Four Em­pire writ­ers. Eight leg­endary fun­ny­men. One top 10.

Empire (Australasia) - - CONTENTS -

’80s com­edy icon movies.

Chris: I’ve wanted to do ’80s com­edy movies in The Ranking for a long time. But I wanted it to be a lit­tle more fo­cused. As chance would have it, Em­pire’s own Nick de Sem­lyen has writ­ten a book called Wild And Crazy Guys, which fo­cuses on the stars who rose to promi­nence dur­ing the 1970s and 1980s. Chevy Chase, Bill Mur­ray, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, John Candy, Rick Mo­ra­nis, Steve Martin and Ed­die Murphy. Not a bad lit­tle octet there. So we’re go­ing to dis­cuss those guys’ movies that came out be­tween 1 Jan­uary 1980 and 31 De­cem­ber 1989.

Ian: I’m peeved about the date thing. Chris: Have I knocked some­thing off? Ian: Yes. Steven Spiel­berg’s 1941, which came out in De­cem­ber 1979. And it just missed this mad win­dow. We’re also miss­ing An­i­mal House and The Jerk. Nick: And Ground­hog Day.

Chris: And Meet Dave. Meet Dave would be a walkover. So I had to do that. Nick: I love this pe­riod of com­edy.

I love these guys. I love these movies. I gen­uinely think they trans­formed big-screen com­edy. Ghost­busters, noth­ing like that had been done be­fore.

Chris: There are some ab­so­lute stinkers, let’s be clear about that. Does any­one have Best De­fence on their top 10 list? Nick: No. It was a Dud­ley Moore com­edy, and it was so ter­ri­ble they de­cided to para­chute in Ed­die Murphy. They did a week of reshoots with Murphy in a tank, just yelling stuff. David: Did they Bowfin­ger him? Did he know he was in it?

Nick: He may have just been trapped in a tank. He and Dud­ley Moore never crossed paths on it. Mod­ern Problems is prob­a­bly the worst thing I had to watch for the book. Chevy Chase lev­i­tat­ing off the floor while do­ing a mas­sive line of co­caine. That’s the cli­max of the film. Chris: Again, did he know they were mak­ing a film?

Ian: The clos­est Chevy Chase got to my top 10 was the ‘You Can Call Me Al’ video.

David: That’s harsh.

Ian: It’s a smug per­sona. It hasn’t worn well for me.

Chris: He’s not smug in the Va­ca­tion movies, where he’s play­ing a put-upon, brow­beaten, ev­ery­man dad.

David: That’s the Chevy Chase I like.

I’ll give him those films.

Chris: There are lots of high-con­cept come­dies here, but there’s a lot of in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter work also. You get ab­so­lutely daft films like The Man With Two Brains and ¡Three Ami­gos!, but also stuff like Planes, Trains And Au­to­mo­biles, Trad­ing Places, Ghost­busters. I’ve said this be­fore, but Ghost­busters is not a hilarious film. It is not filled with zingers and one-lin­ers, but the char­ac­ter work is re­ally great in that.

David: I watched Stripes as part of my research for this and I didn’t smile once. I find a lot of those Bill Mur­ray and Chevy Chase films so loose. That’s why I like the Carl Reiner-steve Martin films. The scripts are re­ally tight and ev­ery­thing is funny and they’re not go­ing to let peo­ple make it up as they go along, or feel like they made it up as they went along.

Ian: You can say that about The Blues Broth­ers in a sense. How funny is The Blues Broth­ers? It has lots of other qual­i­ties, but is it laugh-out-loud funny? Nick: It’s very dead­pan. I think it’s laugh­out-loud funny. I think Ghost­busters is laugh-out-loud funny. It’s got loads of great one-lin­ers. Blues Broth­ers is a weird film. That’s what I like about this pe­riod of com­edy. There’s a lot of ex­per­i­men­tal stuff go­ing on. You’ve got Steve Martin do­ing Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, which is completely un­like any­thing any­one has done be­fore or since.

Ian: Apart from the Hol­sten Pils ad­verts with Griff Rhys Jones.

Chris: I was try­ing to fig­ure out who is the most tal­ented mem­ber of this group. It’s a toss-up be­tween Steve Martin and Ed­die Murphy. What age was Murphy when he started do­ing SNL — 12? 13?

It’s in­cred­i­ble what he was do­ing.

Nick: He was 17, 18. A lot of the other guys were in the right place at the right time. Ed­die Murphy made it happen. He was go­ing around town telling every­one he was go­ing to be a movie star when he was a no­body. He just kept go­ing un­til he was the big­gest star in the world. Bev­erly Hills Cop was big­ger than Ghost­busters in 1984. It was the big­gest film of the year. That’s in­sane. It’s got no ef­fects, a ba­nana in a tailpipe, and a guy talk­ing fast.

Chris: He’s that guy you drop into the mid­dle of a scene… every­one else around him is be­wil­dered and try­ing to keep up. Let’s move on to Steve Martin.

David: Five of his films are in my top

10. Some of them quite close to the top. I love The Lonely Guy. I lit­er­ally wouldn’t dine alone in restau­rants for 20 years be­cause of what hap­pens to him in that. Nick: He was the big­gest out of all those guys to start with his stand-up tours.

Out of them all, he’s the most rest­less in terms of think­ing about what he does and plot­ting it and try­ing new things and be­ing quite dar­ing and ex­per­i­men­tal. The Man With Two Brains is prob­a­bly my favourite of his. The gag rate is in­cred­i­ble. David: He has the in­tel­lect and the ab­sur­dity. But to also have the phys­i­cal, to be able to play Lily Tom­lin in one half of your body and Steve Martin try­ing to re­sist the other half of his body that is Lily Tom­lin, while you just walk down the street, is un­be­liev­able.

Chris: Bill Mur­ray is prob­a­bly the most en­dur­ing out of all the peo­ple on this list. Ian: What is the iconic Bill Mur­ray role? It’s Venkman, isn’t it? That’s his appeal, that kind of cool, cyn­i­cal…

Chris: Vaguely problemati­c, es­pe­cially look­ing back with mod­ern glasses on. Nick once main­tained Ghost­busters II is bet­ter than Ghost­busters.

Nick: I’ve soft­ened on the Ghost­busters II thing. I still think it’s vastly un­der­rated. But Ghost­busters, that’s the big­gest Bill Mur­ray mo­ment, isn’t it?

David: Is it, though? Ghost­busters is a film I have a very strange re­la­tion­ship with. I don’t love the film. I love the mu­sic, I love the car, I love the ac­tors, I love some of the di­a­logue, I love the story, I love the logo, I love the premise…

Nick: But you hate the production design. David: I don’t think it hangs to­gether as a movie in the way Ghost­busters II does. Which is why I would choose to watch Ghost­busters II over Ghost­busters.

Ian: This is fuck­ing madness.

Chris: Right, enough squab­bling.

Let’s vote!


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