Edmund Gwenn, best known for his Oscar-winning performance as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street, famously said on his deathbed in 1959, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." With due respect, it's a good thing Mr. Gwenn isn't around to see the vast wasteland of the 2015 summer box office. Finding a good comedy is as difficult as finding Santa Claus in July. If it weren't for Melissa McCarthy—who might actually make a pretty funny Mrs. Claus someday—big-screen comedy would be on life support.
A quick look at the year's top films at the box office (minus the children's fare), we find that the only comedies to crack the Top 20 list were The Wedding Ringer, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Get Hard and Pitch Perfect 2 (more musical than comedy). How sad. These are desperate times. With the sole exception of McCarthy's latest success, Spy, the news is not good among other big screen offerings.
Here's a quick snapshot of comedies currently in Idaho cineplexes:
Aloha: The title practically writes its own review. On paper, this one sounded swell. Writer/director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) fills the screen with Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski. What could go wrong? Everything.
Entourage: Help me out with this. Isn't the reason HBO pulled the plug on this because the franchise had run out of ideas? Memo to entertainers pondering big-screen adaptations of small-screen source material: Bigger rarely means better. Your flaws are only... well, bigger.
Hot Pursuit: Only a script this bad could make Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara appear boring.
Results: This would have been a fine romantic comedy if it had a different cast, script and director. It would also have helped tremendously if the film was either romantic or comedic. Opens Friday, June 12.
Welcome to Me: I love Kristen Wiig, but comedies built around mental illness are becoming tiresome. My sense is that audiences' tolerance levels are pretty low when it comes to making fun of personality disorders.
Which brings us to McCarthy and Spy, the funniest film of 2015 thus far. I was honestly wondering if I had forgotten what it was like to laugh out loud in a theater and then along came McCarthy, the bundle of sass and sweetness that has been owning our summers at the movies since her Oscar-nominated scene-stealing performance in 2011's Bridesmaids.
It's a fact that McCarthy is as funny as anyone in the movies these days, and in Spy she's in perfect hands with writer/director Paul Feig—they previously teamed for Bridesmaids and The Heat. Feig and McCarthy are currently working on Ghostbusters III, which will star McCarthy, Wiig and SNL star breakout Kate McKinnon. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until July 2016 for the all-female Ghostbusters. Come to think of it, Spy is worth a second look; I'm certain there are laughs I missed from laughing so hard the first time around.