BY DANITA STEINBERG
A lot can be said for sheer star power. Watching all of your favourite actors together in one movie can be as exciting as Christmas morning or Oscar Sunday. I have to say though, the promise of an ensemble cast is often misleading, like the awful Valentine’s Day and even more awful, New Year’s Eve. Fortunately, there are a handful of ensemble comedies that highlight and heighten the dynamics and chemistry of a star-studded cast.
In hopes of Movie 43 being as hilarious as it looks, here are five ensemble comedies that tickle the funny bone just right.
5) The Big Chill (1983)
Cast: Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Till, and JoBeth Williams
While some of these names might sound unfamiliar nowadays, these were some of the biggest stars in Hollywood in the 1980s. The Big Chill will show you why. It is about a group of college friends reuniting in a big house for the weekend after the suicide of one of their pals. With past romances, current romances, great music, and undeniable chemistry, The Big Chill will have you smiling from start to finish.
4) Peter’s Friends (1994)
Cast: Hugh Laurie, Kenneth Brannagh, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Imelda Staunton, and Rita Rudner
I always say that Peter’s Friends is England’s answer to The Big Chill. It’s the same idea: college friends reuniting for a weekend at a giant house in England’s countryside. These two films make for a perfect double bill with your own group of friends. I always find that Peter’s Friends is less sentimental, and more sharp witted, partially because of the comedic styling of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, but also because of the dark writing of stand-up comedienne Rita Rudner (the only American in the group).
3) A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, John C. Reilly, Virginia Madsen, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, and Lily Tomlin
You can’t really make a list of ensemble films without mentioning one by the always amazing Robert Altman. He captures the dynamics of a large group better than anyone with his signature overlapping and quick-paced dialogue. His last film, and perhaps his most underappreciated, A Prairie Home Companion is about the behind-the-scenes comings and goings of a radio show (a real one, might I add) as they broadcast their final show. Bringing out the best in his cast (yes, even Lindsay Lohan. Maybe even especially Lindsay Lohan), Altman creates a charming film about a charming subject.
2) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon
Picking a Wes Anderson film is like a Sophie’s Choice situation for me. However, I feel like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is Anderson’s most ambitious film, and one of his best. He walks the fine line between tragedy and comedy better than anyone else. With the help of his talented actors, his dry comedy is brought to life. This film is co-written by Noah Baumbach, and these two are a match made in quirky indie heaven. I’d also like to give a shout out to the cameo by a grown up Bud Cort (of Harold and Maude fame). Only Wes Anderson, I tell ya.
1) Best in Show (2000)
Cast: Parker Posey, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Bob Balaban, Christopher Guest, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard
Best in Show is the ultimate friend test for me. By this I mean, we cannot be friends if you don’t think Best in Show is one of the funniest movies ever made. While it may be partially offensive to can’t-take-a-joke dog people, it should be hilarious to just about everyone else. Shot as a mockumentary, it is about the contestants participating in a national dog show and their individual preparations for the weekend. Between a gay couple, a crazy fighting yuppie couple, a Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara couple, Jane Lynch, the best event announcer of all time, a guy who likes to name off different types of nuts, and genius improv, there is no lack of comedy gold.
Danita loves musicals, Bette Midler, sandwiches, Real Housewives, great horror films, and The Golden Girls. She’s a barista, bookworm, cinephile, and celebrity stalker. If she’s at home, she’s in her pajamas. Follow her on Twitter @danita_35.