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2009 Summer Movie Round-up

A Look Back at Summer Movies Starring Comedians


2009 was a big summer for movies starring comedians. From special effects-driven blockbusters to action films to quirky indie films and "respectable" art-house fare, comedians popped up in every kind of movie you'll see this summer. Here's a look at what were summer's most hotly-anticipated movies starring comedians.

Night at the Musuem: Battle of the Smithsonian

Ben Stiller and Amy Adams in Night at the Museum Battle of the Smithsonian
© 2009 Fox

Starring Comedians: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Christopher Guest, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, Craig Robinson, Mindy Kaling

The sequel to 2006's Night at the Museum packs in more comedians than just about any other movie this summer. Unfortunately, it's in this special effects-heavy, family-friendly fare that fails to show off most of the cast's true comedic talents. The script is by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, of The State and Reno 911! fame.

Release Date: May 22

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The Hangover

The Hangover Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms
© Warner Bros.

Starring Comedians: Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Mike Epps, Rob Riggle, Matt Walsh

Old School director Todd Phillips finally returns to Rated-R comedy in what promises to be one of this summer's funniest and best surprises. Plus, it's going to mark major and long-overdue breakouts from The Office scene stealer Helms and Comedian of Comedy Galifianakis, playing his first major film role since Out Cold in 2001. I'll bet this movie is the bigger success.

Release Date: June 5

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Land of the Lost

Will Ferrell in Land of the Lost
© 2009 Universal

Starring Comedians: Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Jorma Taccone

Will Ferrell headlines this update of the campy 1970s kids' show. The inclusion of McBride (who is great on the Ferrell-produced Eastbound & Down) and Lonely Island member Taccone (as Chaka!) give this a better shot than it might have otherwise, but I remain skeptical. The last good special effects comedy I can think of was Men In Black in 1997; before that, it was Ghostbusters. Does that mean this decade is due? Or will Ferrell's brand of comedy get swallowed up among the expensive but cool-looking dinosaurs? Right now, my money is on the latter.

Release Date: June 5

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Away We Go

John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph in Away We Go
© 2009 Focus Features

Starring Comedians: Maya Rudolph, Catherine O'Hara, Jim Gaffigan

Yes, it's summer, but there's still room for the quiet indie comedy. SNL's Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski (The Office play a couple searching the country for a place to settle down and raise their unborn child. Gaffigan and O'Hara play characters they meet along the way. It's unlikely this will be laugh-out-loud funny, but it looks sweet and very charming. Plus, it's about time that someone decided to make movie stars out of Rudolph and Krasinski (no, License to Wed doesn't count).

Release Date: June 5 (limited)

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Imagine That

Eddie Murphy in Imagine That
© 2009 Paramount

Starring Comedians: Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy returns to the family comedy well, this time playing a workaholic dad whose daughter's imagination begins magically guiding his career to success. It's been a while since Murphy had an actual hit with one his family comedies; for every Daddy Day Care there's two Meet Daves. Plus, kids may find themselves more drawn to Pixar's Up or Land of the Lost's big dinosaurs. Will someone please convince Murphy to once again make a comedy for grown ups?

Release Date: June 12

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Year One

Michael Cera and Jack Black in Year One
© 2009 Sony

Starring Comedians: Jack Black, David Cross, Horatio Sanz, Harold Ramis, Kyle Gass, Bill Hader, Paul Scheer, Matt Besser; directed by Harold Ramis

Another summer film chock full of comedians, Harold Ramis' Year One stars Jack Black and Michael Cera (Juno) as two neanderthals stumbling through famous stories from prehistoric times. While I'm a little bummed about the PG-13 rating, the cast is excellent and a new Harold Ramis movie is always worth checking out. Judd Apatow, who wrote and directed this summer's Funny People, is the executive producer.

Release Date: June 19

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Whatever Works

Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood star in the 2009 Woody Allen comedy Whatever Works.
© Sony Pictures Classics

Starring Comedians: Larry David, Michael McKean; directed by Woody Allen

The 40th film from Woody Allen finds him teaming up with Seinfeld creator and Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David, who plays a guy that finds himself with a young and inexperienced roommate (played by Evan Rachel Wood). The collaboration of these two New York comedy powerhouses seems like a great idea on paper, but that trailer doesn't offer many laughs. Allen's been pretty maddeningly uneven in recent years; when was the last full-on comedy he made that was any good?

Release Date: June 19

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Sacha Baron Cohen in Bruno
© 2009 Universal

Starring Comedians: Sacha Baron Cohen

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen shocked the entire world with the success of his 2006 guerrilla comedy Borat. That makes the fact that he's stepping back up with the similarly-constructed Bruno (based on his gay Austrian fashion aficionado character from Da Ali G Show, which also spawned Borat) even more of a risk; he's got to surprise an audience that's already seen him do this kind of thing. If the trailers for Bruno are any indication, that shouldn't be a problem. The movie looks daring and hilarious.

Release Date: July 10

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Funny People

Adam Sandler and Leslie Mann in Funny People
© 2009 Universal

Starring Comedians: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Norm MacDonald, Maria Bamford, Bo Burnam, Aziz Ansari, more too numerous to mention; directed by Judd Apatow

Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen team up for the first time in the summer's most grown-up comedy. The third movie from comedian-turned director Judd Apatow looks like a mixed bag; good cast, some funny lines, but a disease subplot that could sink everything. Apatow is two for two so far, so I've got my hopes up. Plus, it takes place in the world of stand-up, meaning a bunch of cameos from comics playing themselves. And when was the last time a good movie was made about stand-up? Has there ever been one?

Release Date: July 31

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Taking Woodstock

Demetri Martin in Taking Woodstock
© Focus Features

Starring Comedians: Demetri Martin, Eugene Levy

Give Demetri Martin some credit. Not only is Taking Woodstock his first major film, but he's playing the lead. What's more, the film is the latest from super-respected (in the "serious" film community) director Ang Lee. The comedian plays real-life character Elliot Tiber, who offered his family's motel to Woodstock concert organizers. Lee took a big chance casting Martin as the lead his first time out, but it's Martin who's got the most to prove with this comedy-drama. Preliminary word out of Cannes wasn't great, but we'll have to wait until August to see for ourselves.

Release Date: August 14

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The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

The Goods Live Hard Sell Hard
© Paramount

This would-be Used Cars update looks like a vehicle designed for Will Ferrell (and may have been; he plays a small role and is serving as producer), but stars Jeremy Piven instead. The red-band trailer doesn't promise a whole lot, minus an uncomfortable hate crime joke at the expense of Ken Jeong (also seen in this summer's The Hangover), but I like Used Cars enough to get my hopes up for this. Lest you think The Goods is a remake; it isn't. I'm just drawing comparisons between the plots. The movie features a whole mess of comedians, including Jeong, Ed Helms (also of The Hangover), Ferrell, David Koechner, Rob Riggle, T.J. Miller and Steve Byrne.

Release Date: August 14

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Inglourious Basterds

Starring Comedians: B.J. Novak, Mike Meyers

No, it's not a comedy, but the new film by Quentin Tarantino does feature a few prominent roles for comedians. Stand-up comic and Office cast member B.J. Novak stars as a soldier in star Brad Pitt's platoon of Nazi killers, and Mike Meyers shows up (under some heavy makeup) as a British military mastermind with a plot to kill Hitler. Tarantino has cast a few comedians in the past (anyone remember Julia Sweeney or Kathy Griffin -- playing herself -- in Pulp Fiction?), but these are certainly his most significant roles for comics to date. The movie looks great, and should hopefully put a nice cap on what appears to be a stellar summer.

Release Date: August 21

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