The Comedy Vault – 12 In A Box.

12 In A Box (2006)

This is another low-key British comedy film that, just like Brakes and Sparks And Embers, I came across rather late at night on the London Live channel. I have decided to give this a review because I am always interested in seeing some British comedy talent on display, and well, you’ve got to support the British film industry as much as you can, haven’t you.

I bought this on DVD, so now I can watch this without a single advert for Wowcher or Pimlico Plumbers interrupting. However, 12 In A Box did receive some rather bad reviews, with 1/5 scores almost all around, and quotes from critics include “amateurish” and “the worst film I have ever seen” (that phrase also turned up when I was looking for reviews of Brakes, so I really know how to pick them, don’t I).

There are a few familiar names in the cast, including Katy Wix, who was in sitcom Not Going Out for a while, but this one is mostly sold on Miranda Hart, who in the years since this was made, went on to have much further success with her own sitcom. So it was decided to dust this one off for a rather belated DVD release, without pointing out that Miranda is actually a fairly minor cast member who only appears briefly, how cheeky.

I was also intrigued to spot among the cast someone called Phoebe Sweeney. Now she was a rather glamorous cast member of ITV’s strange soap Night And Day that I have long since revealed I was a fan of, so I was pleased to finally see her again in something else. I decided to look at her IMDB entry to check her career, and it seems that this film is her most recent credit. I wonder whatever happened to her.

As for the actual plot of 12 In A Box if you’re bothered… A dozen mismatched people who attended the same school are invited to a stately home. If they can stay together for 96 hours and not leave, they will receive £1m each. But of course, chaos soon ensues, leading to lots of running about, bizarre situations, and strange acting. It really was an accident waiting to happen.

As for if they do get their money, well it is all rather exciting. There is almost some tension during all of the twists that happen along the way. It turns out that are some unexpected visitors, and some of them will not survive long enough to even get their money, how awkward. The only DVD extra is a minute-long trail, which isn’t very generous really.

The Comedy Vault – 13 Going On 30.

13 Going On 30 (2004)

This is yet another American comedy film, and I was attracted to this one mostly because the main character was played by Jennifer Garner. In the early-2000s she was also the star of Alias, one of the few American drama series that I’ve taken an interest in, and along with The Invention Of Lying, I thought that it would be good to see Garner in the lead role in a comedy film.

I wonder if she would be able to adapt to a comedy role, because there definitely wouldn’t be intense big explosions causing people to fly through the air in this like there usually is in Alias, but of course she was, and it was good to see her doing something a little different. In 13 Going On 30, Garner starred as Jenna, a girl who isn’t having a great time at school.

She is in her early-teens and she would like to be more popular. But suddenly, time moves on, and she magically turns into a rather glamorous 30-year-old woman, and of course she is rather surprised by all of this. I know that they say they grow up so fast now, but this is ridiculous. A lot of the humour comes from Jenna trying to adjust to all of this new-found confidence.

You can only imagine that the guys will now be cueing up to date her, but in a way she hasn’t changed and still fears that she won’t ever find the boy of her dreams. Some critics seemed to think that 13 Going On 30 was little more than the female equivalent of Big, but it did work really, Garner showed the rather mixed emotions that Jenna would’ve been going through well.

The DVD also contains plenty of extras, including the usual commentaries, deleted scenes, and a look behind the scenes. And there 80s music videos from Pat Benatar and Rick Springfield, the songs also feature on the soundtrack. I wonder if back in those days they would’ve been the songs that everybody would’ve wanted to do a dance to at the school prom. Wouldn’t that be great.

The Comedy Vault – Yes Man.

Yes Man (2008)

This is yet another American comedy film, and this is loosely based on a true story. Yes Man stars Jim Carrey, and I know that he is someone where the phrase “your tolerance antics of his levels may vary” turns up a lot in reviews, but I usually enjoy him really, so I thought that I would discover what this one had to offer, and there are plenty of unlikely twists.

Carrey plays Carl, who is someone that has gone through a divorce, and his life and career have ended up going nowhere. He then decides that it’s time to change things, and he finds the motivation in himself to do this by simply saying “yes” to every task that he is given. This means that he is soon doing things that he would never previously had even dreamed of.

This includes doing a bungee jump (and he even performed the stunt himself). He then encounters a young woman who is also a musician, and she is played by Zooey Deschanel. I wanted the opportunity to see another of her films, and well, if you are in the situation where you could have the chance to date her, you really will never say “no” to that in my view.

Well this goes off in all kinds of exciting directions, and Deschanel performs some of her songs too, making it almost seem as if there is a musical interlude in all of this. When watching Yes Man, I did feel that Carrey and Deschanel did manage to gel somewhat, with both being rather quirky performers (and they even share a birthday).

And it does remind me of that moment in an episode of Family Guy where Stewie says something like “you’ve just got to keep up with his energy levels without looking like you’re trying to overtake him”. I very much hope that her band got a record deal, put it that way. Also among the cast are Bradley Cooper, John “not that one” Higgins, and Terence Stamp.

Now I know at this point in film reviews I usually start to write about what the critics thought, when I know that ultimately this is the chance to put my opinion on show, but it is always interesting how some will consider a film to be a classic, while others will say it’s a big flop. The thumbs were all “up” for me though. DVD extras include some outtakes, plus a look at how some of the stunts were put together.

The Comedy Vault – Wayne’s World.

Wayne’s World (1992)/Wayne’s World 2 (1993)

This is another two-for-the-price-of-one film review. And this is an American comedy film, which proved to be the big break in the career of Mike Myers. He had already been on the scene for a while though, including in the 80s appearing on TV-am’s The Wide Awake Club in a parody called The Fast Asleep Club, how great. I’m sure that working with Tommy Boyd and the like must’ve been an experience.

The character of Wayne, along with his good friend Garth, had first appeared as a sketch on the long-running comedy show Saturday Night Live. Now I must admit that this isn’t a show that I’ve seen that much of, but I know that there have been several other popular characters who went on to star in successful spin-off films, and they managed to get two themselves.

Wayne and Garth host a show together on cable access TV, and they are always ready for their extreme close-up, but they do dream of doing bigger things. They are also rather into their rock music, and like headbanging to all the great songs. Wayne’s World did well enough for a lot of the catchphrases featured to be a big success, lots of people seemed to be saying them, for a few minutes in the 90s at least.

And some of the songs that were on the soundtrack were hits too, including “Everything About You”. Don’t forget to try and not mix them up with the similar Bill And Ted though. So there wasn’t too much surprise when about a year later, there was a sequel, featuring even more antics with Wayne and Garth, who were now TV superstars (in their own minds at least).

And the sequel means a little more to me than most other films, because Wayne’s World 2 was the first ever film that I saw at the cinema! (I did see someone online ask the question recently, “what is the first film that you are old enough to remember seeing at the cinema?”, and I can’t really think of anyone going before they could remember, as if they watched the film as a baby or something).

But enough rambling, because, well, what an experience it was. The screen was so big and everything. After this, Myers had further success playing various other characters including Austin Powers (and I’ll review the trilogy of films soon), and Shrek. I don’t know if there will ever be a third film, because the idea might not work as Wayne would now be about 60.

The Comedy Vault – Absolutely Anything.

Absolutely Anything (2015)

This is yet another comedy film that stars Simon Pegg, and this one has a science-fiction twist. Pegg starred as Neil, who was a disillusioned school teacher. He can’t get on with his pupils, who are just the worst, and the staff don’t seem to be too fond of him either. But he doesn’t realise that some aliens have been watching on, as they are curious about what happens on this planet called Earth.

They decide to give Neil the power to be able to do anything that he wants, all it takes is a quick wave of his hand. He’s in charge! Now he can make his dreams come true, but how will he use this new-found responsibility? Well at last, he will be able to make everyone in his class sit down, shut up, and take their coats off, and even earn the admiration of his staff, and indeed everybody else in the world.

What is significant about Absolutely Anything is that the Monty Python team provided the voices of the aliens, when they were still a fivesome (and this was around the time of their successful stage show that I plan to review soon too). This was also co-written and directed by Terry Jones, who made a brief appearance too as a befuddled lorry driver.

Neil tries hard to make sure that he uses his powers for good, but he’s having one of those days. And if he feels that his life hasn’t become strange enough already, his dog is suddenly possessed by the ghost of Robin Williams. The aliens soon realise that they may have made a mistake, and try to take his powers away after discovering what these strange Earthlings are like.

Also among the cast is Kate Beckinsale as the main love interest. Despite the great cast and interesting idea, the critics weren’t too fond of Absolutely Anything. Some wondered if the script had been put together from some ideas on pieces of paper that were found in Douglas Adams’s bin. Oh well, is there any chance of making Shaun Of The Dead 2? DVD extras include some cast interviews.

The Comedy Vault – Johnny English Strikes Again.

Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)

This is the third and to date final instalment of the Johnny English comedy films. Once again, Rowan Atkinson starred as the patriotic but rather hapless spy. This was about seven years on from the second film. One positive thing about this was that Ben Miller returned as English’s sidekick Bough, he was absent from the previous film, and he was missed.

Also among the cast is Emma Thompson as a rather short-tempered British Prime Minister. The idea is that after a cyber attack, leaving several spies around the world exposed, English is asked to come out of retirement to save his country’s reputation… again. He is currently working at a school, and has mostly left the spying profession behind.

This meant that he had to deal with modern technology, although he probably couldn’t tell a computer from a Pot Noodle. And once again, he will save the day, although he won’t really be sure how he did it. He definitely doesn’t do things by the book, that’s for sure. It turned out that this was indeed a job well done, I hope that he got a medal for it.

And as always, there are lots of silly set pieces, including car chases and malfunctioning gadgets, plus the regulation amount of silly faces and falling over. But there seemed to be much less of a buzz around Johnny English Strikes Again then there was for the previous two films, this one didn’t really seem to cause that much of a stir by comparison.

Some critics felt that most of the ideas had been exhausted, and they didn’t accuse Atkinson of going through the motions as such, but it was soon clear that there were only so many things that you can blow up before it isn’t as funny as it used to be, and some reviews had a tone of “is Atkinson only doing this again because he has to pay the bills” which was rather disappointing.

I must admit that I had practically forgotten about this one myself, it’s not even on ITV2 almost every weekend like the other two films seem to be. Maybe it really is finally time for Johnny to hang up his suit for good. DVD extras include a commentary, plus a look at some of the shiny cars and gadgets, how everything was put together, and so on.

The Comedy Vault – Confetti.

Confetti (2006)

This is yet another British comedy film, and there is little doubt for me that there is a great cast, and the idea is also rather interesting. A magazine holds a competition for Most Original Wedding Of The Year. Three couples who are about to get married decide to enter, and they aim to outdo each other with their ambitious ideas. There is a big prize on offer for the winners.

They were played by Jessica Hynes and Martin Freeman, Olivia Colman and Robert Webb, and Meredith MacNeill and Stephen Mangan. This is a film that is done in a documentary style, and it seems that all of the dialogue is improvised, so who knows what direction things will end up going in. These couples are also joined by various planners and designers, along with family members, who hope to make their dreams come true.

The couples eventually determine what they want the theme of their wedding to be. Hynes and Freeman decide that they want something rather old-fashioned in the style of a musical, with plenty of top hats and glamour. Colman and Webb (it was odd seeing them together, knowing that Webb’s mate David Mitchell played Colman’s love interest in sitcom Peep Show) want a naturist theme.

And MacNeill and Mangan (I remember MacNeill was also in sketch show Man Stroke Woman around this time, but I haven’t seen much of her in the years since) want a sport theme, and decide to go for tennis. This all leads to the final showdown, when the three couples do their thing on stage, and then the winner is announced, it is all rather exciting for everyone.

But rather interestingly, the DVD extras include more endings, so if you want, you can make a different couple win to the one in the actual film, so everyone succeeds. If only life was really as fair as that. There are also approving quotes on the DVD box taken from Now and News Of The World, but where are they now? I think that Confetti has also been shown in a fairly late-night slot on BBC2 at least once.

This film does seem to have caused a stir in more recent years though when, despite playing naturists, Colman and Webb both insisted that they weren’t aware of how much nudity there was going to be, and their uncomfortableness does come through the screen. They have both practically disowned this, although now Colman owns a Best Actress Oscar she probably doesn’t think about it too much nowadays.

The Comedy Vault – How To Lose Friends And Alienate People.

How To Lose Friends And Alienate People (2008)

This is yet another comedy film that stars Simon Pegg. I know that I keep saying it, but after enjoying his various TV comedy shows including Spaced, I was rather pleased to see him successfully make the transfer to films, and becoming a bankable name. Didn’t he do well! And I should also say that there are more reviews of his films planned to come after this one.

Oh yes, fame has definitely brought him a lot of things. How To Lose Friends And Alienate people is loosely based on the memoirs of British journalist Toby Young. After working in Britain, he is offered a job in America, and he plans to shake things up a little while he’s there, but there’s no doubt that it doesn’t go to plan. Well if it did, there wouldn’t be a film really.

Pegg plays Sidney Young (wasn’t he the singer who did “If Only I Could?” Oh no, it wasn’t) who is invited by Sharps magazine to work in the bright lights of New York. Will this Brit be able to continue his work, or will there be a culture clash that he won’t succeed in? His new colleagues watch on in horror as his antics unfold, there are several awkward situations, mostly involving dogs.

His philosophy seems to be that that maybe it is possible to work your way to the top, not by making friends and influencing people, but by doing the exact opposite. Why not just write about celebrities, when you might as well take the chance to pull a few strings, make some contacts, and become one yourself? Oh I say, now that’s not very British is it?

Also featuring among the cast is Gillian Anderson, and this could be classed as a comedy with a romantic edge. How To Lose Friends And Alienate People wasn’t that well received by critics, but it’s always good to see Pegg doing his thing, whatever else is happening. On well, hopefully the offer of Hot Fuzz 2 is still on the table. DVD extras include a commentary, plus deleted scenes, the usual really.

The Comedy Vault – (500) Days Of Summer.

(500) Days Of Summer (2009)

This is an American comedy film with a twist that I was attracted to. Although the genre of (500) Days Of Summer could be a romantic comedy, seemingly it is preferred that this is described as an “anti-romantic” comedy. This starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who many years earlier appeared in the sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun, although he definitely isn’t an alien here (as far as I know).

But what really attracted me to this one was that the co-star was Zooey Deschanel. This is someone who often puts in performances that could be described as “quirky” (and that is a compliment as far as I’m concerned). But after discovering that I liked her style, along with this one, I bought a few other films that she has starred in, although some of them (like The Happening) aren’t comedies.

I think that I have to say that this is my favourite of the films that I have of hers, and it meant that I was rather pleased when she went on to star in the sitcom New Girl, putting her comic talents to good use there. But back to this film, this is not a two-hander as such, but there are few main cast members beyond the main pair. The idea is that Tom is a greeting cards writer, who is looking for a woman.

He then meets Summer, who he dates for 500 days (which is just about a year and a half). We then go backwards and forwards in time to see how they got on together on various days, and the stages of being a couple in general, everybody will have their highs and their lows of course (although I can’t really imagine that anybody in a relationship with Zooey could ever possibly find themselves to be unhappy).

So I definitely did like this one, you just never know what fate has in store for you really. I think that (500) Days Of Summer has also been shown on TV a few times, and overall the critics were rather fond of all this. Words like “original” and “funny” were thrown around, along with many others too probably. The soundtrack is rather nice too. DVD extras include a look at even more days.

The Comedy Vault – Ghost Town.

Ghost Town (2008)

Following on from my recent review of The Invention Of Lying, this is another American comedy film that starred Ricky Gervais. I know that I keep going on about it, but I am still rather bemused to think one day you could only really see him on TV appearing as a panellist on Channel 4’s The 11 O’Clock Show, and the like (along with his radio work on XFM of course).

He also greeted everything with rather crazed laughter, falling somewhere on the hysterics scale between Dick And Dom and Danny Baker. And then he goes on to be one of the biggest names in British comedy (mostly thanks to The Office), next he’s gone and cracked the supposedly very difficult American market in about five minutes, and suddenly he’s got a rather big collection of showbiz mates.

Ghost Town isn’t anything to do with chart-topping singles from the 80s though. But it was a romantic comedy where Ricky stars as a rather downbeat English dentist working in America called Bertram Pincus (because you get so many English chaps called Bertram nowadays don’t you). After an operation, he discovers that he has the strange ability to see and hear dead people.

Now he isn’t the first to be able to experience this in a film of course, but the problem is that he finds them all rather irritating. In the bustling metropolis that is New York, he soon realises that in the city that never sleeps, even the ghosts don’t even seem to sleep either or something. But wherever they have all come from, he considers all of them to be in his way. Why can’t they leave him in peace?

But somehow, he eventually manages to befriend a ghost, who wants help to put a scheme together with his widow. Ghost Town seemed to receive fairly positive reviews, but I imagine that Ricky is someone who wouldn’t really care too much what anybody thinks about his work really. This is because he probably considers his fairly late-blossoming career compared to most to be something that all of his critics could only dream of having, so shut up, yeah?

When was the last time you embarrassed Tom Hanks on stage? His English accent does still jar though, he hasn’t picked up too many Americanisms. Also among the cast are Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear, who presumably had no problem taking second place to Ricky’s antics. The DVD extras include a look behind the scenes, and how they made some of the spooky special effects.