When in Rome
Disney's romantic comedy starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel certainly isn't threatening to break any new ground, although there might be some nice scenery in the half of the movie that was shot in Italy. A big red flag: the director and co-writer is Mark Steven Johnson (Ghost Rider 35, Simon Birch 39), who is entirely unfamiliar with the concept of green Metascores.
This buddy cop comedy starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan was directed by Kevin Smith but penned by Mark and Robb Cullen -- marking the first time that the Clerks director is helming a movie that he didn't write himself. Judging from his recent output, that might be a good thing.
Hot Tub Time Machine
Boasting the most intentionally stupid title and premise since Snakes on a Plane 58, this time-travel comedy (in which a group of friends are transported back to a ski resort in 1986) also features a top-notch cast that includes John Cusack (in a welcome return to comedy), Rob Corddry, Chevy Chase, Craig Robinson, and Crispin Glover (who is welcome in anything). With a promising trailer and a chance to see Cusack skiing for the first time since Better Off Dead, Hot Tub Time Machine is threatening to become this spring's sleeper hit.
The latest dramedy from writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale 82) stars Ben Stiller in low-key mode (to an extent) as a 40-something slacker at a crossroads in his life. After losing his job, he agrees to housesit for his younger brother, where he falls for his brother's personal assistant (Greta Gerwig). LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy provides the score.
I Love You Phillip Morris
Based on a true story, this dark comedy from the writers of Bad Santa 70 stars Jim Carrey as father, husband and con man Steven Jay Russell, who falls in love with his male cellmate Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) after he is imprisoned. After Morris is released, Russell escapes from prison -- four times -- in order to be with him again. The film was extremely well received at Sundance last year, but its subject matter scared away potential distributors.
Even a talented cast (Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mark Ruffalo) may not be enough to save this comedy from a flimsy mistaken-identity premise and a poorly-reviewed director (Shawn Levy of The Pink Panther 38 and Night at the Museum 48 "fame").
Death at a Funeral
The once-talented Neil LaBute (The Wicker Man 36, Your Friends & Neighbors 70) directs this American remake of Frank Oz's 2007 British farce of the same name. Set at a funeral where anything that can go wrong does, the black comedy stars Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan and Martin Lawrence, but the need for a remake isn't immediately apparent, as this new version changes almost nothing from the original, save for the stars, accents, and location.
The Back-Up Plan
Now that she has put her New Year's Eve fashion breakthrough "behind" her, Jennifer Lopez attempts to jump-start her career once again with this romantic comedy about artificial insemination -- one of two such films on the 2010 schedule. It also marks the second release for the new CBS Films label (which, like Metacritic, is owned by CBS Corporation).
Sure, there have been successful movies based on "Saturday Night Live" sketches in the past -- okay, so maybe 1980's The Blues Brothers and possibly also 1992's Wayne's World 53 were the only ones -- but this "MacGyver" spoof isn't likely to join their ranks. Ryan Phillippe and Val Kilmer join a cast led by SNL's Will Forte and Kristen Wiig.
Director Nicole Holofcener (Lovely & Amazing 75, Friends with Money 68) is known for making intelligent, adult-oriented, female-centric comedies starring Catherine Keener, and Please Give promises to continue that trend. In addition to Keener, the ensemble cast includes Amanda Peet and Oliver Platt. The film will screen at Sundance before arriving in theaters in late April.
Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl star as a couple targeted for assassination in this action-comedy from director Robert Luketic (The Ugly Truth 28). Killers also includes a rare big-screen appearance by Tom Selleck.
Get Him to the Greek [aka Get Me to the Gig]
More of a spinoff than a true sequel, Nicholas Stoller's comedy centers on rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), a character first introduced in 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall 67. Jonah Hill (playing a different role from the one he portrayed in the first film) and Rose Byrne co-star. The comedy will feature original music written by Jason Segel and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, which could make for an interesting 2011 Academy Awards telecast.
Adam Sandler co-wrote the screenplay for this ensemble comedy about a reunion of childhood friends in which he stars alongside Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade. While the big-name cast may point to a hit, the trailer doesn't.
Knight and Day
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz star in an action-comedy about a woman who goes on a blind date with a man who turns out to be a secret agent -- and the two go on a globe-trotting journey to fight bad guys and protect a powerful battery that holds the key to an infinite power source. (Thank you, random-plot-generating computer.) James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma 76) directs.
Dinner For Schmucks
A remake of the 1998 French comedy The Dinner Game 73, Schmucks stars Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and Zach Galifianakis as participants in a weekly dinner party where guests are instructed to invite the most idiotic guests they can find (and, in one particular case, succeed all too well). Jay Roach directs for the first time since 2004's Meet the Fockers 41.
We're pretty sure that the last time we saw this movie it was called Broadcast News 84 and it was much better. However, this J.J. Abrams-produced comedy about the cast and crew of a network television morning news program does boast some big-name stars (Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, and Jeff Goldblum) and a script penned by Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada 62).
The Other Guys
This buddy-cop comedy from director Adam McKay (Anchorman 63) features one of the best casts of any summer movie: stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are joined by Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Anne Heche, Michael Keaton and Steve Coogan.
Like the J.Lo-vehicle The Back-Up Plan, The Baster uses a premise centering on artificial insemination to inject laughs into a traditional romantic comedy structure. Here, however, the cast is much stronger (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston star), and the film is based on a story by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jeffrey Eugenides.
Set during the Middle Ages, this fantasy spoof stars Danny McBride (who co-wrote the script), James Franco, Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman, with David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express 64) directing.
Going the Distance
The first narrative feature for documentarian Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture 75), this romantic comedy stars Drew Barrymore and Justin Long as a couple trying to survive a long-distance relationship.
It's like Night at the Museum 48, except in daytime ... and at a zoo. Zookeeper Kevin James (Paul Blart: Mall Cop 39) gets romantic advice from a group of talking animals voiced by the likes of Adam Sandler, Jon Favreau, and Cher. Hilarious! (But only in a bizarro world.)
Hot on the success of The Hangover 73, director Todd Phillips re-teams with star Zach Galifianakis and pairs him with Robert Downey Jr. on a hurried cross-country road trip so that Downey's character can witness the birth of his child. Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan co-star.
Love and Other Drugs
A corporate dramedy set in the pharmaceutical industry (more specifically, the male-performance-enhancement-drug industry) during the 1990s, Love and Other Drugs stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. It marks the first comedy for director Edward Zwick since 1986's About Last Night....
Untitled James L. Brooks Project
Brooks directed just one film in the previous decade -- 2004's poorly-received Spanglish 48 -- but his output prior to that means that any film of his merits attention. This still-untitled romantic comedy (also written by Brooks) centers on a love triangle between Reese Witherspoon, business executive Paul Rudd, and professional baseball player Owen Wilson -- with Jack Nicholson playing Witherspoon's father.
Well, here's something you don't see everyday. This Jodie Foster-directed dark comedy stars Mel Gibson as a business executive who experiences a mental breakdown and starts speaking only through a beaver puppet that he wears at all times. It's Gibson's first comedy in seven years, and Foster's first turn behind the camera since 1995. Kyle Killen's screenplay (it's his first) earned raves when it first circulated in 2008.
(US: TBD / UK: Apr. 7)
Although Ricky Gervais' movie career hasn't produced may gems so far (see, e.g., The Invention of Lying 58), hopes are higher for this 1970s-set coming of age comedy, his first big-screen collaboration with longtime writing partner Stephen Merchant. Cemetery Junction, written and directed by the pair, is expected to land in the states later in 2010 after debuting in the UK in April.
The First Gun [aka A Simple Noodle Story]
One of the year's strangest entries, The First Gun centers on a noodle shop owner in a remote Chinese desert town who attempts to murder his adulterous wife and her lover. Yes, we're still in the comedy category (it's actually part farce, part thriller). The film is directed by Zhang Yimou, who usually helms dramas or martial arts adventures (Hero 84, House of Flying Daggers 89). Despite the fact that it is set in ancient China, it includes a hip hop dance routine set to an original rap song. And here's where it gets really bizarre: it's actually a remake of the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple 81.
Life During Wartime
Todd Solondz's sequel to his 1998 dark comedy Happiness 81 returns the same characters -- ten years later -- but confusingly features an entirely different cast. The talk-heavy film received mostly positive buzz on the festival circuit last fall.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Based on Bryan Lee O'Malley's award-winning comic book series, Scott Pilgrim is already one of the most anticipated movies of the year (at least among the people who know it exists). Michael Cera plays the title character, a slacker/garage band bassist who has met the girl of his dreams but must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends, who are coming to kill him. The comedy is directed by Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz 81), and the soundtrack includes indie favorites like Broken Social Scene, Beck and Metric. A late summer release is likely.
The latest concept to get the movie --> Broadway musical --> movie musical treatment is Footloose, once a classic 1980s movie about a town where dancing was illegal until one teen dared to cut loose, and now a Kenny Ortega-directed musical about same. "Gossip Girl's" Chace Crawford stars in the role originally played by Kevin Bacon.
Pop star Christina Aguilera stars as a small-town girl who tries to make a name for herself at a Los Angeles burlesque club in a musical inspired by (but not based upon) Cabaret. Kristen Bell, Alan Cumming and Cher (!) also star, with original music by Sia and an uncredited rewrite by Diablo Cody. Heard enough yet?