We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
Beginning with this trailer back in February, I’ve hated the marketing for The Internship. It looks like an unfunny Google ad that hopes everybody still really likes the Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson pairing. To be fair, this film does have an appealing cast on paper. I like Vaughn and Wilson, and there’s a funny film to be made with them, John Goodman, Rose Byrne, Josh Gad, Aasif Mandvi, and the rest. I’m just not feeling good about this being it.
Still, maybe The Internship will be much better than the trailers and TV spots have made it seem. That’s something we can find out this weekend. Right now I want to stop with the speculation and instead look back on some of my favorite recent comedies and their awesome casts. I stuck to films whose main goal is to make us laugh (rather than something like, say, Silver Linings Playbook), and I still had an initial list of about 20. After whittling that down, I came up with my TOP 7 comedy casts of the past decade.
7. Wedding Crashers (2005)
Key Players: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, Bradley Cooper, Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour, Keir O’Donnell, Ellen Albertini Dow, Henry Gibson, Will Ferrell
Reason: Unless The Internship is wildly better than the trailers and TV spots, Wedding Crashers should comfortably remain the best Wilson/Vaughn film. The chemistry between the two actors is off the charts in this film and goes a long way towards making it the success it is. It’s not just them, though, as everybody gets a chance to shine. Isla Fisher as the domineering love interest for Vaughn’s Jeremy is probably my favorite, though a strong case could be made for Christopher Walken, Keir O’Donnell, or Cooper as the staggeringly douchey boyfriend of McAdams’ Claire. Will Ferrell also makes a great appearance that never fails to make me laugh. Seeing Vaughn and Wilson go from wedding to wedding is very fun (also, ew), but once the cast gets together to play football or eat dinner is when Wedding Crashers really takes off.
6. The Hangover (2009)
Key Players: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, Justin Bartha, Jeffrey Tambor, Rachael Harris, Mike Epps, Bryan Callen, Rob Riggle, Cleo King, Matt Walsh, Mike Tyson
Reason: Since The Hangover came out in 2009, almost everyone involved has squandered much of the goodwill. Ed Helms wore out his welcome on “The Office” and Ken Jeong did the same thing on “Community.” Zach Galifianakis and Todd Phillips gave us the very disappointing Due Date, though Galifianakis gets a lifetime pass for his hilarious “Between Two Ferns” series. And while I haven’t seen The Hangover Part III yet, The Hangover Part II did no one any favors. None of that changes the fact that the first adventure with the Wolf Pack has one of my favorite comedy ensembles in recent years. It’s the most I’ve liked Heather Graham since Boogie Nights, and fun work by Ken Jeong, Rob Riggle, Bryan Callen, and Mike Tyson(!) made each stop on the trio’s search for their friend memorable. It’s a shame about the sequel because I thought I’d be happy to watch Cooper, Galifianakis, and Helms do anything. Alas, we’ll always have the first time with the three best friends that anybody could have.
5. In the Loop (2009)
Key Players: Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy, Anna Chlumsky, David Rasche, Zach Woods, Chris Addison, Gina McKee, Paul Higgins, Steve Coogan
Reason: Peter Capaldi’s hilariously profane Malcolm Tucker seems to get most of the praise, but the perfection that is In the Loop is a team effort. Tom Hollander’s performance as the bumbling, well-meaning Simon Foster is every bit as good. We also get fantastic work from Mimi Kennedy, James Gandolfini, and David Rasche as their gums bleed, they use a child’s toy calculator to find out how many soldiers will die, and say glass offices are for perverts. Even Zach Woods – who I didn’t always care for as Gabe on “The Office” – does some terrific work while being snotty to Anna Chlumsky. This film received an adapted screenplay nomination at the Oscars, and it’s one of my favorite nominations of the last few years. The material would be funny regardless. It just wouldn’t work quite as well if the roles weren’t perfectly cast.
4. Tropic Thunder (2008)
Key Players: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Brandon T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Tom Cruise, Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Matthew McConaughey
Reason: It’s easy to begin and end all conversations about Tropic Thunder by lavishing praise on Robert Downey Jr.’s tremendous performance(s). He earned every bit of praise – and his Oscar nomination – but I am a big fan of everybody’s work. After Downey Jr., Tom Cruise got a lot of attention for donning a fat suit and cranking the profanity up to eleven. I do enjoy Les Grossman, but my favorite smaller performance is Matthew McConaughey as the Pecker. His TiVo quest is a major highlight. The main cast – Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson – is all spot on, perfectly filling their various roles in both Stiller’s film and Damien Cockburn’s (Steve Coogan). Stiller is great as the stereotypical macho action diva, and Black gets some truly hilarious stuff to play (the lengths he’s willing to go if Jackson’s Alpa Chino unties him are amazing). I’d watch this tremendous cast in anything. Yes, even a sequel to the Kirk Lazarus/Tobey Maguire masterpiece, Satan’s Alley.
3. Step Brothers (2008)
Key Players: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Andrea Savage, Logan Manus
Reason: I’ve since come around on it a bit, but Talladega Nights was a huge disappointment on first watch. Despite that, I still took away how great Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are together. I lowered expectations for Step Brothers, but was still hopeful thanks to the two actors. I fell immediately in love – it’s my second … or third favorite Ferrell film – and I could watch these two play off each other forever. “Boats N’ Hoes” is a masterpiece, and the brotherly antagonism between Ferrell’s Brennen and Reilly’s Dale is a riot. Adam Scott is a standout as Ferrell’s slimy younger brother, and Mary Steenburgen and Kathryn Hahn deliver as well. The MVP, though, might be Richard Jenkins as Dale’s father. His dinosaur speech towards the end is arguably the funniest part of a great film that isn’t lacking in laugh out loud moments.
2. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Key Players: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Romany Malco, Jane Lynch, Kat Dennings, Gerry Bednob, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Mann
Reason: The 40-Year-Old Virgin is easily my favorite film directed by Judd Apatow. It’s long, but unlike his other three films, I have no problem spending two hours watching it time and time again. While I like almost all the normal Apatow players, they’ve rarely been put to better use than they are in this film. Steve Carell is perfect as the virginal Andy, and his co-workers – Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Romany Malco, Gerry Bednob, and Jane Lynch – make every scene at Smart Tech a joy. Even in films I dislike, I generally enjoy Rudd. Here he is especially great as everything is darkened by him breaking down over his ex (Mindy Kaling). Then there’s the other side of the story, populated by Catherine Keener and Kat Dennings (and a knockout cameo by Jonah Hill). I didn’t love Keener the first time I watched this, but in my many subsequent viewings I’ve really warmed to her sweet work. At the end Apatow gathers the great cast for a joyous musical performance of “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In,” and there’s only one recent comedic musical moment that tops it. That leads us to…
1. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy (2004)
Recap: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Fred Willard, Chris Parnell, Vince Vaughn, Fred Armisen
Reason: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy would top many lists for me, so its placement here was a foregone conclusion. I have a soft spot for Will Ferrell’s more dramatic work in Stranger Than Fiction, but Ron Burgandy is an all-timer. Whether he’s putting the moves on Veronica Corningstone (a terrific Christina Applegate), wailing over the loss of his little gentleman Baxter, or being the best darn newsman in San Diego, this is Ferrell’s crowning achievement. The rest of the Channel 4 News Team is great as well. David Koechner isn’t quite at the level of Paul Rudd or Steve Carell – it’s hard to compete with Brian Fantana’s Sex Panther and Brick’s undying love of lamp – but put the four of them together and it is comedy gold. I mentioned the musical sequence in The 40 Year-Old Virgin. “Afternoon Delight” in this film is one of my favorite things, especially the way it’s actually a funny character moment with the guys simply wanting Ron to teach them about love. Throw in the verbal face-off with Wes Mantooth’s (Vince Vaughn) team, a ridiculous news team brawl, and Chris Parnell’s Garth tearfully saying Ron has a “poop mouth,” and this film is packed with funny people doing funny things. With the team returning this winter, perhaps Anchorman: The Legend Continues will find a place on this list next decade.