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Photo: Buddy Comedy Film Duos
As goofy as they are weirdly heartwarming, buddy comedies have produced some of the most hilarious films of the past 20 years. With movies like ‘Step Brothers’ and ‘21 Jump Street’ still fresh in the cultural consciousness, this article will list the top 5 buddy comedies of the 21st century and explore the themes that make these silly films so universally loved.
Buddy Comedy Film Duos
‘Pineapple Express’ (2008)
Written even before the other comedic Judd Apatow-produced 2007 predecessor ‘Superbad’, which would end up as a beacon of mainstream raunch in coming-of-age stories, ‘Pineapple Express’ is the stoner action movie that we always knew we needed. After process server Dale (Seth Rogen) goes in for a re-up at his eccentric dealer Saul’s place (James Franco) and smokes the coveted Pineapple Express strain, he inadvertently intertwines himself in an adventure of criminal proportions, and I’m not talking possession.
When Rogen and Franco were in talks to collaborate on the film, the typical blueprint would have entailed Franco as the neurotic straight-man and Rogen as the goofy stoner. Instead, from the suggestion of Judd Apatow, they decided to switch the typecast with Rogen as the ‘working man’ and Franco as the weed dealer. This would prove favorable, as acting outside of expectation would allow their dual performance to thrive and create a cornerstone piece of stoner Cinema through their magnetic (and absolutely silly) partnership.
‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004)
As the only non-American entry on this list, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ touts one of the best and most consistently performing duos of the 21st century. Shaun, played by Simon Pegg, is just your average guy caught up in the mindless mundanity of everyday life, joined by his nonchalant (but somewhat deadbeatish) best friend Ed, played by Nick Frost. On a day like any other, London is infected by a deadly zombie virus that leaves average people shambling in the streets.
Shaun and Ed – who make up for with humor what they lack in cleverness – decide to retrieve their friends and loved ones and retreat to the local pub. The best zombie comedy of all time ensues.
While we’re all familiar with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘Paul’, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ is the best representation of their impeccable chemistry. That makes sense, of course, given that the actors actually are best friends and involved creative partners. Their bond creates the basis through which this film filters the entire comedic tone, as well as the conflict in their friendship that mirrors the rest of these films. But I have to say, no other film on this list will pack quite the same emotional blow as this entry.
‘21 Jump Street’ (2012)
In ‘21 Jump Street’, Greg and Morton are two very different dudes who are now rookie partners after graduating from the police academy. Hoping to leave bicycle patrol for greater things, the pair are reassigned to a high-school infiltration project that entails their re-enrollment and exposure to a new synthetic drug problem in the area. One of my favorite clichés, the high-school transplant trope reverses the roles and forces the duo to understand the differences that used to divide their perspective, but now, bind them together as the besties we know and love.
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Standing out of the pack with the only film on this list to come from 2010s, ‘21 Jump Street’ rebooted the genre using the chemistry of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. An adaptation of the 1980’s TV series starring Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise, this new imagining of the buddy-cop classic not only rejuvenated the franchise, but the genre itself. Though unlikely, their meathead plus nerd duo is as lovable as it is laughable and was well worthy of the ‘22 Jump Street’ sequel that followed.
‘Superbad’ follows the antics of two high-school seniors, Seth and Evan, who are as nerdy and raunchy as they are desperate to party hard, lose their virginity, and gain experience in anticipation of their soon-to-be college experience. As is prototypical of the genre, there is a stark contrast between this partnership. Seth is crude, manipulative, and codependent while Evan is meek and straining under their toxic relationship. The tension lies in their impending separation after graduation, and this insecurity feels so honest to the type of feelings you have during this coming-of-age period that it’s hard to be mad at how hilariously petty Seth is and how painfully submissive Evan can be. Despite this drama, their characters are merely magnified, and bounce off of one another like only a pair of weirdo high-school besties could.
When ‘Superbad’ premiered in 2007, neither Jonah Hill nor Michael Cera had ever had a starring film role; Hill had appeared in small roles in a number of high-profile Judd Apatow-headlined comedies, and Cera had already been a series regular on the cult hit ‘Arrested Development’, but neither had quite broken the seal of leading an entire tale, and certainly not one like ‘Superbad’. Now, the film lives on forever in the cultural consciousness as one of the definitive coming-of-age comedies.
‘Step Brothers’ (2008)
When their adult parents get engaged and begin cohabitating, man-children Brennan (Will Ferrell) and Dale (John C. Reilly) are forced to adjust to one another, both alike to the most rotten extent. At first, their shared environment fosters animosity akin to the pettiest middle school beef, but soon enough devolves into a friendship match made in heaven.
Though now we know from other films like ‘Talladega Nights’ and ‘Holmes & Watson’, John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell are a duo for the ages, and the ever-quotable ‘Step Brothers’ goes on as a beacon of purity in the genre of kid comedy delivered by adult men. With the impeccable (basically royal) capabilities of both of these performers to take their humor to the limit and make a fool of themselves, ‘Step Brothers’ has rightfully earned what might be the most continuous sense of cultural relevance on this entire list.
By Grace Smith
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Grace Smith is a film critic and writer with 21 years of formative film exposure under her belt – and a focused interest in horror, surrealism, and substantial Cinema. Grace is passionate about The Hollywood Insider’s mission towards thoughtful and innovative media that expands audience perspectives towards entertainment. As a young writer and film-lover, Grace hopes to inspire readers towards not only broadening their horizons when it comes to cinematic media, but also raising their expectations.