Let me take you back to 2004. A time when phones were flip, Usher ruled the airwaves and comedy films reigned supreme. This annus hilaris saw the release of Shaun of the Dead, Mean Girls, Anchorman, Dodgeball and The Incredibles. Each of these films has left some sort of personal mark on us, (whether it be through your sort of mate at college who was only really funny because he knew lots of Anchorman quotes, or re-watching Mean Girls with your sister because it’s the only DVD left at your mum’s.)
Over 10 years has passed since then, and the laughter has crashed so hard you’d believe Lindsay Lohan was behind the wheel. Strong comedy films are a rare sight in cinemas nowadays. Aside from the joys of The Grand Budapest Hotel, which had ‘whimsy’ written all over it in a pastel Futura, the only comedy I’ve seen at the cinema in the past year is the shouty dick joke explosion that is 22 Jump Street. I’m not saying it was unfunny per se, however when Channing Tatum (a man so chiselled it renders his own face humourless), becomes the international face of cinema comedy, you begin to wonder what happened.
Now, don’t get me wrong, 2014 was an excellent year for film. However, with stern-faced and heartfelt biopics galore (Selma, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, American Sniper, Testament of Youth, et al), my ribs were left firmly untickled. Comedy doesn’t quite fit into this current trend, does it? Adam Sandler as a screwball professor with a taste for the ladies in The Theory of Everything probably would have pulled fewer heart-strings (and purse-strings) at the box office. The demise of the laughies is possibly that they just can’t compete with big budget films in seeking funding. The Marvel money sponge has shoved its way onto screens and inspired film execs to regurgitate franchises in 2015 (Mad Max, Avengers 2, Hunger Games 3 part 2, Star Wars VII etc). Comedy sequels, however, are eternally terrible. Therefore it is unsurprising that investors are more likely to stuff money into Thor 3 than Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie 2.
What happened to the Frat Pack of yesteryear? Steve Carell, who once gave me a cake (true story), has hung up his jesters hat and donned a creepy murderer’s hat (is that a thing?), in his stomach churning portrayal as John du Pont in Foxcatcher. It is a superb film, but no Threat Level Midnight. Seth Rogen, whose buddy charm previously shone in Knocked Up and Superbad, has returned to the public eye with his new film The Interview. Fortunately, the film garnered enough controversy to disguise the fact it looks absolutely terrible.
Luckily, we can turn our heads elsewhere. The drought in funny films is surely down to the dizzying amount of successful TV comedies. Previously, the Saturday Night Live machine produced fresh-faced comics ready to take on the silver screen – Animal House (Jon Belushi), Wayne’s World (Mike Myers & Dana Carvey) and Coming to America (Eddie Murphy) all stemming from its roots. Now, the alumni are gifted the alluring offer of their own TV vehicle. Amy Poehler in the flawless Parks and Recreation is probably the most obvious example to date, alongside Tina Fey’s 30 Rock and, more recently, Andy Samberg’s Brooklyn Nine Nine.
Overall, yes, funny films are few and far between at the cinema nowadays. TV has become fertile ground for comedies, so who needs to actually leave the actual house for an actual good time? Now leave me alone, The Simpsons is on.