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The PAM-10: Unlikely Friendship Comedies

Dinner for Schmucks features Paul Rudd and Steve Carell as people who become friends based on the circumstances that pit them together. There are so man films that use this classic story device, so these are just a few (in the grand scheme of things) personal favorites scrounged up for this week's PAM-10.

10. Finding Nemo (2003)

Released in May of 2003, Finding Nemo became the highest-grossing G-rated film in motion picture history, and it is certainly not undeserving of its massive box office success. In the film, when Nemo is captured and brought to shore, his father, Marlin (Albert Brooks), swims across the ocean to save him. Along the way, he meets Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), a regal tang with short-term memory loss. Although he is annoyed to no end, Marlin keeps Dory around because she can help him find his son (she can read, “talk whale,” etc.). Through their ups and downs, including a group of sharks and some jellyfish, the two become fantastic friends. The film won the 2003 Academy Award for Animated Feature, and DeGeneres picked up a Supporting Actress nod from the Chicago Film Critics Association for her voice work.

9. Get Smart (2008)

Turns out "Schmucks" is not the first venture into unlikely relationship comedies for Steve Carell. In 2008, Get Smart pitted Carell, who had proven himself to be a comedic genius on the Emmy Award-winning comedy series The Office, opposite Anne Hathaway. Although Hathaway really showed off her acting chops in Jonathan Demme’s independent drama Rachel Getting Married later that year, she brilliantly holds her own against Carell’s clumsy Maxwell Smart as the classy, sophisticated, and smooth Agent 99. The film didn’t receive any awards attention, but it is certainly one of the funnier films of the last decade.

8. The Hangover

Most of this film’s leading men are friends already: Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Doug (Justin Bartha). It’s Alan (Zach Galifianakis) that is really the odd one out in this male-centric comedy. He’s only invited to the Vegas outing because he’s Doug’s future brother-in-law. Given that he doesn’t really know the other too well, he provides for moments that are awkward for them … and hilarious for us. Over the course of their Vegas adventure, the men are forced to befriend Alan so they can find Doug. Very much because of Galifianakis’ absolutely hysterical performance, the film went on to become the highest grossing R-rated comedy in United States history. In something of an upset, the film took home the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Musical/Comedy last year. Galifianakis will also contribute to Dinner for Schmucks.

7. Men in Black (1997)

The 1997 sci-fi comedy pit Academy Award winner Tommy Lee Jones against Will Smith in the role that arguably put him over the top. The deal here is an overused technique, that being the veteran special agent having to team up with the cocky young guy. Either way, the formula was a success, grossing almost $600 million worldwide with a $90 million budget. It scored three Oscar nominations and won one for make up.

6. Shanghai Noon (2000) 

Jackie Chan is no stranger to buddy comedies. Perhaps because earlier in his Hollywood career (outside of kung fu action movies) nobody trusted him and his slowly improving English to pilot an action film. Seeing as Rush Hour falls into "buddy cop" territory (and that's for another day), that leaves Shanghai Noon, a "buddy cop" film of sorts except set in the Old West. Alongside Owen Wilson, these two couldn't have more different approaches to getting the job done. "Noon" was not a huge hit at just below $100 million domestic, but it was good enough to spawn a sequel, Shanghai Knights.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2001)

At its heart, “Pirates” is an action-adventure film, but at the same time, it is a light-hearted tale that is quite funny. The uptight Will Turner and the flamboyant, outlandish Captain Jack Sparrow, as played by Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp respectively, are not exactly the most evenly matched duo. However, the chemistry between them (or lack thereof) helps to carry the film out of the action-adventure norm it could have stayed in and into something special. Depp received an Academy Award nomination, Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, not to mention starring in two sequels with a third filming at the moment.

4. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

John Hughes is a master of comedy, forever defining the coming-of-age film. However, he also has a few other tricks up his sleeve, like in this classic comedy, which stars Steve Martin as an uptight executive and John Candy as a bumbling shower curtain rings salesman. Martin is great at playing uptight, and Candy is perfect as a bumbling person. The concept in and of itself is absolutely hysterical. Although I personally have yet to see this film, it is widely considered a 1980s classic, so I will definitely see it somewhere down the road, but in the meantime it belongs on this list somewhere.

3. Shrek

In 2001, the animated comedy Shrek became an unexpected hit worldwide. Before the titular character and a donkey aptly named Donkey become true friends, they absolutely hate each other -- well, most of the hate actually goes in one direction. Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) is energetic, frantic, and excited to have a companion, but Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) cannot stand him at all. Although the humor device is simple in concept, it fits perfectly into the context of the film. In addition to becoming a hit, the film was universally acclaimed, receiving the first-ever Academy Award for Animated Feature and a BAFTA nomination for Murphy, the first ever for a voice performance.

2. Step Brothers (2008)

Comedic actors Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly had hit the screen together as friends-turned-enemies in the cult classic Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. In this goofy buddy comedy, however, they hate each other initially because their parents have just recently married without telling them about it. Ferrell and Reilly almost wear out the “kid inside an adult’s body” formula, but they are able to make it work for the duration of the entire film. The circumstances simply don't get more ridiculous than this for two people forced together.

1. Toy Story

The film that started it all for CG animation also happens to be one of the best instances of unlikely friendship. The plot is simple: the old cowboy toy Woody against the shiny new space ranger toy Buzz Lightyear for the affection of their owner Andy. The film’s writing is truly masterful, but it is really carried by the work of two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in the leading roles of Woody and Buzz, respectively. It was a risk, but it ended up being a phenomenon. It spawned two sequels, both of which were massive critical and commercial successes like the first film.


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