9 British Comedies You Need to Watch Before Seeing 'Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie'
by Gary Susman
On this side of the pond, we've come to expect a lot from British comedies -- witty dialogue, gleeful absurdity, and lots of drinking. As the long-awaited "Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie" finally hits theaters, here are ten films you should see to prime you for Edina and Patsy's return.
'A Fish Called Wanda' (1988)
This delightfully mean-spirited tale tracks the twisted web of betrayals following a successful London heist. It's both a throwback to the black-comic Ealing crime caper movies of the 1940s and '50s and a preview of the Richard Curtis rom-coms of the 1990s and 2000s that poke fun at the differences between reserved Brits (here, Monty Python vets John Cleese and Michael Palin) and brash Yanks (Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, in his Oscar-winning performance).
'The Full Monty' (1997)
This story of six middle-aged, unemployed steelworkers finding empowerment as male strippers shouldn't have worked, but it did, thanks to a smart script by Simon Beaufoy and empathetic, star-making performances from Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, and Tom Wilkinson.
'Four Weddings and a Funeral' (1994)
By the time he made "Love Actually," screenwriter Richard Curtis seemed to have exhausted all he had to say on the topic of love, but his shtick was still fresh in this earlier romantic comedy. So was Hugh Grant's charming-stammerer routine. Bonus points for Rowan Atkinson's word-mangling vicar.
'Four Lions' (2010)
Too soon? Just five years after the 7/7 attacks came this dark satire about four inept, homegrown jihadis plotting a suicide bombing in London. Chris Morris's daring film grants all the characters a measure of humanity while still managing to find horrific absurdity in the impact of terrorist violence.
'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' (1975)
"Life of Brian" and "The Meaning of Life" may be bolder and more extreme, but the Pythons' first narrative feature is the most consistently funny. Several sequences, from King Arthur's duel with the Black Knight to the attack of the killer bunny, belong in the comedy hall of fame.
'Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit' (2005)
Aardman Animation made several brilliant claymation shorts featuring eccentric inventor Wallace and his silent-but-wise dog Gromit, but here, in the duo's only feature-length adventure to date, the pair are embroiled in an epic horror tale that involves both a rampaging monster and championship vegetable gardening. It says something about British comedy that this is the only movie on the list that's safe for kids.
'Withnail and I' (1987)
"We've gone on holiday by mistake!" That's basically the plot, in which two unemployed actors leave their miserable London flat for an even more miserable country vacation. What makes this one of the funniest movies ever is the characterizations, courtesy of writer/director Bruce Robinson's endlessly quotable dialogue and career-defining performances from Richard Griffiths, Paul McGann (the ever-nervous "I" of the title), and Richard E. Grant, whose bombastic, boozy Withnail is (or ought to be) legendary.
'Hot Fuzz' (2007)
Yeah, everyone loved "Shaun of the Dead," but connoisseurs of the Cornetto trilogy think the second movie from the team of director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is superior. Set in an archetypal English village, it's a brilliant spoof of buddy-cop movies, and the chemistry between Pegg and Frost has never been better.
'In the Loop' (2009)
Before "Veep," master political satirist The Thick of It" into this feature, a blistering send-up of modern foreign policy. The literate insults fly fast and furious from the mouths of British bureaucrats Tom Hollander and Peter Capaldi, though don't count out Yanks James Gandolfini and future "Veep" regular Anna Chlumsky.