Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Comedy's Finest Cult Classics

Cult. Although we have applied the term to recent events, the word hardly bears a shred of humor with polygamists banned from their compounds in Texas. On the other hand, the word ‘cult,’ in the realm of film, undergoes a completely different meaning. Less than savory box-office draw. Word-of-mouth popularity. Massive followings. Endless utterances of unforgettable one-liners. Countless showings on the USA Network. Cult classics in the vein of The Rocky Horror Picture Show have battled time to remain poignant in the minds of fans that follow them. I now present to you the vanguard of comedic cult classics.

5. Dazed and Confused

Fans of Matthew McConaughey may regard him as the 21st century’s answer to Richard Gere, a prominent actor whose work in the romantic comedy genre ultimately defines the body of his work. Despite his riveting performance in
Frailty, McConaughey will always strike me as America’s most outlandish cooze hound, a pothead who memorably quipped, “What I love about high school girls is that I get older and they stay the same age.” This film of high school conquest, confusion, and identity-searching brought us all that Ben Affleck would ever be good for: playing the role of a whiny little bitch, in the form of the paddle-bearing Fred O’Bannion. Dazed and Confused also gave people the excuse to partake in a drinking game: for every time the character Mitch Kramer touched his hair while conversing with a girl, chug-a-lug. Jason London’s character, Randall ‘Pink’ Floyd, played the atypical jock, turning his back on the quarterback position to remain true to his friends and a f%*& you attitude. All in all, Dazed and Confused was an altogether poignant ‘stoner’ film, the first of its kind in the 90’s.

4. Super Troopers
Rabid fans of
Beerfest (me included) must first pay homage to the film that began the Broken Lizard revolution: Super Troopers. For me, what is especially ironic about this film was the fact that I initially saw it in theaters on its opening night, the same night the Tilghman Square Theatre aired a midnight showing of Rocky Horror—an emblematic passing of the cult classic torch. The antics of a Vermont highway patrol unit were incredibly outrageous, paving the way for Reno 911 and our embrace of the one and only Officer Farva, who understood that ‘liter of cola’ was French for ‘give me some f#$(*-in’ cola!’ The film’s opening scene, featuring a deadpan Officer Ramathorne toying with a troupe of road-tripping potheads, set the tone for a truly remarkable comedy. Pick your favorite moment: syrup chugging; the ‘Repeater;’ the ‘Meow’ game—Super Troopers was full of countless gut-busting gags worthy of cult classic status.

3. Clerks
The first film of Kevin Smith’s triumphant ‘Jay and Silent Bob’ series,
Clerks was made possible by Smith’s raising of $30,000 by means of sacrificing his entire comic book collection. The drug dealing Jay, who peddled his goods in front of the Quick Stop, proved to be the crudest, most obnoxious character in recent memory—his lines (“I’ll f#*& anything that moves!”) will remain with movie audiences for as long as comedies are popular. Rooted deep in the film were its Star Wars undertones—Dante and Randall masterfully debated which was the better installment of the George Lucas trilogy: Empire or Jedi? (Personally, Empire wins out every time—Yoda’s first on-screen presence, the saga’s best lightsaber duel, the introduction to the galaxy’s suavest pimp, Lando Calrissian, Han Solo’s “I know” line, Boba Fett--besides, could you ever justify a band of furry Ewoks taking out a juggernaut-like imperial unit?) Because of this film, NOBODY will look at the number 37 or ‘spontaneous’ necrophilia the same way again. Thankfully, Dante reported to work ‘when he wasn’t even supposed to be there.’

2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Matthew Broderick can be forgiven for 1000 showings of
Godzilla for playing the role of a high school hero that EVERYONE pined to be. Broderick was and always will be Sherman, Illinois’ own Ferris Bueller, whose ‘illness’ created a citywide following and the title given to a late 90’s era ska band (Save Ferris). Director John Hughes’s use of the aside, when Ferris parlayed his views and perspectives directly to the camera, was beautifully done and later copied by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in Wayne’s World. Jennifer Grey may have stolen your heart in Dirty Dancing, but her tryst with a drug-riddled Charlie Sheen and the open admittance of a ‘raging case of herpes’ is what I’ll always remember her for. Kudos to the performances of Ben Stein, Ed Rooney, and Grace (Mrs. Poole in The Hogan Family), whose incompetence made Ferris’ romp in Chicago possible. Ferrari pilfering, parade hopping, and Wrigley Field visiting aside, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off will always personify the ultimate fantasy of playing hookey for the ‘ninth time.’ (Furthermore, we’ll all pretend that the short-lived Ferris Bueller sitcom never even existed.

1. Animal House

The film that gave audiences a reason to avoid ‘double secret probation.’ John Belushi’s performance as the booze-crazed Bluto made the stocky protagonist beyond heartwarming (John Candy in Uncle Buck, Chris Farley in Tommy Boy). Whether he was orchestrating the unforeseen death of a horse, acting as a zit, or chanting ‘toga, toga,’ Bluto will exemplify the over-the-top persona that resonated from Belushi’s future roles on Saturday Night Live. The purely uproarious accolades of the Delta House gave a nod to the realms of debauchery that frat houses have become over the years. Thanks to Animal House, the vacations of the Griswold family and Ryan Reynolds’s portrayal of Van Wilder were made possible under the guidance of National Lampoon’s laugh factory. Not a single wedding passes when partygoers crash the dance floor to jig to Shout and don’t recreate the ever-memorable Delta House bash. All things said, Animal House is the perfect nod to the comedic cult classic.

Honorable Mentions
Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Grandma’s Boy, Half Baked, Out Cold, Dumb and Dumber, Zoolander, and Office Space.


Michael said...

great list. would also suggest any of the christopher guest films - particularly Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman. Also, of recent note, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.

czinn said...

Any list that has "Dazed and Confused" on it more than proves its worth. That one's up there with Lebowski and Office Space to me, as cult comedies go

Marc V said...

There's nothing cult about Office Space. It is the greatest movie ever.