After the long, hard winter we’ve all been through, Hollywood has decided we need some laughter in the dark. It’s about time. Traditionally, the summer movie season that starts before Memorial Day and rolls on through Labor Day is a playground for heavy-duty toys: superhero franchises, action sequels, prequels, reboots. There’s plenty of that on the studios’ dockets in 2014, but comedies dominate the schedule. Is it due to the box-office success of previous warm-weather farces like “Ted,” “The Heat,” and “Bridesmaids”? Is it because funny is cheaper to produce than epic? Does it really matter, if you’re laughing hard enough?
All the usual comic suspects are behind the wave, from the lowbrow (Adam Sandler in “Blended,” a family-friendly reunion with Drew Barrymore) to the high (Woody Allen’s latest, “Magic in the Moonlight,” with Colin Firth and Emma Stone). There are bad boys (Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, as a new dad and a frat brat who become “Neighbors”) and worse boys (“22 Jump Street,” which brings Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum back together with writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, fresh off their “LEGO Movie” triumph). There are rom-coms for the 20-somethings (“What If,” with Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan), the 40-somethings (“Words and Pictures,” with Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen), and the 60-somethings (“And So It Goes,” with Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton).
Comedies about women (“Tammy,” with Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon as a foul-mouthed granddaughter-grandmother team), check. Comedies about men (“Let’s Be Cops,” with Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr.), check. Comedies about couples (rom-com parody “They Came Together,” marital farce “Sex Tape,” multi-pair sequel “Think Like a Man Too”) — oy. There’s even a comedy about suicide — “A Long Way Down,” based on the Nick Hornby novel — and a comic western (“A Million Ways to Die in the West,” with Seth MacFarlane trying to one-up Mel Brooks).
It wouldn’t be summer without a lot of noisy tent-pole blockbusters designed to separate the fanboy in you from your money. The next few months will see “Spider-Man,” “X-Men,” and “Transformers” sequels, a second film in the rebooted “Planet of the Apes” series, and a whole new “Godzilla.” The Wachowskis, of “Matrix” fame, will be back with the original “Jupiter Ascending,” Tom Cruise will be jumping through time-space hoops in “Edge of Tomorrow,” and US audiences will finally get to see Korean master Bong Joon-Ho’s “Snowpiercer” — a head-spinning future parable starring Chris Evans — in the director’s cut rather than Harvey Weinstein’s.
There are straight dramas, period films, and bio-pics, as well, with the James Brown story “Get On Up” (starring Chadwick Boseman) and James Gray’s “The Immigrant” (Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner in 1920s Manhattan) looking especially worthy. But the emphasis on comedy is cheering in more ways than one. We could all use a laugh right about now. Here’s hoping this summer delivers.