathan Rabin]

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6 / 63

Bolt

Bolt

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Image: Bolt

When Disney disbanded its cel-animation unit and went full CGI, its feature cartoons—Chicken Little, The Wild, Meet The Robinsons—began to seem painfully calculated and pandering, more an attempt to catch up with the burgeoning kid-film market than to lead it. Bolt was the studio’s first film since Lilo & Stitch that felt like it was trying to recapture the old Disney instead of aggressively shedding it in favor of something slick and new. And yet it comes with a healthy cutting-edge Pixar flavor as well. It’s tempting to lay both aspects firmly at the feet of John Lasseter, the Pixar honcho who became Disney Animation’s chief creative officer when Disney bought Pixar; in spite of its mostly animal protagonists, Bolt has a humanity rarely seen in the CGI world outside of Pixar’s features. [Tasha Roberston]

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7 / 63

Booksmart

Booksmart

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Photo: Booksmart (Annapurna Pictures

Booksmart manages to be both sensitive to changing social mores and laugh-out-loud funny at the same time, launching a new chapter in director Olivia Wilde’s career while redefining the “one crazy night” teen movie for Generation Z. The film is predicated on upending stereotypes about both popular and unpopular high school kids, and makes a point of establishing sympathy with even its most cartoonish characters. But this isn’t a group therapy session: Sex, drugs, booze, mean girls, and earth-shattering betrayals all still come into the equation. It’s just that in 2019, the kids running off into the suburban night trying to avoid getting busted for underage drinking self-identify as intersectional feminists. [Katie Rife]

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8 / 63

The Cabin In The Woods

The Cabin In The Woods

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Photo: The Cabin In The Woods

Where Scream put a postmodern twist on slasher films, The Cabin In The Woods takes on the whole genre and twists even harder. Director Drew Goddard, screenwriter of Cloverfield and a veteran of Lost and Alias, co-wrote the film’s script with Joss Whedon, who worked with him on Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. The script brings to the fore Whedon’s love of subverting clichés while embracing them and teasing out their deeper meaning. [Keith Phipps]

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9 / 63

The Catechism Cataclysm

The Catechism Cataclysm

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Screenshot: The Catechism Cataclysm

Todd Rohal’s gleefully dopey comedy The Catechism Cataclysm opens with bumbling priest Steve Little telling his congregation a funny story that has no real point and no scriptural application. The rest of the movie follows suit. The plot kicks in when Little (best known for playing Kenny Powers’ dim-witted yes-man on Eastbound & Down) emails old acquaintance Robert Longstreet, and invites him to spend an afternoon canoeing. Little remembers Longstreet from high school as a great short-story writer and musician, but since graduation, Longstreet has been working as a spotlight-operator on lame national tours, completely unaware that he’s been such an inspiration to a guy he barely knew. As they float down the river, Little reveals how endearingly ignorant he is about how the world works, while Longstreet enjoys having someone to talk to—even though Little complains that none of Longstreet’s stories have proper endings. All is well until the boys can’t find their exit point. [Noel Murray]

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10 / 63

Chicken Run

Chicken Run

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Screenshot: Chicken Run (Aardman Animation

Beyond the eye-popping visuals, Chicken Run offers an endlessly clever extended riff on The Great Escape, recasting the German POW camp as a Yorkshire coop and allowing plenty of room for Park’s signature schemes and gizmos. Imagining Steve McQueen as one in a flock of rotund chickens with tiny legs and prominent teeth, the story begins with a hilarious montage of failed attempts by the plucky Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha) to escape Tweedy’s Egg Farm. Help arrives in the form of a brash American circus rooster named Rocky (Mel Gibson), who promises to teach the timid, earthbound creatures how to fly. Their plans become more urgent when the farm’s nefarious owner (Miranda Richardson) decides to boost sagging profits by running the fattened chickens through a giant pie-making machine. [Scott Tobias]

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11 / 63

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

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Freely adapted from the 1978 children’s book by Judi and Ron Barrett, the new animated movie Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs feels like a warning from another era, a parable about the perils of living amid abundance. But Cloudy—co-directed and co-scripted by first-time feature-makers Phil Lord and Chris Miller—doesn’t get too bogged down with moralizing. It flits swiftly between easy-but-funny sight gags involving gin food, send-ups of disaster-film clichés, and endearing characters brought vividly to life by a pleasing visual style, plus funny vocal performances from Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Bruce Campbell, and Mr. T. Hader plays a hapless geek with a lifelong gift for building inventions that almost work. His luck changes—and with it, the luck of his island town, whose sardine-based economy has been hit hard by the revelation that, as one headline puts it, “Sardines Are Super Gross”—when he unveils a machine that makes the sky rain whatever food he chooses. But the tremendous gift works largely to make his fellow citizens lazy, and it leaves Hader no happier than before, even with the arrival of a pretty weather reporter (Faris) who shares some of his nerdy obsessions. [Keith Phipps]

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Colossal

Colossal

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Photo: Colossal (Neon

Colossal’s early April release date all but eliminated star Anne Hathaway from the 2017 awards-season conversation, which is a shame because she turns in a witty, sympathetic performance as Gloria, a self-destructive alcoholic who discovers that she has a psychic connection to the giant monster who started ravaging Seoul right around the time she moved back home in disgrace. At first, this high-concept sci-fi drama appears to be pushing a straightforward (and rather obvious) metaphor for alcoholism. But by the surprisingly moving final scene, Nacho Vigalondo, who wrote as well as directed the film, deftly pivots it into a much more interesting statement about toxic masculinity, as well as a character study of a woman taking back her life from the forces, both internal and external, that want to tear her down. [Katie Rife]

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13 / 63

The Dictator

The Dictator

Sasha Baron Cohen
Sasha Baron Cohen
Photo: Two By Four Films

The Dictator keeps the gags coming as fast as it can manage, sometimes in big gross-out setpieces like an impromptu baby delivery, but more often in the general fusillade of hit-or-miss jokes that hit at a better-than-average rate. While Admiral General Aladeen certainly has a place in Baron Cohen’s gallery of human cartoons, the key point about The Dictator is that it’s a departure from his previous films and not another trip to the well. His needling instincts to shock and provoke are still present—and still merrily juvenile—but the film is both more conventional than Borat and Brüno and a more accommodating vehicle for different types of comedy. In reaching back to the past, Baron Cohen finds a viable way forward. [Scott Tobias]

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14 / 63

Force Majeure

Force Majeure

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Screenshot: Force Majeure

For a fleeting moment, one could reasonably mistake Force Majeure for a disaster movie. Certainly, its characters might wonder, through their panic and fear, if they’ve somehow stumbled into one. The pivotal scene arrives early, on the second day of a blissful family vacation. Seated for a relaxing lunch on the terrace of a French ski resort, married Swedish parents Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are alarmed by the rapid approach of snow, tumbling down the adjacent slope in their general direction. As the wall of white seems to close in on them, expanding outward with menacing speed, Thomas makes an instinctual flee for safety, completely abandoning Ebba and their two young children. The avalanche, as it turns out, is controlled; what looks like certain doom is just a false alarm, a dramatic billow of powder. But as the smoke clears, so too does any illusion Ebba might have held about Tomas and his paternal instincts. There’s no going back from such a flagrant act of self-preservation, however involuntary it might have been. [A.A. Dowd]

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15 / 63

Friends With Kids

Friends With Kids

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Screenshot: Friends With Kids

While it’s true that most romantic comedies merely make minor tweaks to a rusted-out formula, it’s also true that many critics approach rom-coms with a sense of eye-rolling obligation, while solidly unspectacular movies like Lockout get praised to the skies. There’s formula in Jennifer Westfeldt’s directorial debut, but feeling as well. And anyone who thinks it’s far-fetched to see two friends of opposite gender agreeing to raise a child while they continue to date other people hasn’t touched base with single urbanites in their late 30s recently. (It’s absurd, but only by about 10 percent.) If nothing else, the film deserves endless praise for its bombshell kicker, a final line that blasts through the coy innuendo at the heart of most screen romances. [Sam Adams]

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16 / 63

Greener Grass

Greener Grass

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Screenshot: Greener Grass

Greener Grass isn’t quite at the level of Wet Hot American Summer, but its cracked sensibility has far more artistic ambition than the average cringe-fest. Writer-directors Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe star as suburbanite moms nursing despair and desperation beneath their clenched, forced smiles, and though the plot turns are often surrealistically outlandish (one mother politely gives away her baby, and regrets it; another child seems to turn into a dog), they pulse with a genuine anxiety that goes beyond deadpan subversion of conventional narrative. It may feel a little overextended at 95 minutes, but DeBoer and Luebbe sustaining it so well beyond 10 is a testament to their talent. [Jesse Hassenger]

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17 / 63

Heathers

Heathers

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Screenshot: Heathers

Heathers isn’t a perfect movie by any stretch: The heavily worked-over ending feels frantic and rushed, not the exclamation point it needed to be, and the dialogue occasionally crosses the line between clever and overly pleased with itself. (Call it “The Diablo Cody Threshold.”) Yet coming at the end of the ’80s, Heathers still stands out for questioning the prevailing stereotypes of teen movies rather than accepting them as a given. Two decades later, the Hughes model of teen comedy/dramas is still pervasive, but the goings-on at Westerburg High have only gained in potency, perhaps because so few movies have had the courage (or the approval) to follow Heathers’ lead. “It’s not very subtle,” as J.D. says, “but neither is blowing up a whole school.” [Scott Tobias]

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18 / 63

Hello, My Name Is Doris

Hello, My Name Is Doris

Sally Field and Max Greenfield
Sally Field and Max Greenfield
Screenshot: Hello, My Name Is Doris

Sally Field, looking fabulous in cat-eye glasses and eccentric knits, stars as Doris, a sixtysomething woman who at the beginning of the film is living a lonely existence in Staten Island. Her mother, to whose care she has devoted much of her adult life, recently died, leaving her with little but her old-school leftist pal Roz (Tyne Daly) and her menial data-entry job to occupy her time. It’s the confluence of these two that inspires Doris to change things up, actually: After Roz takes her to a lecture by self-help guru Willy Williams (Peter Gallagher), Doris is motivated to pursue a relationship with her office crush, a recent L.A. transplant several decades her junior named John Fremont (Max Greenfield). Field keeps both hands firmly on the wheel as Doris, skillfully maneuvering through both the comedic and dramatic scenes like the two-time Oscar winner that she is. [Katie Rife]

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19 / 63

High-Rise

High-Rise

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Photo: High-Rise

High-Rise, a darkly funny adaptation by cult English director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field In England) of the J.G. Ballard novel of the same title, preserves the book’s ’70s setting, steeping its vision of a toppling society in retro decadence. Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston, very good), a bachelor physiologist from apartment 2505, watches as the titular building regresses into a Mad Max-esque wasteland of garbage barricades, raiding parties, and literal class warfare following a few blackouts and a problem with the trash chute—a descent into collective madness that High-Rise underplays and elides to surreal (and audience-defying) effect. Wheatley’s use of ellipses and his overall refusal to do anything that might suggest a point of view or invite identification skirt incoherence. As in Ballard’s novel, the building isn’t just a dystopian microcosm of alienation and stratification, with the wealthiest living at the top. It also seems to create a new reality of its own: a killer cocktail of claustrophobia, stylishness, and oblique irony. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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20 / 63

Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Hunt For The Wilderpeople

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Photo: Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Hunt For The Wilderpeople, an enjoyably goofy adventure that manages to bring some freshness to the moldy “cantankerous adult reluctantly bonds with adorable kid” subgenre. Starring Sam Neill as the cantankerous adult, the film plays a bit like Jurassic Park minus Lex and dinosaurs, mining humor from the incongruity of its odd-couple pairing and basic fish-out-of-water elements, plus some Flight Of The Conchord-ish wit. [Mike D’Angelo]

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21 / 63

I, Tonya

I, Tonya

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Screenshot: I, Tonya

From the opening minutes of Craig Gillespie’s unreliably narrated, glibly entertaining biopic I, Tonya, it’s clear that Margot Robbie has disappeared into the role of disgraced figure skater and pop culture punching bag Tonya Harding. It’s not a precise imitation: However hard the wardrobe and makeup teams have worked to deglamorize this glamorous Hollywood star, she still doesn’t look much like the person she’s playing—a truth reinforced by the obligatory, closing-credits appearance by the real Harding, conquering the ice in archival footage. But as she wraps her mouth around a cigarette, a cornpone accent, and some well-delivered profanity, Robbie channels the antagonistic, take-no-shit attitude of her infamous “character,” while adding notes of disappointment and even dignity missing from every headline or Hard Copy treatment of The Tonya Harding Story. In the process, the actor wrestles a rare role worthy of her abilities from an industry that’d just as soon keep her in bubbles. [A.A. Dowd]

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22 / 63

Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West

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Photo: Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West begins in media res, as Ingrid Thorburn (Aubry Plaza), her face stained with tears and her long dress covered with a dirty oversize sweatshirt, barges into a wedding to pepper-spray the bride, a woman we later find out she barely even knows. After a brief detour to the mental hospital, Ingrid is back home and back to her routine of stuffing limp convenience-store food into her mouth while obsessively scrolling through Instagram in her pajamas. Ingrid’s M.O. is mistaking social media likes for actual human connection—something she sorely lacks—and so it doesn’t take long for her to zero in on a new obsession, faux-hemian “influencer” Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). An innocent reply to a comment on Instagram later and Ingrid has cashed in her modest inheritance to move to L.A. and obsessively remake herself in Taylor’s image. This all happens within the first 10 minutes of the film, which devotes much of its running time to skewering the pretentious unpretentiousness of Taylor and her bearded and boat-shoe-clad husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell). The cast is uniformly strong, although Plaza does a lot of the dirty work as the desperate Ingrid, whose unnerving smile suggests that she could fall back into psychosis at any moment. [Katie Rife]

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23 / 63

The Interview

The Interview

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Photo: The Interview

Because many of the best jokes in The Interview have nothing to do with North Korea, it’s worth recapping the ancillary mayhem that the Sony hackers would have suppressed. Franco stars as Dave Skylark, the foppish, airheaded host of a celebrity gossip program. He scores a coup when Eminem, on camera, makes an offhand announcement that he’s gay, prompting elation in the control room. Another of Dave’s scoops involves Rob Lowe’s coming-out as a secret bald person (“His head looks like somebody’s taint!” someone from the booth exclaims). But Dave’s producer, Aaron (Rogen), yearns for credibility. A larky call lands them an interview with Kim Jong-un (Veep’s Randall Park, a worthy foil to his better-known co-stars), supposedly a Skylark superfan. Soon, the CIA turns up with a request that the two assassinate him. Much of the film is devoted to the hit-and-miss (but strangely moving) riffing between the leading men. [Ben Kenigsberg]

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24 / 63

It’s A Disaster

It’s A Disaster

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Screenshot: It’s A Disaster

An unusually eventful “couples brunch” among a neurotic group of bright, colorful friends is rudely interrupted by news of imminent apocalypse in It’s A Disaster, a droll social comedy about a party that takes a number of strange turns. It’s a smart, dark, tonally tricky affair about what happens when the bonds that hold civilization together come apart, whether through the impending divorce of a couple whose union helps keep a disparate group of friends together, or through some manner of dirty bomb or zombie attack. [Nathan Rabin]

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The Little Hours

The Little Hours

The LIttle Hours
The LIttle Hours
Photo: Gunpowder & Sky

One of the first things Aubrey Plaza says in The Little Hours is “Don’t fucking talk to us.” Anachronism, as it turns out, is the guiding force of this frequently funny, agreeably bawdy farce, which imagines what a convent of the grubby, violent, disease-infested Middle Ages might look and sound like if it were populated by characters straight out of a modern NBC sitcom. Plaza’s Fernanda, a caustic eye-rolling hipster nun born eons too early, sneaks out to get into mischief, using a perpetually escaping donkey as her excuse. Uptight wallflower Genevra (a priceless Kate Micucci) tattles relentlessly on the other women, reporting every transgression to Sister Marea (Molly Shannon, playing her dutiful piousness almost totally straight—she’s the only character here that could actually exist in the 1300s). And Alessandra (Alison Brie), the closest the convent has to a spoiled rich kid, daydreams about being whisked away and married, but that would depend on her father shelling out for a decent dowry. If the plague doesn’t kill them, the boredom will. When Plaza, Micucci, and Brie get smashed on stolen communion wine and perform a drunken sing-along of a wordless choral staple, like college girls sneaking booze past the RA and belting some radio anthem in their dorm, the true resonance of all this anachronism slips into focus: An itchy desire for a better life is something women of every century experience, regardless if their catalog of curses yet includes “fuck.” [A.A. Dowd]

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26 / 63

Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky
Logan Lucky
Photo: Fingerprint Releasing/Bleecker Street

As a heist picture, Logan Lucky knows just how often to alternate straight exposition with cagey withholding. The full robbery blueprint is revealed slowly—new details are still twisting the narrative even after the big heist day has passed, perfect for Steven Soderbergh’s control-freak tendencies (once again, he shoots and edits himself). The snappy script by unknown (and possibly pseudonymous) newcomer Rebecca Blunt offers some Coen brothers-like dialogue, which Soderbergh complements with his compositions. Sometimes he gets a laugh just by how he positions the actors in the frame, and there are multiple gags predicated on the timing of explosions. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Lowlife

Lowlife

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Screenshot: Lowlife

This black comedy is set in the fleabag motels and greasy taco stands of working-class L.A. You can tell it was written by several people (a sketch comedy group, to be precise), but director Ryan Prows unites the film around its colorful characters, including standout performances from Nicki Micheaux as morally conflicted motel owner Crystal and Jon Oswald as Randy, the most lovable ex-con with a swastika face tattoo ever committed to film. (It makes sense when you see the movie, I promise.) [Katie Rife]

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Lucky

Lucky

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Photo: Lucky

It’s almost as if Harry Dean Stanton deliberately timed his death at 91 to coincide with the release of Lucky, a film expressly about coming to terms with the prospect that you will soon no longer exist. The directorial debut of ace character actor John Carroll Lynch (Marge’s husband in the movie Fargo, the creepiest suspect in Zodiac, etc.), this lightly eccentric, virtually plotless meditation on mortality would likely have attracted attention under any circumstances—indeed, even had it turned out to be terrible—simply because it offers Stanton his first leading role in a feature film since 1984’s Paris, Texas. (First-time screenwriters Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja reportedly conceived it with him in mind; it’s hard to imagine who else they might have turned to had he said “No.”) So it’s a remarkable gift to fans and cinephiles that Lucky serves as a first-rate showcase for its star as well as an ideal swan song. The man couldn’t have gone out any better. [Mike D’Angelo]

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Mars Attacks!

Mars Attacks!

Sarah Jessica Parker... kinda.
Sarah Jessica Parker... kinda.
Screenshot: Mars Attacks!

The year was 1996, and movie theaters barely had enough time to recover from the first assault from beyond the stars before the next fleet of spaceships hovered in over the horizon. Independence Day arrived first, heralded by a Super Bowl trailer that blew up the White House—a mere preview of what it would do to its fellow summer blockbusters at the box office. But Mars Attacks! had actually been around longer, languishing in development hell since Alex Cox first took a crack at adapting the infamously gory Topps trading card series in the mid-’80s. When Tim Burton and Jonathan Gems rescued the property a decade later, they put its throwback flying saucers on a collision course with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s sky-swallowing City Destroyers—prompting a skittish Warner Bros. to eventually move Mars Attacks! to the fittingly cheeky, Christmastime release date of Friday, December 13. Both films are hybrids of vintage genre fare: drive-in-ready alien-invasion spectaculars crossed with the star-studded Irwin Allen disaster films of the ’70s. Both aim their lasers at some of Earth’s most recognizable and cherished landmarks. And both make room for rousing, highlight-reel speeches from an American president. But only Mars Attacks! punctuates that address with a lethal punchline from an interstellar gag gift. And while that wasn’t much help with ticket sales in 1996, it makes all the difference now: Mars Attacks! is the more enjoyable watch today, especially when viewed as the hour-and-a-half-long raspberry blown at the end of Tim Burton’s first act as a director. [Erik Adams]

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The Measure Of A Man

The Measure Of A Man

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Photo: The Measure Of A Man

The Measure Of A Man’s French title has nothing to do with gender, in fact—the film was originally called La Loi Du Marché, which translates as The Law Of The Market. None too forgiving, that law. After being laid off from the factory where he’d toiled for decades, Thierry Taugourdeau (Vincent Lindon), who’s in his early 50s, spent more than a year completing a training course that doesn’t actually qualify him for anything, and he’s perceived as both too old and too financially needy for the sort of entry-level positions that are available to him. He finally manages to get hired as a security guard for a gigantic department store, but the victory is decidedly pyrrhic, as he now spends 40 hours per week busting people who are every bit as desperate and mortified as he had been prior to donning his uniform. Standing in the store’s back room, watching the interrogation of fellow employees who he’s caught tapping the till, he looks even more uncomfortable than he did waiting for that Skype interview call. Watching this passionate scrapper die inside after finally achieving his hard-fought goal is heartbreaking. For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the minimum wage, and lose his own soul? [Mike D’Angelo]

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Missing Link

Missing Link

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Image: A Mighty Wind

Now that every major studio produces big-screen computer-animated movies at least semi-regularly, it’s a small but appreciable miracle that stop-motion animated features still occasionally appear on thousands of screens nationwide. This doesn’t make them automatically good, but it does make them automatically different; has a stop-motion feature ever been described without using the word “painstaking”? This is not to say that Missing Link, the new stop-motion feature from the masters of the form at Laika, is a study in stillness. There are slapstick bar fights and actual cliff-hanging. There are celebrity voices, including Zach Galifianakis in full (if genteel) rambling mode. Even the animation itself is noticeably smoother than some past stop-motion classics, with animators’ fingerprints less visible just outside (or sometimes fully inside) the frame, as Laika continues to push forward with its own medium-specific technological advances. But the movie also has the freedom of its constraints. It operates on its own little wavelength, rather than broadcasting itself loudly. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Morning Glory

Morning Glory

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Photo: Morning Glory

Few actors have a narrower range than Harrison Ford. He doesn’t do accents. He doesn’t emote. He can’t be expected to display any real exuberance. Yet within that range, he can be immensely appealing: irascible yet charming, with a rogue’s smile. It’s been a while since Ford has been cast properly—or, let’s face it, has looked engaged in what he’s doing—but as a grizzled Dan Rather type in the smart, generously entertaining comedy Morning Glory, he reconnects to his inner Han Solo, accessing the loveable bastard that made him a movie star in the first place. And he has the perfect foil in Rachel McAdams, who stars as a TV news producer whose unflagging positivity and stick-to-it-iveness chip away at his defenses like a battering ram against a fortress wall. [Scott Tobias]

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Mortdecai

Mortdecai

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Photo: Mortdecai

Look, comedy’s highly subjective, and Johnny Depp’s aggressive onscreen quirkiness wore out its welcome about four Tim Burton movies ago. That’s all fine. Still, the violently negative reaction to director David Koepp’s adaptation of Kyril Bonfiglioli’s cult pulp novels seemed wildly out-of-proportion to the actual quality of the film, which is an uneven but mostly genially wacky globe-hopping adventure. The same critics who rightly pegged Koepp’s similarly hyperactive Premium Rush as a must-see somehow weren’t willing to extend the same goodwill to Mortdecai, even though it has the cinematic flourish and distinctive sensibility so often missing from modern movie comedies. Although it’s not exactly a criminally neglected masterpiece, this picture does stand a good chance of being a flop that gets an Ishtar/Hudson Hawk-style reassessment in the decades to come. [Noel Murray]

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MouseHunt

MouseHunt

Nathan Lane and Lee Evans
Nathan Lane and Lee Evans
Screenshot: MouseHunt

The first big family film from Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks studio stars Nathan Lane and British comedian Lee Evans as estranged brothers who are reunited when their father dies, leaving them a run-down house as part of their inheritance. The pair soon learns that the house is a lost architectural masterpiece, but their attempts to auction it off are thwarted by a pesky, brilliant, territorial mouse. On paper, it sounds like a dreadfully contrived bit of high-concept crap: Home Alone with a mouse. And while there is a limit to how good a film about a feisty mouse can be, MouseHunt is far better than you’d expect. Despite its intelligence-insulting premise, MouseHunt is a well-crafted, surprisingly smart film that benefits tremendously from the winning chemistry between Lane and talented newcomer Evans, as well as beautifully Gothic set designs and a periodically clever, inventive script by would-be cult filmmaker Adam Rifkin (The Invisible Maniac, The Nutt House a.k.a. The Nutty Nutt). It’s hardly a masterpiece, of course, and much of the slapstick quickly grows tiresome, but at its best, MouseHunt’s baroque, Dickensian universe recalls Nicholas Roeg’s terrific, underrated, and similarly mouse-centric Roald Dahl adaptation The Witches. And for a movie in the notoriously sadistic kiddie-slapstick genre, it’s surprisingly humanistic, refusing to villainize either the brothers or the spunky little mouse. [Nathan Rabin]

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The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling
Screenshot: The Nice Guys

Not since Blue Ruin has a movie gotten as much mileage out of having its hero fuck up as The Nice Guys does. Shane Black’s entertaining but shaggy homage to The Rockford Files-era detective series and mid-to-late 1970s cheese finds its offbeat gumshoe in Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a smartass with no sense of smell who tends to make bad guesses, lose guns, misread addresses, drink whatever’s handed to him, and defenestrate himself repeatedly; early on, he tries to break into a window, only to slice his wrist up so badly that he passes out from blood loss. Structured like a TV pilot, the movie partners March with Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), the Yoo-hoo-loving goon who broke the private eye’s arm just days before, in the search for a missing activist. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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The Overnight

The Overnight

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Photo: The Overnight

New to Los Angeles, where they don’t know a single soul, young parents Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are eager to make friends. So when they’re approached at the park by a fellow parent, the politely bohemian Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), the two accept without hesitation his friendly offer to have them over for dinner, where they can get to know each other while their sons enjoy an arranged playdate. Best case scenario, Emily figures, is that they expand their social circle. Worse case, they’re bored and go home early. There are, of course, multiple shapes an evening with strangers can take, and The Overnight, a sharp comedic export of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, counts on its audience to recognize famous last words when it hears them. The pleasure of the movie lies in the way it both rewards and subverts expectations, delivering on the risqué possibilities of its premise while also coming up with something smarter and a little deeper than a log line might suggest. [A.A. Dowd]

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Palm Springs

Palm Springs

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Photo: Palm Springs

Andy Samberg stars as Nyles, a slacker doofus stuck at a destination wedding in Southern California, which he’s attending as the date of a bridesmaid. Blithely wandering the reception in a loud and very informal short-sleeve shirt, Nyles clearly doesn’t have any fucks to give. But he also seems to have a suspiciously premonitory sense of how the night will play out. And before long, Palm Springs reveals the reason for both: He’s stuck in a time warp, waking up every morning to find himself still in Palm Springs on the morning of the wedding. The film employs its magical conceit as a multi-purpose metaphor for a long-term relationship. The flip side, of course, is that monogamy can leave you feeling as stuck as the characters, living the same day over and over again, with only your significant other for company. But Palm Springs wears all that baggage lightly. It’s a sadly rare thing: a sweet, madly inventive, totally mainstream romantic comedy, buoyed by inspired jolts of comic violence (some of them provided by J.K. Simmons as another wedding guest with a very big bone to pick with Nyles). [A.A. Dowd]

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Parasite

Parasite

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Photo: Parasite (Neon

The last time Bong Joon Ho made a parable of class warfare, he set it aboard one hell of a moving metaphor: a train looping endlessly around a frozen Earth, its passengers divided into cars based on wealth and status, upward mobility achieved only through lateral revolution. Parasite, the South Korean director’s demented and ingenious new movie, doesn’t boast quite as sensational a setting; it takes place mostly within a chicly modern suburban home, all high ceilings, stainless steel countertops, and windows instead of walls, advertising the elegant interior decoration within. But there’s a clear class hierarchy at play here, too; it runs top to bottom instead of front to back, vertically instead of horizontally. And though we’re watching a kind of warped upstairs-downstairs story, not a dystopian arcade brawler, Parasite races forward with the same locomotive speed as Snowpiercer, with plenty of its own twists and turns waiting behind each new door. [A.A. Dowd]

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Person To Person

Person To Person

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Screenshot: Person To Person

A sweet, light puff of a movie, Person To Person succeeds on the strength of its affection for shaggy-dog stories and the personalities who waltz in and out of them. In theory, it’s the sort of indie that’s already been done to death: an ensemble-cast love letter to the prickly character of New York. (Even worse, it’s shot on fuzzy Super 16mm.) But writer-director Dustin Guy Defa, a prolific director of short films making his first feature since 2011’s Bad Fever, has developed a feel for American eccentricity that brings to mind Jim Jarmusch and Richard Linklater in its best moments, albeit in a scruffier style. Taking its title from a superb, more or less unrelated short that Defa directed in 2014, the movie follows several stories, which are set over the course of a single day but don’t always overlap. It’s a film of ephemeral pleasures, adorned in a rich variety of voices, non-verbal gestures, and speech patterns: unfussy, unrushed, at times very funny. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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Playing It Cool

Playing It Cool

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Photo: Playing It Cool

The romantic comedy gets little love these days, and with understandable reason—its happily-ever-after formulas have grown so stale that it’s difficult to find much life amidst its predictable, robotic twists and turns. Playing It Cool does not dispense with the genre’s favorite clichés, and in fact, it embraces them wholeheartedly, from the charming hunk who’s more comfortable with one-night stands than commitment, to said protagonist serendipitously discovering his one-true-love, to the off-color banter with a group of wisecracking friends (in this case, Anthony Mackie, Topher Grace, Martin Starr, Aubrey Plaza, Luke Wilson, and Philip Baker Hall). Justin Reardon’s film is, on the face of it, just like the many other rom-coms that flood the multiplex each year. And yet despite its wholesale familiarity, it’s that rare effort that properly delivers the funny-and-amorous goods, thanks in large part to two headliners—Chris Evans and Michelle Monaghan—with enough winning charisma, spot-on comedic timing, and natural chemistry to help invigorate its commonplace material. [Nick Schager]

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Plus One

Plus One

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Photo: Plus One

Ben (Jack Quaid) and Alice (Maya Erskine) are longtime friends who are both facing down a full summer’s worth of weddings, kicking off with the nuptials of a mutual friend. Because they’re both single—Ben bumbling (some might say picky) in his dwindling relationships, Alice still smarting from a major break-up—they cook up a plan to serve as each other’s plus-one, whenever necessary, throughout the season. They’re willing to double their wedding attendance if the arrangement can provide a trusted wing-person, as well as a commiseration partner for when their potential hook-ups inevitably misfire. Plus One isn’t much more than consistently amusing and sweetly romantic, but in the right hands, those qualities can still feel like a lot. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Puzzle

Puzzle

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Photo: Puzzle

In Puzzle’s opening sequence, the marvelous Argentinean actor María Onetto’s meek housewife is frantically overseeing a party at her house, cooking, serving, and tamping down her obvious exhaustion to make small talk with whoever intercepts her. As her husband (Gabriel Goity) talks business and makes toasts with the men, while her college-aged sons discuss their future plans with relatives, Onetto ferries a lavish feast from the kitchen, culminating with a cake whose candles she blows out herself—the celebration is for her, to mark her 50th birthday. In the aftermath, she discovers that one of the presents left for her is a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle featuring a picture of Nefertiti. It pulls her in; her speed in assembling it reveals a previously undiscovered skill. That leads her to an ad posted by a genteel man (Arturo Goetz) searching for a partner for puzzle competitions. Though the film reaches a seemingly artificial either/or scenario with regard to the competitive puzzling, its conclusion is pleasing and not at all pat, a portrait of a woman who’s learned she deserves to keep some things for herself. [Alison Willmore]

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Results

Results

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Photo: Results

After making a movie about contract law (Beeswax) and another about a computer programming convention (Computer Chess), writer-director Andrew Bujalski continues his adventures in seemingly uncinematic subject matter with Results, a relationship comedy set around a strip-mall fitness club in suburban Texas. Aussie expat Trevor (Guy Pearce) is the founder and proprietor of Power 4 Life, a fitness club he runs on the outskirts of Austin with a small staff of personal trainers, including customer favorites Kat (Cobie Smulders) and Lorenzo (Tishuan Scott, the creepy cult leader from Computer Chess). Enter Danny (Kevin Corrigan, Walken-esque), a schlub with seemingly bottomless reserves of cash, who lives in an empty rented McMansion on a diet of pot and pizza. Lurching through the aftermath of a divorce, Danny shows up at Trevor’s wanting to get into shape, writes a check for two years’ worth of personal training with Kat, and buys himself a franchise gym’s worth of exercise equipment. On a fundamental level, Results is about people trying to navigate each other’s personal space, with the sweaty physical intimacy of personal training as a contrast to emotional anxiety. It’s an easygoing comedy about different kinds of unease, with subtleties giving shading to broadly drawn characters. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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Rushmore

Rushmore

Bill Murray
Bill Murray
Screenshot: Rushmore

Jason Schwartzman stars as Max, an oval-faced marvel of misdirected adolescent energy in the fast, exhilarating new comedy Rushmore. Founder and president of just about every extracurricular activity at the exclusive Rushmore Academy—including fencing, dodgeball, beekeeping, and a theater troupe that stages a faithful production of Serpico—Schwartzman is also failing all his classes. His priorities are quickly rearranged when he vies for the affections of a first-grade teacher (Olivia Williams) with a wealthy, clinically depressed man-child (Bill Murray). Since Anderson and Wilson have great respect for hare-brained schemes and wild romantic gestures, Schwartzman is encouraged to mature only insofar as he outgrows his extreme self-obsession, no small feat. Rushmore is a coming-of-age story made by filmmakers who don’t have much use for grown-ups, which is to say that Bill Murray finally gets a chance to deliver a career-defining performance. Murray has always been funny, often in vehicles unworthy of deadpan genius; imagine how unwatchable What About Bob? or The Man Who Knew Too Little would be without him. The hint of genuine pathos he brings to Rushmore tempers Schwartzman’s brash, sometimes off-putting antics, gracing an already great comedy with surprising depth and heart. [Scott Tobias]

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Sideways

Sideways

Paul Giamatti
Paul Giamatti
Screenshot: Sideways

Making another claim on the title “the Preston Sturges of his generation,” Alexander Payne (Election) defines the universe of road-trip comedy Sideways through these sorts of wry behavioral observations. Paul Giamatti stars as a man who expects nothing from life but disappointment, and his attitude has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Still, he’s a diamond in the rough, a noble and sensitive soul who begs for (yet aggressively resists) discovery. A true wine connoisseur, capable of arch phrases like “quaffable but far from transcendent,” Giamatti sees his road trip as a casual jaunt through boutique vineyards and public golf courses, but his mismatched pal (Thomas Hayden Church) has other ideas. A washed-up soap-opera actor who acts like a castaway from a Mike Judge cartoon, Church expects a frat-guy bacchanal before he gets married the following weekend. To that end, Church trains his bird-dog eyes on sexy single mother Sandra Oh while Giamatti tentatively courts the charming Virginia Madsen, a local waitress who shares his rarefied palette. As much as Payne lampoons the haughty language of the tasting elite, he also uses wine as a natural metaphor for aging gracefully and seizing peak moments before they crest. Though his unpretentious style and generous sense of humor could be mistaken for a lack of artistry, Payne’s knack for broad, crowd-pleasing comedy fails to do justice to how much thought and feeling goes into the tiniest details in his movies. [Scott Tobias]

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A Simple Favor

A Simple Favor

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Photo: A Simple Favor

Gallons of ink have been spilled on Paul Feig’s female-focused approach to comedy, so why isn’t one of the year’s best vehicles for women getting more press? Starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively in a twisted tale of suburban intrigue, A Simple Favor pioneers the subgenre of mommy-blog noir. But while it lives in the mundane realm of play dates and PTA meetings, the film also recognizes that, while they might spend a lot of time with kids, its characters (and target audience!) are still intelligent adults with sophisticated tastes, from dry gin martinis to designer menswear. [Katie Rife]

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The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers

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Photo: The Sisters Brothers

When Quentin Tarantino coined the term “hangout movie,” he was describing one of the greatest Westerns ever made: Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks’ 1959 masterpiece, which kills most of its running time just laying low with a small-town sheriff and the motley posse he’s assembled to guard a jailhouse, eavesdropping on their conversations as they dig in their spurs and chew the cud. The film, talky and at times nearly plotless, brought the Wild West to life in a different way: These weren’t just mythic archetypes we were watching but complicated people, with personalities and hang-ups and whole interior lives. The Sisters Brothers, a Western directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Dheepan) and adapted from the acclaimed novel by Patrick DeWitt, spans a larger geographic radius than Rio Bravo—it’s a kind of road picture, ambling across two states, instead of plunking us down in (basically) a single locale. Nevertheless, there’s a strong whiff of Hawks’ classic in the movie’s conception of its titular outlaws as neurotic chatterboxes. It’s something of a hangout Western, too, and its pleasures mostly come down to the company we get to keep with the characters and the actors easing into their eccentricities. [A.A. Dowd]

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Sorry To Bother You

Sorry To Bother You

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Photo: Sorry To Bother You

It’s hard to imagine a cinematic depiction of Oakland, California as grabby or arresting as Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You. Though it uses real locations from the city, Riley’s version depends less on particular landmarks or geography than the filmmaker’s eye for which quotidian details can be nudged into the realm of absurdity—and how to pull them back down to the ground. It’s a push-pull best depicted by the movie’s visualization of a job at a rundown call center: When Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) places a cold call, the movie briefly throws him and his workstation into the personal space of whoever he’s speaking with, sort of a physicalized split-screen that thrusts him back into the bleak office space when the conversation ends. It’s a neat trick that emphasizes both the intrusiveness of cold calling and the discomfort the caller might feel, all while keeping the scenes of call-center drudgery from becoming as dull as the actual work. [Jesse Hassenger]

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The Square

The Square

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Photo: The Square

The centerpiece moment of Ruben Östlund’s The Square pits a dining hall’s worth of self-proclaimed art lovers against the evening’s “entertainment”: a performance-art stunt that pushes way beyond the outer limits of their comfort zones. It’s an exaggerated version, perhaps, of what audiences might experience watching this super-sized cringe comedy, awkward enough to get Larry David hot under the collar. Another savagely funny savaging of male ego, à la Östlund’s Force Majeure, the film takes place behind the scenes of a museum, where a pretentious curator (Claes Bang) grapples with personal and professional crises of his own making. But far from just poking fun at a hypocritical modern art world, the Swedish writer-director casts a wide satirical net. His biggest catch: the withering insight that there’s often a giant gap separating values from actions, flattering self-image from reality, “helping” from helping. Thankfully, Östlund wants to make us laugh as well as squirm; scene for scene, The Square is often gut-bustingly hilarious, provided you can see the humor in foibles that might mirror your own. [A.A. Dowd]

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Starsky & Hutch

Starsky & Hutch

Ben Stiller Owen Wilson
Ben Stiller Owen Wilson
Screenshot: Starsky & Hutch

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson take their well-worn personas back to the groovy days of afros, butterfly collars, disco, and long sideburns in Starsky & Hutch, a delightfully silly resurrection of the ‘70s cop show/camp touchstone, helmed by Old School director Todd Phillips. Typecast to perfection, Stiller plays a more macho version of his usual diminutive bundle of seething neuroses. Desperate to live up to his mother’s legendary reputation in law enforcement, Stiller’s by-the-books control freak is saddled with a new partner in Wilson, a sweet-natured space cowboy complete with a likable kid sidekick (who’s straight out of Wilson’s films with Wes Anderson) and a laissez-faire attitude toward crime prevention. Together, Wilson and Stiller inch their way toward the crime ring of Vince Vaughn, a drug lord who, in the time-honored tradition of villains everywhere, hides his nefarious evil under an immaculate façade of upper-class philanthropy. Beyond merely upgrading his Wilsons, from mopey Luke to loopy-genius Owen, Phillips improved considerably as a co-writer and director since Old School. Starsky & Hutch looks better, is brisker and breezier, and doesn’t telegraph and belabor gags as clumsily. It would be hard to find a better cast, too. [Nathan Rabin]

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Super

Super

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Photo: Super

Over the span of just five years, there were four films—Kick-Ass, Defendor, Special, and the psycho-comedy Super—about ordinary people who decide to fight crime in silly homemade costumes. (And in each one, there’s inevitably a scene where the hero asks, “Why hasn’t anyone thought to do that before?!”) For as long as its thin conceit can hold out, Super stands out from the pack for its brash, spiky, horrific real-world violence, which provides a welcome antidote to the more conventional, comic-book-y (yet still grotesque) mayhem found in the equally irreverent Kick-Ass. It’s ugly to the core. Importing his Dwight Schrute pallor from The Office, sans the false bravado, Rainn Wilson stars as a lowly short-order cook who can count two great moments in his life: marrying a woman (Liv Tyler) above his social station and aiding the cops in chasing down a fleeing criminal. That heroism and heart come together when a sleazy drug dealer (Kevin Bacon) takes his wife away from him for good. Using comic books as a guide, Wilson decides to reinvent himself as a superhero called Crimson Bolt, whose crude crime-fighting technique involves waiting behind a dumpster for a crime to happen and then clocking the perpetrator in the head with a pipe wrench. When the clerk at the local comic bookshop, played by Ellen Page, catches wind of his activities, she forces him to bring her on as Boltie, his enthusiastic and sexually aggressive sidekick. [Scott Tobias]

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Superbad

Superbad

Michael Cena and Jonah Hill
Michael Cena and Jonah Hill

The winning new teen romp Superbad was written by Evan Goldberg and Judd Apatow’s protégé Seth Rogen, and directed by The Daytrippers’ Greg Mottola, but it still feels like the concluding film in Apatow’s trilogy of raunchy, big-hearted, improvisation-heavy comedies about man-children torn between the pleasures of eternal adolescence and the relentless pull of adult responsibility. The stars and sensibility get younger with each successive film: The 40-Year-Old Virgin’s middle-aged Steve Carell gave way to twentysomething Knocked Up star Rogen, and now teenagers Jonah Hill and Michael Cera step in as co-dependent buddies facing the end of high school and scary/exciting college careers pulling them in separate directions. [Nathan Rabin]

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Support The Girls

Support The Girls

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Hulu
Photo: Support The Girls

So many movies perform grotesque contortions (or extraordinary acts of denial) to avoid showing their characters at work, at least if their jobs aren’t cop, lawyer, or secret agent. And who can blame them, really? A lot of work is a soul-crushing slog, something that Support The Girls understands intuitively—so intuitively that writer-director Andrew Bujalski doesn’t need to sink his characters into a swamp of misery to acknowledge the drudgery of working at Double Whammies, sort of a poor man’s Hooters in the Texas suburbs. Applying a one-crazy-day structure to a day that isn’t all that crazy, Bujalski follows Lisa (Regina Hall), the restaurant’s manager, as she plays boss, dutiful employee, counselor, and mother, depending on which crisis she’s addressing. Hall, in exactly the kind of performance that’s too grounded and true to receive the awards attention it deserves, shows deft command of the subtle differences between our various selves—work, family, uncomfortable fusions of the two—that so many working people are forced to navigate. Yet for all of its dead-end realism, this is also a warm and funny movie, with boundlessly charming supporting turns from Haley Lu Richardson, Shayna McHayle, and Dylan Gelula. Workplace drudgery doesn’t preclude glimmers of humanity—and humanity doesn’t guarantee a happy ending, as the movie’s perfectly open final shots indicate. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Tangerine

Tangerine

Illustration for article titled The best comedy movies on Hulu
Photo: Tangerine

Tangerine is Sean Baker’s motor-mouthed, occasionally hyper-active, at times repetitious tour of the street corners, fleabag motels, and back alleys of West Hollywood. Let out of jail on the morning before Christmas, transgender prostitute Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) learns that her boyfriend-slash-pimp Chester (James Ransone, pretty funny) has been cheating on her with a fish—what you’d call a cisgender woman in academic company—named Dana or Desiree or Dinah. Nobody seems 100 percent sure on the name, except that it starts with a D. So off go Sin-Dee and her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor), hitting up every corner and soup line, occasionally crossing paths with an Armenian cabbie (Karren Karagulian) and the odd cop or stingy client. Shot on an iPhone outfitted with an anamorphic clip-on adapter, the movie bobs, weaves, and glides down sidewalks, while the soundtrack blasts out semi-obnoxious dance beats in between snatches of Beethoven and Armenian-language holiday song. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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The Terminal

The Terminal

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks
Screenshot: The Terminal

Scripted by Andrew Niccol, Sacha Gervasi, and Jeff Nathanson, The Terminal draws its inspiration from the true story of Iranian dissident Merhan Nasseri, who has been living in Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport since 1988 thanks, at least at first, to a series of political snafus. The film has much softer politics in mind, as it uses JFK as a stage to play out the American immigrant experience in miniature. At first confused, threatened, and hungry—think E.T. in out-of-fashion Eastern European clothing—Tom Hanks becomes resourceful in order to survive, making friends with those who can help him and plugging into the airport economy by returning baggage carts for a quarter a pop. Director Steven Spielberg gives the bulk of the movie over to this upward climb, and even fits love into the picture through Hanks’ makeshift courtship of Catherine Zeta-Jones, a stewardess still in thrall to her latest affair with a married man. Told “America is closed” when he first tries to make his way out of the airport, and continually encouraged to move on and become someone else’s problem by status-quo-minded customs chief Stanley Tucci, Hanks instead finds a little America inside, complete with the opportunity to pursue happiness, though there’s no guarantee that he’ll find it. [Keith Phipps]

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Tragedy Girls

Tragedy Girls

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Screenshot: Tragedy Girls

Finally, millennials have a Heathers of their very own. Actually, that’s not quite right: Imagine instead a Heathers that gleefully goes all the way past the point of nihilism, and ends up in a warped funhouse mirror reflection of society that blends camp and satire in equal measure (with a heaping dose of gore liberally applied throughout). Reimagining high school murderers for the age of Instagram, Tragedy Girls casts Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) as social media-obsessed high schoolers who kidnap a serial killer—not to kill him, but to learn how to more effectively stage their own attacks, the better to boost the numbers on their YouTube show. And that’s just the first five minutes of this nastily effective comedy-horror, which takes genre clichés and runs them through a candy-coated ADHD wringer, leaving you bloodied and smiling at the end. [Alex McLevy]

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The Treasure

The Treasure

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Photo: The Treasure

Romanian writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu, whose style of comic deadpan is as diligent and specialized as watch repair, offers up another parable of mores in The Treasure, about a man who agrees to help his unemployed neighbor look for a family fortune at a country house. Surreally underplayed, The Treasure turns a wish-fulfillment fantasy (let’s say our heroes aren’t left empty-handed) into a post-Communist monkey’s paw: You can have all the riches you want, but they’re in Romania. Though it almost overplays its hand with a Robin Hood storybook motif, The Treasure manages a tricky balance between low-key social satire and total fantasy. And in between all the uncomfortable conversations and silences is a deceptively upbeat story of two men who barely know each other trying to go on an old-fashioned adventure in a world of stuffed shirts, red tape, and malfunctioning gadgets. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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Volver

Volver

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Photo: Volver

A single shot from Volver illustrates what sets Pedro Almodóvar apart from other filmmakers: About halfway through, the film pauses for a long close-up of star Penélope Cruz. For a lot of directors, that would be enough. She’s an arresting beauty, and most of her American roles use her as that, and little more. But Almodóvar worked with her first, and he knows that there’s much more to her than her looks. What’s more, that shot is a close-up tight enough to reveal that Cruz, like the character she plays, has begun to see her ingénue youthfulness fade. There’s makeup on her face and sadness in her eyes, and when she opens her mouth to sing the title song, the voice of flamenco singer Estrella Morente emerges. There’s no small amount of artifice to the art, but to call it artificial is to miss the point. The obvious effort needed to create it becomes part of its beauty. A professional cleaner, Cruz is first seen sweeping the grave of her parents, who died together in a fire. Before long, she’s forced to confront a flurry of unexpected problems, beginning when her shiftless, alcoholic husband (Antonio de la Torre) reveals that he’s lost his job, and continuing when he decides to spend his first day of unemployment making sexual advances to Cruz’s daughter (Yohana Cobo). Almodóvar is still one of the few directors worth watching just for how he uses color on the screen. But the pleasures have always run much deeper, and now they run deeper still. [Keith Phipps]

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Waking Ned Devine

Waking Ned Devine

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Screenshot: Waking Ned Devine

Waking Ned Devine poses a nifty paradox: The film is a good-natured, heartwarming little fable about death, deceit, and greed. When Ian Bannen and David Kelly discover that someone in their tiny Irish village of Tulaigh Morh (pop. 52) has won the national lottery, the two set about buttering up the whole town in an effort to ingratiate themselves to the winner, whoever he or she turns out to be. But the winner, Ned Devine (Jimmy Keogh), turns out to be no longer, having died of shock after receiving news of the multimillion-dollar payoff. Their plan foiled, the two men must convince the remaining townsfolk to trick the lotto rep into leaving the money with a proxy Ned Devine. Lest one forget the homey setting, bad teeth, beer, and blue-collar folk abound, and the final shot is right out of an Irish Spring commercial. But the movie possesses a fun wicked streak, one that has no qualms with killing off the town harpy, in a scene straight out of The Wizard Of Oz, to get an easy chuckle. Sight gags involving two elderly men riding motorbikes in the buff may be a little too much, but this slight movie gets by on its grungy charm, if not its class. [Joshua Klein]

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Wild Rose

Wild Rose

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Photo: Wild Rose

Country music has a long history of brazen women doggedly persevering over daunting personal and societal odds. As far back as 1952, Kitty Wells shredded the hypocrisy of sexual double standards in her song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” and Loretta Lynn had already given birth to three children when she taught herself to play the guitar in 1953, at the age of 21. Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley), the protagonist of Tom Harper’s new social-realist musical drama Wild Rose, has a life story that’s similar to those of her idols: She’s in her early 20s, fresh off of a 12-month prison sentence on drug charges, and trying—but mostly failing—to reconnect with her 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. Her disapproving mother Marion (Julie Walters) wants Rose-Lynn to give up her dream of becoming a country (not “country and western”) singer. But to Rose-Lynn, country music is “three chords and the truth.” And you can’t deny the truth. [Katie Rife]

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Young Adult

Young Adult

Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron
Screenshot: Young Adult

Characters reminisce about the ’90s, wear Pixies T-shirts, and maintain collections of hand-painted action figures in Young Adult, all in line with what viewers might expect from a film that reunites Juno’s writer and director, Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman. What’s different this time around? They’re on the sidelines, gazing with bewilderment, dislike, and/or awe at their heroine, played by Charlize Theron as the type of girl who once upon a time walked all over them. Though her character’s high-school glory days are almost two decades behind her, she’s dredged them up with an unstable determination that attests to the years of disappointment that followed them. It’s an empathetic but bravely brittle portrait of an aging queen bee that showcases a nuanced performance from Theron as a woman too used to being admired to admit how lonely and desperate she’s become. [Alison Willmore]

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Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein

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Nowadays, the depressing go-to model for movie parodies—epitomized by the Scary Movie franchise—involves riffing on the most notable bits from a dozen or more loosely connected box-office hits. Once upon a time, though, there were comic filmmakers capable of crafting a sustained, inspired, affectionate spoof that functions as a movie, rather than a mere collection of half-assed skits. Mel Brooks, as it happens, has done work in both of those categories (see Robin Hood: Men In Tights for an example of the latter), but Young Frankenstein, in which Gene Wilder plays the skeptical grandson of Mary Shelley’s protagonist, ranks among both the funniest and the most respectful film parodies ever made. In addition to Wilder’s splendidly frenetic turn, it features rib-tickling work from Brooks’ stock company (Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Kenneth Mars), brilliant running gags, and one of the all-time great comic set pieces in Frankenstein’s presentation of his Monster, who proceeds to perform “Puttin’ On The Ritz.” [Mike D’Angelo]

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