What's not to love about stupid comedy movies? They give us a chance to escape the 24-hour news cycle and enter a world that's absurd, silly, or just plain dumb. But not all dumb comedies are created equal. Some comedies deal with real-world problems and societal issues, including but not limited to discrimination in the workplace, classism, and even sports labor relations. These zany comedies, not unike dumb TV shows and even big-budget Marvel movies, might seem daft at first, but they manage to pack in some serious food for thought amid the gut-busting jokes.
- Photo: DreamWorks Pictures
One of the reasons Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is considered one of the best comedies of the 2000s is its pure absurdity. Characters like Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd), who uses a gasoline-scented cologne called "Sex Panther," and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), who eliminates a rival newscaster with a trident, make Anchorman feel like pure farce. But the Will Ferrell-starring comedy puts a laser focus on sexism in the world of journalism, particularly in the mid-1970s.
When Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) expresses interest in becoming a national news anchor, Ron and his cohorts find it laughably impossible. She has to endure coworkers who genuinely believe her menstrual cycle will lure bears into their San Diego newsroom. Yes, Anchorman might be overt with its portrayal of misogyny in the world of journalism, but it's not too far from the reality of newsrooms in 1976, which were overwhelmingly male-dominated. Corningstone is a lot like real-life reporter Barbara Walters, who started as a news "girl" before climbing her way up to a national post in 1976 - becoming the first female national correspondent to co-anchor an evening news broadcast. Walters's style of interviewing captivated American audiences, just like Corningstone does when she and Ron become equal co-hosts of World News Center.
- Actors: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, Jack Black
- Released: 2004
- Directed by: Adam McKay
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Though it hit theaters in 1983, Wall Street comedy Trading Places still has eerie relevance. Transient Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) scrapes by running hustles on the streets of New York. Financial executive Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) is part of the upper echelon of the city's financial and social elite. Winthorpe's bosses, brothers Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer (Don Ameche) Duke, decide to run a social experiment of sorts. One believes it is a man's nature that defines him. The other believes habitat plays a large part in a man's character. To test their theory, they bet a dollar and swap Valentine's and Winthorpe's lives. When the two discover they have been non-consenting subjects in this experiment, they reveal the brothers' scam and insider trading tactics that made them business tycoons. This scene has even been mentioned on the floor of congress during discussions about insider trading laws.
Trading Places has its ridiculous, over-the-top comedic moments - like when an intoxicated Winthorpe crashes his former employers' holiday party - but it also speaks to the American landscape at large. Americans may pride themselves on their country's belief that "all men are created equal," as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, but social constructs like racism, classism, and ableism privilege some Americans above others.
- Actors: Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, Al Franken, Jim Belushi
- Released: 1983
- Directed by: John Landis
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Before Chris Farley's untimely passing, he and fellow comedian David Spade were on a roll. The classic comedy duo starred in the Saturday Night Live sketch-turned-movie Coneheads in 1993, and in 1995, the two hit the silver screen for what would become their trademark collaboration, Tommy Boy. The eponymous Tommy Callahan (Farley) inherits his father's slowly dwindling auto parts factory. Tommy's stepmom is eager to sell the factory and cash out, but Tommy and his father's uptight assistant Richard Hayden (Spade) attempt to save the place - and all the jobs it provides the small Ohio town.
The film touches on an issue that started brewing during the 70s and 80s, when laissez-faire economic policies, which limited government intervention and placed profit as a company's highest priority, were put into motion. By the 1990s, after NAFTA opened up trade further, many companies opted to move manufacturing jobs overseas to save production costs - at the expense of the average American blue collar worker.
- Actors: Chris Farley, David Spade, Brian Dennehy, Bo Derek, Dan Aykroyd
- Released: 1995
- Directed by: Peter Segal
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
When Mrs. Doubtfire was released in 1993, critics were lukewarm on it. Many viewed it as nothing more than a feature-length showcase of star Robin Williams's off-the-wall comedic chops as Mrs. Doubtfire, AKA Daniel Hillard, a man who finds an unconventional way to connect with his kids in the midst of divorce.
The film was a box-office smash - the second-highest grossing movie of 1993, behind only Jurassic Park - and continued to build on its audience after making its way to home video. But while it may be nostalgically remembered as a vehicle for Williams's zaniness and charm, Mrs. Doubtfire in fact managed to touch on the difficulties of fractured families and relationships, and the eggshells everyone - including children - has to walk on during a major familial shakeup. The fallout of a failed marriage isn't just the backdrop for comedy - it's the movie's very subject.
- Actors: Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein, Polly Holliday
- Released: 1993
- Directed by: Chris Columbus