Category Archives: Comedy

Movie Review Anchorman 2

I was going into the seventh grade when “Anchorman” came out. I was just the right age to be completely inspired and blown away by a fairly raunchy PG-13 comedy. Watching the original “Anchorman” was basically a right of passage for anybody around my age. If you can’t quote it by heart, then there might be something wrong with you.

So of course something this iconic called for a sequel.

“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” knows at this point that it is kind of a big deal. Hell, it even has “The Legend Continues” in its title. That means that unfortunately, like many other sequels, it lacks the surprise of its predecessor.

Don’t get me wrong, I laughed at “Anchorman 2″ a lot. It ups the ante on just about everything it can that worked in the original. Ron has many more expressions to capture his anger beyond “great odin’s raven!” In fact, by biggest regret was not writing them all down.

“Anchorman 2″ takes place in the 1980s and weirdly the characters haven’t changed at all since the 1970s, except that they like disco and are much more casually racist than they ever were in the past. I don’t know if their lack of change is bad writing or intentional, but I would like to think that it is the latter. The gang all moves to New York to take place in an experiment called 24 hour news. Nobody thinks it will work. It actually does, when you don’t actually report the news at all. “Anchorman 2″ weirdly becomes a piece of social commentary.

The first “Anchorman” ran smoothly at a brisk 94 minutes. Meanwhile, “Anchorman 2″ runs close to two hours and proves that editing is secretly the tool that can make or break a comedy. At times, “Anchorman 2″ felt more like a blooper reel than an actual film. I guess you could say almost the same thing for Adam McKay’s last film “Step Brothers.”* However, “Step Brothers” knew when to end a scene. While blooper reels are fun, even a great extra take can drag a film down.

Weirdly enough though, the best scenes in the film are the ones where Will Ferrell is allowed to be Will Ferrell. Say what you will about how good some of his films have been lately, but the guy oozes funny. That doesn’t just disappear. To me, he is as funny as he was all those years ago in “Old School” and “Elf.” Like any good comedian, Ferrell is fearless. He is never afraid to make himself look terrible, or make himself say and do things that are borderline racist. It’s okay though, the joke is on Ron Burgundy.

“Anchorman 2″ is at its best when it revels in absurdity the same way its predecessor did. There is an entire subplot where Ron and his son take care of a baby shark. It is one of the weirdest things I have seen in a film all year. It makes no sense and yet I bought every second of it. Ditto for the fight scene, which is even more ridiculous than it was before. This time, Ron and his news team face off against one of the most successful rappers in the world, a legendary movie star, and an Academy Award winning actress, among many others. It seems like everyone wants to jump on the “Anchorman” train.

Where the film doesn’t work is when it takes a bunch of jokes that worked really well the first time around, and runs them into the ground. I love Steve Carell, and there were some classic Brick moments here, but he seemed less and less committed the more screen time he is given. Some side characters are side characters for a reason: they are good to pop in with a funny line to save a scene here and there, and that’s it.

Other times, “Anchorman 2″ veers away from utter weirdness and goes into obvious joke territory. Seriously, there is a good 20 minute chunk of jokes about being blind and not being able to tell different objects apart. Come on, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell are so much better than that.

Ultimately, it is really the running time that brings “Anchorman 2″ down. As I said, I laughed a lot. But the laughs were spread out whereas in the first “Anchorman,” they crammed in as many jokes as possible, and nearly all of them landed. Instead, there are long stretches of “Anchorman 2″ that are kind of dull. Jokes land here and there. At this rate: the “Anchorman” franchise is going the way of “Austin Powers”: still funny as it moves along, but with diminishing returns.

*I mean absolutely no disrespect to “Step Brothers.” That movie is a freaking comedy miracle.

Trading Places: A Christmas Classic Worth Celebrating

Black Friday has passed, but Americans still need something to fight about. Christmas has arrived, so fighting over the best Christmas movie seems like the logical next step.

If you are fighting the War On Christmas Movies, you probably fall into one of five camps:

1. Your Favorite is “It’s a Wonderful Life”: That means you have probably watched all of the AFI List specials.

2. Your Favorite is “Home Alone”: You grew up in the 90s. Also, you have a thing for setting up booby traps in your house.

3. Your Favorite is “A Christmas Story”: You will watch it during the entire 24 hour block that runs on TBS on Christmas Day. Also, you’re probably Jewish and couldn’t convince anybody else to go see something in theaters that day.

4. Your Favorite is “Die Hard”: You understand that “Die Hard” isn’t a Christmas movie in a traditional sense. But you don’t care, because you are way too cool for school.

5. Your Favorite is “Jingle All The Way”: Haha we get it. You like being ironic and you probably own a pair of bacon socks from Urban Outfitters and also you’re probably me.

However, I would like to stage a coup, and add a sixth film to the battle. Would anybody care to join me on Team “Trading Places”?

Okay, “Trading Places” isn’t the most traditional Christmas story. Like “Die Hard,” Christmas is more of a backdrop rather than front and center. But the holidays are an open and inviting time, just not for your drunk uncle who won’t stop talking about Obamacare.

In “Trading Places,” two rich old men with too much money and time on their hands want to settle the nature vs. nurture debate once and for all. So they find their lab rats in the form of stock broker Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and homeless criminal Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy). Louis finds his money, safety, and sanity all gone. Billy Ray, meanwhile, ends up with millions. The way in which this all transpires is actually quite brilliant and elaborate. Along the way, you’ll get a glimpse of a young Giancarlo Esposito, and way more of a glimpse of Jamie Lee Curtis than you probably ever expected.

“Trading Places” came out in 1983, and is one of the best comedies of the 1980s. It is part of the trend of 80s comedies about how entertaining it is to make fun of the country club crowd. It has been playing on Comedy Central a lot lately, and it gets much better after multiple viewings. It contains some of the best work from all of its stars. It is also a sad reminder that Eddie Murphy was once one of the funniest people on the planet. “Trading Places” is a bit different from the likes of “Caddyshack” and “Ghostbusters.” A lot of jokes fall through the cracks upon a first viewing. It has a much drier sense of humor than most other mainstream American comedies of that time. Well, now that I think about it, watching all three of those movies back to back right now would be pretty awesome.

Anyway, “Trading Places” might be dark for a Christmas movie, but it still embodies the holiday spirit in a way that no Christmas movie starring Tim Allen ever could. “Trading Places” is a film about a bunch of completely different people coming closer together to defeat a common enemy. Who ever thought a businessman, a hobo, and a prostitute could get along? Well, the holidays are a time to put aside your differences and revel in warmth to escape the cold, dark winter.

While you might not have wanted your Christmas movie of choice to feature a lot of talk about whether or not man is good or evil, maybe you might want one where all the Scrooges get screwed to put you in a good mood. It’s nice that the moral in the end is that sometimes, stock fraud is okay.

Plus, if you wanted a good reminder of a few of the racist jokes you might hear during the holidays, look no further than Aykroyd’s blackface. It’s pretty offensive, but also really funny. It’s a forgiving time of year. So you can be forgiven for laughing at it.*

*You can still laugh at it any other time of year. In fact, the great thing about “Trading Places” is that unlike other Christmas movies, you are still legally allowed to watch during any time of the year that you want.

Eight Nights of Hanukkah, Eight Entertaining Jews: Night #8

This is what I found when I Googled “Adam Sandler Jewish.”

The old insult goes, “Jews run show business.” To that I say “thanks.” 

Jews make up about 0.2% of the world’s population yet they have always been a loud (emphasis on the loud) and prominent voice in film, television, music, and comedy. 

The next eight days are Hanukkah, which is not the most important Jewish holiday, but we do get presents. For each night of Hanukkah, I will share one Jewish entertainer who has had a big impact on me. For the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, let’s talk about Adam Sandler:

Out of all of the possible candidates (there were way too many), Adam Sandler seemed like the only possible choice for the final Jew of Hanukkah. 

It would probably be easier to write about how far Sandler has fallen. His last movie was “Grown Ups 2″ and “Jack and Jill” possibly set Jews back about 50 years. 50 years is nothing. We can recover. Instead, I want to talk about the Sandler I know, the one that I grew up with.

I recently purchased the Best of Adam Sandler which compiles some of his best sketches on “Saturday Night Live.” Watching it today seems almost surreal. I wonder if those live audiences knew while watching it that they were witnessing a future comedy superstar in the making. Yes, Opera Man still holds up. It’s hard to have a verdict on any sketch that also has Chris Farley in it though; he is pretty impossible to compete with.

After leaving “Saturday Night Live,” Sandler launched an extremely successful movie career consisting of a string of films that were panned by critics yet loved by every teenager and Paul Thomas Anderson. I am beyond proud to say that I can recite nearly every line from “Billy Madison” by heart. Despite the fact that Sandler is loud and obnoxious, the other characters still manage to be funny and produce some of the movie’s best lines (“If peeing in your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis”).

I could possibly understand why some people might be annoyed by “Billy Madison,” especially if it wasn’t one of their first introductions into comedy. Maybe you might consider “Happy Gilmore” juvenile, too if you are a bad person who hates fun. But “The Wedding Singer” is an undeniably great romantic comedy, a movie that is even more rewarding than getting paid in meatballs. In addition, “Big Daddy” is also more moving than it has any right to be. More importantly, his performances were good enough to get him cast in “Punch Drunk Love,” where all of that rage was targeted towards building something deeper. It really is a shame he hasn’t been in more movies like that since.

Since this is Hanukkah we are talking about here, I have no choice but to mention Sandler’s contributions to the holiday. He helmed “Eight Crazy Nights,” which to date is still the only mainstream Hanukkah movie that I can think of. Years before that, he made the holiday way cooler than it had any right to be with “The Hanukkah Song” (to date, three versions of it exist). A key line in the song is “so if you still feel like the only kid in town just like you and me/here are some people who are Jewish/just like you and me.” Sandler captures the sad feeling any Jewish kid might feel during the Christmas season (and I am guessing he experienced it, too, seeing as he grew up in New Hampshire). But the song is heart-warming and shows this sense of connection every Jew feels for another that is so hard to explain. To see another Jew succeed gives one a great sense of pride like they would for a close family member. And Sandler, during his best years, was our rock star. He is the real reason I felt like I needed to make a list for myself.

So while everyone else gets to decorate a Christmas tree, we get to sing “The Hanukkah Song.” I can live with that.

Eight Nights of Hanukkah, Eight Entertaining Jews: Night #6

The old insult goes, “Jews run show business.” To that I say “thanks.” 

Jews make up about 0.2% of the world’s population yet they have always been a loud (emphasis on the loud) and prominent voice in film, television, music, and comedy. 

The next eight days are Hanukkah, which is not the most important Jewish holiday, but we do get presents. For each night of Hanukkah, I will share one Jewish entertainer who has had a big impact on me. For the sixth night of Hanukkah, let’s talk about Judd Apatow:

And the fourth face on Mount Rushmore of Jewish Comedians is Judd Apatow.

Unlike Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Larry David, Apatow’s work is done almost exclusively behind the camera. Yet, he is one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood. That is most likely because he is so good at what he does.

As discussed with Sarah Silverman yesterday, Judd Apatow endured a string of brilliant “failures.” Most notably, both “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared” were cancelled after just one season a piece. Now, “Freaks and Geeks” is in the pantheon of greatest TV shows of all time and “Undeclared” is slowly making its way there.

Judd has had a long history of comedy. You could call him the original podcaster, as he used to get private interviews with comedians for his high school radio station. He interviewed such big names as Steven Wright, Garry Shandling (whom he would later work with), and Jerry Seinfeld. 

Since his early years of struggle, Apatow has become the go-to writer/director/producer of good comedy in Hollywood. His first two efforts in the director’s chair, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” were master classes in free flowing hilarity. They turned two possibly unlikable leads into lovable anti-heroes. He made the Jewish Schlub into an archetype, made Seth Rogen a star, and thought of some genius one-liners along the way (“well you still have a tiny dick, Cartman”). Apatow has received mixed reviews for “Funny People” and “This is 40,” but I give him all the credit in the world for his insatiable ambition.

Part of comedy is about helping others, and Apatow has made a career of just that. Some of the people he has helped propel to stardom include Seth Rogen, James Franco, Steve Carell, Kristen Melissa McCarthy, Jason Segel, and Lena Dunham. This is just a few of the many names. Apatow simply has an eye for talent unparalleled in the comedy world (except maybe for Lorne Michaels). There is something special about having an eye for good talent, and then using your own power to help that person out. It takes a lot of self-confidence to know that you have found someone good, and a lot of heart to dedicate that much time to a person. Judd is a mensch of the finest order.

Judd Apatow has always been my gateway into comedy. In 2007, the magical year in which both “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” came out, comedy nerdom came full swing. I also didn’t even realize that he was influencing me from such a young age: Judd Apatow wrote “Heavyweights.” Yes, you heard me correctly. That movie where a bunch of Jewish kids (ex: Josh Birnbaum) from Long Island (“never heard of it!”) go to sleep away camp. If anyone gets the humor of the Jewish identity, it is Judd Apatow.

Fun Fact: Judd Apatow was born in Flushing and raised in Syosset. He probably knows your cousin.

Eight Nights of Hanukkah, Eight Entertaining Jews: Night #5

Image via LA Times

The old insult goes, “Jews run show business.” To that I say “thanks.” 

Jews make up about 0.2% of the world’s population yet they have always been a loud (emphasis on the loud) and prominent voice in film, television, music, and comedy. 

The next eight days are Hanukkah, which is not the most important Jewish holiday, but we do get presents. For each night of Hanukkah, I will share one Jewish entertainer who has had a big impact on me. For the fifth night of Hanukkah, let’s talk about Sarah Silverman: 

Of all of the best living comedians, Sarah Silverman might be taken for granted more than anybody else.

Silverman is basically a household name at this point, yet she has been plagued by some brilliant “failures” as well as a long history of being underrated. That’s okay, though, because she keeps doing what she just does best: providing laughs, as well as offense to those who feel the need to fall into that trap. 

The phrase “Female Jewish Comedian” seems to go hand-in-hand with Sarah Silverman. This is true despite the fact that Silverman always says that she never grew up religious. Yet, as she says herself in her wonderful new special “We Are Miracles,” she just cannot separate herself from that image. Without her Jewish side, her sense of humor would never be the same.

Along with “Female Jewish Comedian,” the words “dirty” “vulgar” and “offensive” get tossed along with Silverman, too. However, she is the most misunderstood dirty comic out there. Those who claim that she is offensive for the sake of being offensive are unfortunately the overwhelming majority, and they seem to miss just how layered her act is. In her act, she’ll drop the c-bomb followed by a huge smile as if she’s a child who just figured out how to swear for the first time. Everything she says is delivered with the subtlest of winks.

On her brilliant but short-lived “Sarah Silverman Program,” Silverman took her stand-up act into scripted territory and constantly redefined what it meant to cross the line. In one episode, she bets a black man that being a Jewish woman is even more difficult, so the two switch lives for a day. When she puts on blackface, she thinks that people are booing her because she is black but in reality it’s because, well, she’s wearing blackface. Silverman has found a way to turn offensive jokes into self-deprecating humor. She is clearly playing a goof much different than who she really is. The joke is always on her. Silverman can make this work because when speaking candidly, she comes off as so kind and sincere. Just read her heartwarming memoir “The Bedwetter,” which I hope is one day turned into a movie.

In addition to her comedic sensibility, Sarah Silverman is also a model cultural Jew. She shows that being a Jew is about much more than believing in God or the Ten Commandments (downgraded from fifteen). If someone is born Jewish, they remain Jewish so long as they feel that way and choose to continue to identify with it. Silverman represents every friend you have ever had who cannot help but bring up Jewish things constantly in conversation because their sense of identity is so overwhelming.

The point is that you can Anglicize your name as much as you want (*cough* Winona Ryder *cough* where’s my inhaler?), but your Jewishness does not simply disappear. Sarah Silverman, like any good comedian who finds something funny, embraces it and then owns the hell out of it.

Haha, the 90s! It’s funny because they dress funny because it’s a different year!

Eight Nights of Hanukkah, Eight Entertaining Jews: Night #4

This is one of my favorite pictures ever taken.

The old insult goes, “Jews run show business.” To that I say “thanks.” 

Jews make up about 0.2% of the world’s population yet they have always been a loud (emphasis on the loud) and prominent voice in film, television, music, and comedy. 

The next eight days are Hanukkah, which is not the most important Jewish holiday, but we do get presents. For each night of Hanukkah, I will share one Jewish entertainer who has had a big impact on me. For the fourth night of Hanukkah, let’s talk about Larry David:

The next face on Jewish Mount Rushmore would be the ever-present scowl of Larry David. He is the spirit animal of just about every Jew you could ever meet, old man or not, from Brooklyn or not.

I could have chosen Jerry Seinfeld for this slot, but Larry David resonates much further. Maybe its because his sense of humor goes beyond merely observational, or maybe because he at first did not get all of the public spotlight during the “Seinfeld” years. That is not even a problem now, as David is now the star of his own show. Every year seems like it is going to be the last year of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” But then, it always comes back for another season. 

Good. Let’s keep it that way. I feel like everyone needs “Curb” in their lives. Larry David is like a social cop, always making everyone aware of what social standards are complete B.S. Essentially, society as we know it would crumble without Larry David. 

It still amazes me how popular Larry David is, because on television he portrays a cynical curmudgeon (who, let’s face it, is essentially what he is in reality). Larry doesn’t try and get anybody to like him, which is also why he is ultimately so likable. There is something dangerous in David’s sense of humor. He doesn’t try to play it safe. He revels in the art of calling people out. And it would be meaner if all of his observations weren’t so true. All of us would love to elevate small talk to medium talk and tell that woman in line in front of us at Ben & Jerry’s that she’s a sample abuser. Larry David simply says the kind of things that we are all thinking, but never blurt out because, you know, social standards and politeness. Larry David is a free and uninhibited man. 

There is something about Larry’s sense of humor that is ultimately very Jewish. The Jewish state of mind can best be summed up by non-Jew John Mulaney, who once said that “Jews don’t daydream because folks are after them.” Larry David is overly present, enough so that he can spot everything going on around him, process it, and then call out whoever he wants. Whether he likes it or not, this is how Larry David became a modern Jewish icon.

Yet, Larry David is not just an idol to the Jews. “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” are both touchstones of American comedy. I guess that close-talkers and chat-and-cutters are a universal problem after all.

Favorite “Seinfeld” Word: Shrinkage

Favorite “Curb” Moment: Larry leaves a Bar Mitzvah early because he wants to go home to take a shit. “This project demands I return to base!”

Eight Nights of Hanukkah, Eight Entertaining Jews: Night #2

The old insult goes, “Jews run show business.” To that I say “thanks.” 

Jews make up about 0.2% of the world’s population yet they have always been a loud (emphasis on the loud) and prominent voice in film, television, music, and comedy. The next eight days are Hanukkah, which is not the most important Jewish holiday, but we do get presents. For each night of Hanukkah, I will share one Jewish entertainer who has had a big impact on me. For the second night of Hanukkah, let’s talk about Woody Allen:

And the second face on the Mount Rushmore of Jewish comedians: Woody Allen.

At first glance, Woody Allen looks like the stereotype of the typical Jewish man: nebbish, scrawny, neurotic, and intellectual. On his own account, Allen is far from this in real life. He is an actor playing a part that he happens to be really good at playing.

Allen has a different kind of Jewish humor than Mel Brooks, who I profiled yesterday. Instead of telling funny stories from the Lower East Side, Allen is more the kind of Jew who tells jokes that began with the setup, “so three Rabbis walk into a bar…”

Like many other Jewish entertainers before him, Allen anglicized his name (he was born Allen Konigsberg). However, that did not stop Jewish ideas from influencing his writing. Just look at “Annie Hall,” where the funniest scene is about the differences between a Jewish and a non-Jewish family. “Crimes and Misdemeanors” is about a man dealing with faith-induced guilt after committing a crime. You can change your last name all you want, but that won’t stop you from being influenced by your upbringing.

Whether or not his presence fulfills stereotypes is moot, because Allen is one of the hardest working people in all of show business. Without a laptop or a cell phone, he has been putting out one movie a year for most of his career. Sure, some of those turn out to be flops (as might happen when your creative output is that high), but its always worth it to get classics like “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” and “Midnight in Paris.”

Just like Mel Brooks, Allen has not rendered himself irrelevant, despite duds like “To Rome with Love”. Two years ago, he won an Oscar. This year, he wrote and directed “Blue Jasmine,” which is by far one of his finest features. Allen has gone from standup to TV to film and dominated each medium. He has recently talked about a possible return to standup comedy. I don’t know if this was just talk, but if Mr. Allen decides to return to standup it would make the Jewish community, and the entire world, very happy.

Fun Fact: My first exposure to Woody Allen was through the movie “Antz” where he voiced the lead ant. Seriously, it’s an animation classic.

Come back to The Reel Deal tomorrow night for Jew #3.

Eight Nights of Hanukkah, Eight Entertaining Jews: Night #1

The old insult goes, “Jews run show business.” To that I say “thanks.” 

Jews make up about 0.2% of the world’s population yet they have always been a loud (emphasis on the loud) and prominent voice in film, television, music, and comedy. The next eight days are Hanukkah, which is not the most important Jewish holiday, but we do get presents. For each night of Hanukkah, I will share one Jewish entertainer who has had a big impact on me. Let’s start off the festivities with Mel Brooks:

If a Mount Rushmore of Jewish comedians were ever to be constructed, Mel Brooks would most definitely be the biggest, most prominent face on there. To this day, Mel Brooks’ presence remains indistinguishable from Jewish comedy.

At the ripe old age of 87, Brooks remains as hilarious and relevant as ever. That is partly because he is as funny as ever, but also because he simply refuses to fade from the spotlight. Unfortunately, Comedy is often susceptible to aging (Cracked did a great podcast on the subject). Even classics like “Dr. Strangelove” and “Bringing Up Baby” have shown their age. Not Mel Brooks, though.

Just listen to “The 2000 Year Old Man.” Or watch “Blazing Saddles.” Both have barely aged. In the case of “Blazing Saddles,” it is still a shock that something like that could have been made when it was.  In fact, it probably would have had a lot of trouble with the PC crowd of the present as well. Brooks seems to find that mixing the past into the present, as well as speaking in a ridiculous Yiddish accent, is universally hilarious.

Which Mel Brooks movie is the best depends on who you are speaking to. Brooks is one of Hollywood’s best genre satirists, and everyone from Edgar Wright to Quentin Tarantino to Dan Harmon probably owe a great thanks to him. Brooks said that he was never a big science fiction fan, yet the merchandising scene from “Spaceballs” is one of the sharpest bits of commentary on the movie business that there is.

While Brooks might not be religious, he is openly Jewy, letting every bit of the culture inform his works. That odd and exaggerated accent is a staple of nearly all of his characters. Comedians exploiting the languages and cultures that they grew up with was common when Brooks was coming of age in the comedy world (see: Sid Caesar). Brooks is just one step closer to the Old Country traditions than most people, and clearly he has never lost sight of them.

There is a reason that most Jews can recite quotes from Mel Brooks. He embodies the idea of Jewish humor: every dark place can be conquered with a good joke. The Jewish experience has always been an uncertain one, and I believe this is where all of the great Jewish comedy truly stems from. In “Blazing Saddles,” Brooks laughs in the faces of racists. In “The Producers,” he makes the Nazis look like absolute fools. In “History of the World: Part I,” he turned the Inquisition into a giant musical number. Making fun of evil is a great way to make evil less frightening.

Mel Brooks is what I think of whenever I think of the idea of an old Jewish man. He seems like the kind of person who you would see at a deli and then he would pull you over to the side and chew your ear off for hours with hilarious stories from the past. Now, if I ever were to run into Mel Brooks at Katz’s or Canter’s and he were to be so generous, I would immediately cancel all of my plans for the day, and then shut up and listen.

Fun Fact: Mel Brooks has also produced many serious films in his career. Among them are David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” and David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man.”

Come back to The Reel Deal tomorrow night for Jew #2. 

Movie Review: The Heat

Most buddy cop comedies are about to mismatched cops who can’t follow the rules. But what if the movie itself, can’t even follow the rules? “The Heat” proves that the results are dangerously and potentially hilarious.
While “The Heat” is a buddy cop comedy, I’d say it’s more like “Superbad” than “21 Jump Street.” However, the buddy aspect is more important than the procedural part. Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) only follow the buddy cop formula slightly. Sure, the movie teams up a brash cop with an uptight one, yet neither of them really play by the rules. Ashburn is something of a detective prodigy, but she’s maligned by most of the people she works with. You know someone is lonely when they have to steal their neighbor’s cat for company. 
Mullins, meanwhile, is equally good at sniffing out criminals, she’s just a little worse at keeping them from escaping. She may be is insanely over-the-top, but this is a role that McCarthy was meant to play. She gives it just the right amount of heart and never seems irritating.

Bullock and McCarthy have a dynamic, almost natural chemistry together that I certainly did not expect. If the two of them didn’t work well together, the script would have felt flat. It is clear that the two of them are not just partners, but growing friends.
Let’s back up for a moment. This is a comedy first and foremost. And on that, it delivers in every way possible. A large part of comedy is about debasement, and both lead actresses of “The Heat” are more than willing to get down and dirty for laughs. The bad thing about most action comedies is that they often put all of the jokes in the first half and then get weighed down by serious plot in the second half. “The Heat” never loses its comedy momentum, and it brilliantly adds comedy to some of its most tense scenes. I challenge everyone to make a stabbing scene as funny as one that happens in “The Heat.”
“The Heat” is an example of perfect harmony between the three parts of the Holy Trinity of any movie: Director, Writer, and Actors. The writer lays out the blue print, the director brings the blue print to life as he or she sees it, and the actors bring meaning and humor to the words. With “The Heat,” TV writer Katie Dippold (“Parks and Rec”) makes a seamless transition to the big screen. After this movie, she will be one of Hollywood’s most sought after screenwriters. She brings over her expertise from TV by bringing life to an entire ensemble, as opposed to just two characters. 

Her style works perfectly with director Paul Feig’s. Feig always enjoys letting the camera run so he can capture an honest moment. While many scenes go well beyond their natural breaking point, they rarely feel unnecessarily long. The more a scene builds, the more we learn about the characters. Dippold’s strong ear for dialogue perfectly aligns with Feig’s ability to capture “real” moments. I hope to see more movies from this creative team in the very near future.
Just like any good script, “The Heat” is all about the buildup and the payoffs. Mullins never curses throughout the movie, only saying “what the F” whenever she can. So you can guarantee that when she finally does drop a real f-bomb, it’s going to be worth the wait. Even with all the humor (a lot of it deriving from improper use of knives), “The Heat” leads to a surprisingly moving conclusion. 
“The Heat” amounts to a whole lot of riffing. However, what keeps it from being nothing more than a two hour gag reel is that it is stringed together by a pretty decent plot. While I didn’t care that much about who had the drugs and whatever, every character is well developed enough that the stakes do matter. 
As the years go by, Paul Feig gets better and better as a director. Like his contemporary Judd Apatow, he is striving to create a comedy family. A large part of “The Heat” is about Mullins’ big, loud Boston family and family values overall. Like any good family, “The Heat” is warm and inviting even in the midst of its insanity. This is a great comedy because it is dark, but never quite filled with contempt.

Top 5: Stand-Up Specials of 2012

My interests have taken me in a weird, unexpected place in the past few months. Since last summer, I have found myself greatly exploring and obsessing over comedy. It is something that I’ve always liked my whole life, but never thought I could actually see myself becoming a disciple of. But after an improv class and a few shots at standup at various open mics (they are hard to come by in Upstate New York), that is starting to change. I find quotes from Louis C.K. floating around in my head as often as lines of dialogue from “Pulp Fiction.”

Many believe you can’t overanalyze comedy too much. This is true. Sometimes, you can’t explain laughter. However, I believe you can mine out deeper meaning in comedy. Stand-Up began to change in my eyes as I began to watch and listen to entire albums. The more you do that, the more you pay attention to themes and transitions as well as jokes. Here I have a list of five stand-up specials from this year that shocked me, moved me, made me think, and most importantly made me laugh uncontrollably:

5. Animal Furnace (Hannibal Buress)

Like the great show he once wrote for (“30 Rock”), Hannibal Buress is a joke-spewing machine. “Animal Furnace” is Buress’ second hour-long special, and his next leap into becoming one of the funniest people in America. Buress has honed his act beyond just a lot of jokes and he proves that he is a fantastic storyteller. He mocks himself a lot for being overly angry about a lot of issues that don’t matter, but the first few tracks have some pretty thorough takedowns of TSA agents and a bunch of cops in Montreal who gave him a ticket for jaywalking. Then his beat-by-beat commentary on an article written about him at a college that he performed at shows that he would make a great roastmaster. Many have compared Buress’ voice and delivery to that of Mitch Hedberg. It’s an apt comparison: Buress can pick apart the mundane and make it funny in ways you never imagined.

4. The Special Special Special (Maria Bamford)
If I ever meet Maria Bamford, I’d like to give her a hug, because she seems likes the nicest person imaginable. She’s also one of the funniest and most original comedians of our time. Bamford’s latest special, appropriately and hilariously titled In “The Special Special Special,” Bamford doesn’t perform in a theater, or even a comedy club, but rather in her own home, with an audience made up of only her parents. I have never seen stand-up so dependent on the audience’s reaction. Bamford goes through her usual manic routine of impersonations, which is made even more awkward by the fact that the targets of much of her ridicule are sitting right in front of her. Then, Bamford goes into darker territory than ever before, as she chronicles her ongoing battle with Depression in a way that is both funny and inspiring. In a few meta moments, she completely stops the show so she can go to the bathroom, take cookies out of the oven, and give her beloved pug his medicine. With her stand-up, Bamford invites us into her brain. With “The Special Special Special,” she invites us to be a part of her life. Buy it here

See the top 3 after the jump:

3. Live (Tig Notaro)

“Hello! I have cancer!” That’s how Tig Notaro opens up her set that accidentally became legendary. Notaro was scheduled to open for Louis C.K. at Largo. She was supposed to open with a half hour of her usual material. Instead, she takes her audience into a dark and brilliant trip into the tragic past few months of her life. C.K. was so moved by it that he posted it on his website. “Live” is exactly what comedy should be, but rarely is: raw, honest, and uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or shutter at Tig’s jokes, but it’s so inviting because she feels just as uncomfortable as the audience. The half hour is as dark as dark humor can get. Tig chronicles a rough few months in her life which include a brush with death, cancer diagnosis, and the death of her mother. Most of her jokes seem improvised, and she feeds off of the audiences reactions like a master. At one point, she asks if she should cut out the tragedy and tell the jokes she originally wanted to. The audience objects, with one member shouting, “this is fucking amazing!” Indeed.

2. Mr. Universe (Jim Gaffigan)
Jim Gaffigan begins “Mr. Universe” by saying, “oh, he’s doing that voice already?” in his trademark audience member voice. This is exactly what “Mr. Universe” is: Gaffigan takes the routine he has worked so hard to established and brings it to the next level. Here, he is funnier and more insightful than ever. He has a nearly genius monologue that both lampoons and defends McDonalds which turns his love of food into a social statement. Gaffigan also ventures into some new territories besides food. He also wonders why people ignore how gross hotels can be and then he breaks down why it sucks to go on vacation if you’re a father. These turn into more than just silly observations because there is meaning to them. But of course, some musings are there just to make us laugh (see: his joke about whale’s blowholes). Gaffigan is the rare comedian who can be accesible to a large crowd without pandering.

1. New in Town (John Mulaney)

John Mulaney is a comedy prodigy. He’s been participating in sketch groups and stand-up since he was a child. That is why, even before the age of 30, he has been able to establish himself as one of the funniest people working in comedy today. “New in Town” may only be Mulaney’s second special (after 2009′s overlooked “The Top Part”), but he shows off the comedic skills of an old pro. Mulaney is a master at blending sharp observations about Jewish women and 13-year-olds with long stories that never get dull. Wit and buildup have never gone together so well. Mulaney brings us into his world of pop culture obsessions which may not be timely, but as his act projects, he is the guy on stage so he gets to talk about whatever he wants. Indignation over “Home Alone 2″ and jokes about “Law & Order” never get old, but Mulaney is at his best when he’s being self-deprecating. Anyone who was ever bullied in their life will sympathize with Mulaney’s tales of being bullied as a child for looking Chinese (“Daddy, today I met a boy with no eyes”) and sounding like a woman (“I had a voice like a little flute”). Unlike a lot of comedians, Mulaney veers away from being cynical, even when he’s tackling his demons such as his past drinking problem, which he discusses with the story of a high school party gone spectacularly wrong (one word: “Scatter!”), and his anxiety, which culminates into a hilarious doctor’s visit gone wrong that I dare not spoil for you. Even with all its sillines, “New in Town” is a meaningful and infinitely rewatchable hour of comedy about the weirdness of adult life as seen through the eyes of someone who views himself as a “tall child.” As Mulaney gets older, his stand-up will get better and better. I just hope he never feels the urge to actually grow up.

Choosing one bit to represent all of “New in Town” was nearly impossible, but I went with this one because it uses the phrase “playfully anti-Semitic.”