The fall movie season is here with a diverse batch of comedies headed our ways over the next few months. The movies that come out this time of year tend to be a little more adult and thoughtful and not typically as loud and brash as the teen-friendly titles that populate marquees in the summertime. It’s a mixed bag as far as the quality of these upcoming films goes, with the best-looking movies coming from indie auteurs Alexander Payne and Jason Reitman, as well as Apatow henchmen Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Jason Segel.
Let’s see what we’re in for, shall we?
50/50 (watch trailer)
Seth Rogen must have liked playing the sidekick to a terminally ill guy in Funny People a lot because he’s going right back to that well for 50/50, in which he portrays chemo patient Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s best friend. Rogen is also producing this cancer dramedy written by his longtime pal Will Reiser, whom Rogen met when they were both on staff at Da Ali G Show. Based on Reiser’s true tale of cancer survival, 50/50 was directed by Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) and has undergone two title changes during its production. Former titles I’m With Cancer and Live with It make 50/50 seem that much more impressive. In all seriousness, though, 50/50 doesn’t look like it has too much in common with Funny People beyond the subject matter, and there’s some Oscar buzz surrounding the film. The pairing of Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows promise, making this seem like one of the fall’s better-looking comedies.
What’s Your Number? (watch trailer)
Anna Faris stars in this raunchy romantic comedy, in which she plays a woman reconnecting with the 20 men she’s dated in her life in hopes of finding true love with one of them. A slew of comedy ringers to play Faris’s former beaus, including Joel McHale, Thomas Lennon, Andy Samberg, and Faris’s real life husband, Parks and Rec’s Chris Pratt. It’s great to see Pratt and his fellow NBC stars popping up in major movies, and the strong supporting cast might just be what gives What’s Your Number? the edge over your average romantic comedy.
Paul Rudd has long been the sole link between Judd Apatow’s cluster of actors and David Wain’s stable of performers, but this October will finally see him doing the inevitable: uniting the two camps. Produced by Judd Apatow, co-written and directed by David Wain, Wanderlust stars Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as a city couple who decide they need a change and start living on a free-loving commune. I was impressed by how David Wain was able to mainstream-up his last movie Role Models, without sacrificing laughs or losing any of his edge. Role Models proved to be a resounding success — Wain’s biggest commercial hit yet - and pairing him with Apatow is a smart move in David Wain’s evolution as a filmmaker. Apatow’s also on a hot streak lately, with this summer’s Bridesmaids having become his highest-grossing film to date. Apatow’s good luck should continue, especially considering Wanderlust’s excellent supporting cast that includes Joe Lo Truglio, Ray Liotta, Justin Theroux, Kathryn Hahn, Kerri Kenney, Malin Akerman, Todd Barry, and Alan Alda, and the movie’s co-writer, Ken Marino.
Update: Looks like this one isn’t coming out until next February. But all of the above is still true despite that! See you at the Winter preview, Wanderlust.
The Big Year (watch trailer)
Coming out of Ben Stiller’s production house, Red Hour Films, The Big Year follows a trio of birdwatchers played by Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson. Stiller, Wilson, and Black have worked alongside each other plenty, but Steve Martin is the real wildcard here. Martin’s a major influence on the generations of comedians that have followed him, and working with the respected comedic actor should have been an honor for these younger guys, leading them to bring their A-game to set. The supporting cast is nothing to sneeze at either with Rashida Jones, Dianne Wiest, Joel McHale, Jim Parsons, and Anjelica Huston rounding out the cast.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (watch trailer)
Just in time for… early November, the Christmas-themed installment in the Harold & Kumar series is coming to theaters a little early. Shot in 3D, H&K3 follows the titular pothead buddies on another crazy adventure after they accidentally burn down Harold’s father’s prize Christmas tree. Thomas Lennon, Patton Oswalt, and Danny Trejo also star. Don’t worry, Neil Patrick Harris will be back. It wouldn’t be a Harold and Kumar movie without him.
Tower Heist (watch trailer)
Newly-minted Oscar host Eddie Murphy stars alongside Ben Stiller for this crime comedy from director Brett Ratner. Tower Heist, originally titled Trump Heist, has had a lengthy gestation process, originally entering into development in the early 2000s with several actors, directors and writers signing on and dropping out over the years. The story follows several employees of a New York high-rise who join forces to rob a wealthy businessman who lost their pension funds in a Ponzi scheme. Also in Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy’s gang are Matthew Broderick, Gabourey Sidibe, Téa Leoni, Michael Peña, and Casey Affleck. If the trailer’s any indication, Murphy seems to be harkening back to the wild 80’s persona he established in other entries in the crime comedy canon, 48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy’s performance must have been something special, since Brett Ratner tapped him to host the Oscars following production and has been kissing his ass ever since, even going as far to call him “a genius.” Either that or Brett Ratner is wildly out of touch with what’s funny. I’m leaning towards the latter.
Jack and Jill (watch trailer)
Those thinking Adam Sandler bottomed out with Grown Ups will be proven wrong this November with the release of Jack and Jill, in which Sandler plays protagonist Jack, as well as donning drag to co-star with himself as Jack’s obnoxious twin sister Jill. Yes, that’s right, Sandler’s resorted to stealing pages out of Eddie Murphy’s playbook from five years ago. Watching the trailer to Jack and Jill, it feels like one of Adam Sandler’s character’s fake movies from Funny People that was cut out to keep that film’s length under the three hour mark. I can just imagine Sandler saying to his buddy, “Hey Judd, this ‘Jack and Jill’ scene is really funny. Can we cut it out so I can make it into an actual movie?”
The Muppets (watch trailer)
It seems like all of this fall’s most promising movies are coming from Judd Apatow regulars. Apatow protégés Jason Segel and Nick Stoller wrote this reboot of the Muppets movie franchise for Segel to star in. It’s a throwback to the classic Muppets movies of the late 70’s and early 80’s, with the plot revolving around our felt friends trying to defend their theater from a greedy oil mogul. Like those old Muppets movies, this one’ll be filled to the brim with cameos from A-list stars. In fact, glancing at the IMDb cast list, it looks like Segel and company have outdone the original Muppets films with a staggering guest roster.
2010’s gory, nudity-filled horror-comedy Piranha 3D evidently made enough of a splash to warrant a sequel. Piranha 3DD (Get it? Double D, like large breasts?) sees the action move to a waterpark with David Koechner, David Hasselhoff, Katrina Bowden, and human piranha Gary Busey added to the mix. Ving Rhames and Paul Scheer, whose characters were both chomped up in the original (although Scheer’s death was left on the cutting room floor), will be returning, proving that this sequel isn’t tethered by any sense of continuity. Unfortunately, though, two stand-outs from the original, Adam Scott and Jerry O’Connell, will not be returning for the follow-up.
The Descendants (watch trailer)
Director Alexander Payne’s first film since the release of Sideways seven years ago, The Descendants is a comedy-drama that stars George Clooney as a workaholic father trying to reconnect with his daughters while his wife recovers from an accident. Of note to comedy fans is that Rob Huebel has a small supporting role and that the script was penned Payne and Nat Faxon, along with Jim Rash, whom you may know as Dean Pelton from Community. The release date and Payne’s track record indicate that this is gearing up to be an Oscar contender, so we could very well see Dean Pelton nominated for Best Screenplay at the big ceremony.
The Sitter (watch trailer)
Directed by indie auteur-turned-stoner movie filmmaker David Gordon Green, The Sitter is an R-rated comedy starring Jonah Hill as the reluctant babysitter to three neighbor kids. Prior to production, the script, by newcomer writing duo Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, earning a spot on the 2009 Black List, which ranks the best-liked unproduced scripts amongst studio execs and their assistants. Jonah Hill’s been especially careful in picking his lead roles, only committing to projects he truly cares about, which also inspires confidence. David Gordon Green’s last film, Your Highness, didn’t perform well with critics or audiences; but, given the caliber of the script and Hill’s selectiveness with his movies, this should be one to look forward to.
Juno duo Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody reunite for this comedy-drama that seems to be a surefire Oscar contender. Once again, Cody writes while Reitman directs, the same set-up that worked so well last time. Those put off by Cody’s trademark style will be comforted by reports that she’s toned things down and ditched the cutesy dialogue for this one. The movie follows Charlize Theron as an author of young adult novels who returns to her small town in hopes of seducing an old flame who is now married. Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt, and Reitman’s good luck charm J.K. Simmons also star. Over the past several years, Jason Reitman has turned into one of the industry’s most-acclaimed comedy directors, earning Oscar nominations for each of his last two films. Young Adult looks like it could see him extend this streak.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.