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At the movies, funny is where you find it

August may be the newly anointed comedy month for Hollywood, but there are hidden laughs in the most unlikely films of 2008
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Maybe you pay attention to these kinds of things and maybe you don’t, but the months of August and September are the movie-going equivalent of accidentally stepping on a full diaper left in the parking lot of the 99-cent Store. Like January and February, these are the designated months for studios to unload their most rancid, sore-covered product.

Until now. Thanks to “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Superbad,” August is now R-rated comedy month. And this August sees the release of “Pineapple Express” and “Tropic Thunder.” If you count late-July’s “Step Brothers,” and I do, you’re looking at a welcome new trend: one less month where things suck.

My only complaint about this new trend would be that I’d like comedy to happen all year long instead of having to run out to similarly raunchy movies in the span of just a few weeks. Because other than this batch there’s been “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “The Foot Fist Way,” “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay” and whatever that documentary about Intelligent Design was called. I forget and, really, should I have to go look it up?

But because I have to be amused on an almost daily basis — and I know I’m not alone in that need — and because I have to see lots of movies for a living, I like to make sure people know about all the funny parts that go down in movies that weren’t marketed as comedies, even though most of them turned out to be laugh riots. So far, 2008 has given us (and you bet spoilers are coming):

1. “The Happening”This film single-handedly undid all scariness regarding the woods created by “The Blair Witch Project” and various European black metal bands when Mark Wahlberg, leading a band of rag-tag urban refugees out into rural America after escaping (they think) whatever the Invisible Spooky Force is that’s been stalking urban centers and making people kill themselves, realizes that the Invisible Spooky Force is actually in the air and being produced by menacing murder-trees swaying gently in the doom-breeze. “Outrun the wind!” he yells (I’m paraphrasing here). And then they do. Well, some of them do. Some of them are too slow and the wicked wind kills them like bug spray. That’s hilarious, too.

2. “Rambo”
In the new “Rambo,” when Rambo aims at the bad guys with his big Rambo weapons, they don’t just die, they EXPLODE. It’s like he’s spent all his leave-me-in-peace jungle moments building advanced bomb-guns just in case someone came along and decided to mess with him again. This means he spent his time wisely because they totally did come back to mess with him again. So he makes them explode. Seriously, this is like Buster Keaton-level good.

3. “Mamma Mia!”Did Pierce Brosnan do something really, really, really bad to whoever decided to sabotage “Mamma Mia!” by casting him in it and making the poor man sing alone not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES? I think there were supposed to be funny lines of dialogue intentionally written for this movie. And I think someone wrote some that they thought were intentionally funny. And I think that all of the wacky squealing and jumping and mugging bits were also supposed to be a joyful jingo-jango of mirth because this confusional project is a musical-comedy. But nothing — and I mean zero amounts of things — here is funny until the erstwhile Mr. Bond decides to pretend he’s a hirsute fusion of both Frida and Agnetha. When he’s old and they’re giving him an honorary Oscar for charity work or whatever, someone’s going to trot out these clips and everyone will have a little chuckle.

4. “In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale”I have a thing for Uwe Boll movies. I’ve written about this before on this site. I like his style. I like that he’s down for putting lady-Tarzan-lesbian-ninja wood nymphs in his films. He does it his way and he’s serious about it. And I like that even though he’d probably want to punch me in the face for saying so — he’s done that to some critics, which is another reason to like him — his movies are awesomely funny.

In this year’s “In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale,” Ray Liotta plays an evil wizard who lives in a parallel dimension of swirly cotton candy and he controls these mud-covered Sleestaks that do his bidding and try to wrest control of the land of Ehhb (Or maybe it’s “Ehhh.” It’s kind of hard to know because when characters say the name they’re all yelling stuff like “I VANQUISH YOU IN THE NAME OF EHHH!” at the top of their lungs) away from dying King played by Burt Reynolds. Then come the lady-Tarzan-lesbian-ninja wood nymphs to help this turnip farmer battle everyone and… I forgot where I was going with this. It’s great though. More excitement, thrills and laughs per minute than “The Love Guru” had in its entire running time. I know, damning with faint praise.

5. “One Missed Call” In the very-little-seen “horror” film “One Missed Call,” the one about a cell phone that murders people (a hint: if your phone is murdering your friends, throw away that phone and get a Jitterbug), they bring in a priest to fix it. It is worth putting this movie in your Netflix queue — you already spent the money after all, and it’s not like you’re too busy catching up with the latest Hou Hsiao-Hsien art film — to watch the part where they perform an exorcism ON A CELL PHONE.

6. “The Other Boleyn Girl”
This is one of those trick-you films you bring your grandma to see on Mother’s Day because it looks refined and classy, a period drama about English royalty from the olden times. And then — psych! — you’re watching a rerun of “Flamingo Road” on SOAPNet. Parents prostituting their daughters, bodices ripped off and stomped on, flaring nostrils, rapes, bastard children, cocked-eyebrow court intrigue, near-incest, beheadings and, as one queen is about to die and is led past Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, the treacherous minxes who helped put her there, the line of dialogue that really kicks it up to “Dynasty” territory: “Oh look, the Boleyn whores.” Yesssss!

7. “Jumper”Weirdly enough, the funniest part of “Jumper” does not involve Hayden Christensen. I know, shocker. It’s about a guy who can leap through space and be anywhere he wants to be at any given second. So he does this a lot, robs some banks along the way to keep the cash flow nice, harming no one really, zero carbon footprint. But the first time it happens — to the kid who plays teen Hayden — he wakes up in a pool of water in a library and immediately says to no one (because he’s alone), “Did I just teleport?”

8. “Wanted” This movie is not meant to be based on anyone’s idea of reality. Not one moment. It’s a cartoon like “Speed Racer” was a cartoon, minus the Skittles-blasted psychedelia. And the part where James McAvoy, driving a speeding car and trying to kill these other guys in this other speeding car that — darn it — has bullet-proof everything on it, manages to flip his own speeding car upside down and hover over his enemy’s vehicle so that he can shoot them through their sunroof, is a gasping, screaming, beautifully side-splitting moment of pure cinema. Why aren’t you watching it right now?

9. “The X Files: I Want To Believe”This sequel is a belated episode of the series and sort of not related to the mythology of the show at all from what I can tell. It’s a somewhat supernatural “Murder She Wrote” mixed with what has to be the most (Intentional? Unintentional? No one can truly say.) obnoxious and bizarre gay-baiting plot twist in recent movie history. This will be the one film I don’t spoil right here and now because it kind of has to be seen to be believed, but it involves homosexual mad scientists and gender-switching head transplants. OK, so I sort of just spoiled it. Whatever. Call it “They Saved Gay Hitler’s Brain.” I do.

10. “The Eye”That part in “The Eye” where Jessica Alba screams into the oven cracks me up every time I think about it. Is she looking for the secret of her haunted eyeball in the oven? Is she baking a delicious treat to take her mind off her haunted eyeball? Is it burning and she’s upset that she didn’t buy that silicone anti-cookie-burning Silpat thing that she read about in “Martha Stewart Living?” After that movie came out, someone emailed me a still photo of that scene, done up all LOLCats style with the caption: “I HATE U CAKE!” If the whole movie had been captioned like that, it’d be in my year-end top 10 list.

Dave White is the author of “Exile in Guyville.” He can be found at