This year was a lot of things when it came to movies, especially for comedy. Comedies capture culture and a year better than most genres. It is a broad label, and many films can be described in some way or another as a comedy. There aren’t any specifications for what is considered a comedy film here, more just what feels right. Here are my picks for the 5 best and worst comedies of 2018.
5. Worst. Life of the Party.
Melissa McCarthy is really quite an enigma. Starting as a dramatic actor, morphing into a comedic one, continuing to do one or two mediocre comedies a year, getting nominated for an Academy Awards in the wonderful Bridesmaids. However, this year is different. After delivering one of the best female performance of the year in the wonderful Can You Ever Forgive Me? before dropping off two films which almost contradict that incredible little film. Life of the Party is the sort of concept that feels stale, but still got green-lit for whatever reason. It’s not the most offensive film of the year (Green Book, see #3, takes the cake), but boring can be its own form of offensiveness. The pinnacle of humor here is McCarthy doing the worm in a 80s themed dance off – sure, it’s not the worst thing ever, but why would you watch it?
5. Best. Blockers
Blockers is an incredibly sweet comedy. While being marketed as a frat comedy starring John Cena, Ike Barinholtz, and Leslie Mann, Blockers reveals itself to be one of the most forward thinking and wonderful studio comedies since the golden age of Judd Apatow. The concept may be ridiculous, but the jokes land, as does the fantastic emotional moments. Filled with one-lines that land perfectly (“Have you guys seen Inferno?”), to some of the best comedic performances in a year filled with them (Ike Barinholtz kills it), Blockers is not a film you’d want to see with your parents, but it’s one that’ll make you think about how you were in high school. Sure, some of it may be dumb, but some of it is genuine and charming, just like teenagers are.
4. Worst. Gringo.
When you look at Gringo on paper, there’s a sneaking suspicion it should work. When you look at the trailer as well, you hope it will. From the excellent casting filled with wonderful faces, to the director who’s previous film The Square was well received, to the writers who have done dark comedy well before (see The Coen Brothers’ underrated 2003 film, Intolerable Cruelty), this should have worked. But once you make it through this 110 minutes slog, you aren’t even sure it can be called a comedy. Sure, there are comedic beats, but the genuine cruelty of the material is shocking. Gringo is sloppy and tonally messy, but the most frustrating thing is how you can feel a diamond hiding somewhere in it. There’s something here, from the pretty good performances, to the crisp visual look, but it needed someone more suited to the material, or just better material in the first place. Oh, and of course, Sharlto Copley pops up.
4. Best. The Death of Stalin.
While Gringo didn’t balance grimness and comedy well at all, The Death of Stalin exists as an anomaly. A weird combination of horrific and hilarious, The Death of Stalin has a collection of actors from different backgrounds not attempting to do a Russian accent in a farce about the literal death of Stalin. Yeah, it’s amazing to hear cockney Stalin, but the highlight of the film is its absurd and violent finale. The entire thing is a lampoon on the stupidity of groups in governments, how a politician wheels and deals just to get a tiny crumb of the pie, but also shows the utter and horrific disregard of anyone on the quest for power. It’s a incredibly funny gut punch, one that will stick with us in the near and far future.
3. Worst. Green Book.
Cue 2018’s hokiest dramedy at #3. Sure, Green Book doesn’t only contain a career low performance for Viggo Mortensen, whilst completely wasting Linda Cardellini, but it plays as another one of those gentle films about race relations. This is a film that exists to suggest that one man’s racism can be fixed by having him spend time with a person of color. This thesis is frustrating because simply, people of color shouldn’t have to convince people out of their racism. But also, that basis is annoying because it adds to that idea that racism doesn’t change through big movements and large amounts of effort, just interactions and little gestures. It’s a film contains a great performance from Mahershala Ali, who shows a huge amount of range. Even the period detail is nice, but really, this is the favorite film of the year for people who say they aren’t racist because they have one black friend.
3. Best. Bodied.
Written by an actually battle rapper, Bodied is the story of a white dude and his quest into battle rap. Seemingly aware of how that might be a horrible, horrible concept, director Joseph Kahn and writer Alex Larsen, make the film less about a white boy’s venture into a different culture, and more about all of the different cultures in battle rap. Every battle scene is genuinely attention grabbing, but so is every detail in the film. The set design and production is excellent, the direction finds a way to liven up every scene, and the performances (especially Calum Worthy and Jackie Long) are excellent. It feels like a film that may momentarily lose you, but will win you back every time in the best way.
2. Worst. Assassination Nation.
Assassination Nation came out as the most muddled, unorganized satire this year. It opens with trigger warnings (joy), and only proceeds to worsen from there. The cast, while being uniformly good, feels out of place in such a overwrought and messy film. For a film about cycles of abuse, trauma, gender dynamics, and as those opening trigger warnings exemplify, plenty of other things, Assassination Nation spends a lot of time looking excellent and feeling fine, but doesn’t have much of a thesis, point, or real statement. And, well, that’s truly the most troubling thing about it.
2. Best. Eighth Grade.
Bo Burnham knows what he’s doing. From his excellent stand up comedy which always felt like a scripted, humorous piece of performance art, it was only a little bit of time until he make the jump to film. He’s written scripts in the past (The Gay Kid and Fat Chick), but this was something worth watching out for. Eighth Grade is a combination of coming of age films but put through the lens of a horror film. The intensive thorniness of this film is real. Kayla, brilliantly played by Elsie Fisher in one of the best performances of the year, feels like someone you’d know, Mark, the dad, played by the wonderful Josh Hamilton, feels like someone you’d know. But most importantly, it’s a love letter to anyone like them. It cares about it’s characters, and while being scary and sharp, it’s also genuinely hilarious. A wonderful film.
- Worst. Nobody’s Fool.
While not the intended audience for a Tyler Perry film, Tiffany Haddish was still a big draw. After 2017’s Girls Trip, one would hope for something big to happen to her in 2018 to cement her as one of the best comedians working. Nobody’s Fool frustratingly goes against this, being a tiring and overlong 110 minutes. Haddish, while attempting to carry the entire film, somehow gets reduced to a worse version of herself. Her character gets introduced (for no real reason besides sex = funny, sure) in the middle of having sex in the back of a van. It reduces the notion of humor to people being loud, and feels utterly redundant almost as soon as it’s done. Still, if this is the worst comedy of 2018, it was still a pretty excellent year for them as proven by the film below.
- Best. Game Night.
It’s incredibly refreshing for a comedy to treat the audience like an adult. Every detail about Game Night, the most utterly delightful and wonderful comedy of 2018, is perfect. It’s a film, from the first viewing, you know you’ll see 100 times. From Rachel McAdams and Jesse Plemons’ excellent performances, to the stylish direction, Game Night is the exception to the current state of studio comedies, and we adore it more than anything in the world.
If you liked this, you can find me on Twitter at @selfseriousness.