Nestled among this week’s new theatrical releases is The Big Year, a rather syrupy looking Bucket List riff co-starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson. Let’s be clear: we have not yet seen it. But we’re not holding out much hope for a movie that puts those three guys together and cannot find one single laugh to put in a trailer.
How could you combine three men as (granted, not always reliably) funny as these and not come up with a laugh riot? Quite easily, turns out. The recent cinema is all but littered with pictures that teamed up established comedic talents and thus sounded like sure-fire crowd pleasers, but which ended up tickling the funny bones of neither critics nor moviegoers. After the jump, we’ll run down ten comic combinations that misfired.
Father’s Day THE MATCH-UP: Robin Williams and Billy Crystal APART, THEY MADE: Good Morning Vietnam, The Fisher King, The Birdcage; When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, Throw Momma From the Train TOGETHER, THEY MADE: “the disquieting sensation not of seeing two funny men but of watching two comedians from a distant age go through the motions of what they, all evidence to the contrary, still believe to be funny.” –Owen Gleberman, Entertainment Weekly BY THE WAY: Though Williams and Crystal had co-hosted several “Comic Relief” benefits, they never appeared in a movie together — until 1997, when they did three: this one, Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry, and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. But Father’s Day was the only one where they shared scenes. (And it was the only one that was terrible.)
Harlem Nights THE MATCH-UP: Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, and Redd Foxx APART, THEY MADE: Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America; Bustin’ Loose, Stir Crazy, Which Way Is Up?; Sanford and Son TOGETHER, THEY MADE: “An uninspired cross between Cotton Club and the characters of Damon Runyon, told in clichés so broad you keep waiting for it to poke fun at itself, but it never does.” –Roger Ebert BY THE WAY: We’re not immune to the pleasures of Harlem Nights; seeing these three generations of comedy together on-screen is a treat. Too bad screenwriter Murphy didn’t come up with some funny things for them to say.
I Spy THE MATCH-UP: Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson APART, THEY MADE: Bowfinger, The Nutty Professor, Boomerang; Bottle Rocket, Zoolander, The Royal Tenenbaums TOGETHER, THEY MADE: “though ample time is spent mingling Murphy’s jabberjaw locutions and Wilson’s curveball spaciness, the film leaves only the bitter reek of a botched chemistry experiment.” –Ed Park, Village Voice BY THE WAY: The film was based on the groundbreaking ’60s spy show that was the breakout role for Bill Cosby. Murphy’s Cosby impression here was far less entertaining than his scorcher in Raw.
The Change-Up THE MATCH-UP: Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds APART, THEY MADE: Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses, The Break-Up; Dick, Waiting…, Adventureland TOGETHER, THEY MADE: “another chapter in the epic saga of body shame, gender panic, and free-floating contempt for the human race that Hollywood comedies seem to be issuing piece by piece in serial format.” —Dana Stevens, Slate BY THE WAY: Between its straight-from-the-’80s premise and controversial ad campaign, this one never stood a chance.
Envy THE MATCH-UP: Ben Stiller and Jack Black APART, THEY MADE: There’s Something About Mary, Zoolander, Flirting with Disaster; High Fidelity, School of Rock, Tenacious D TOGETHER, THEY MADE: “A weirdly airless disaster.” – Ty Burr, The Boston Globe BY THE WAY: Until compiling this list, we’d completely forgotten that this movie even existed. But for what it’s worth, these days we’d much rather see a movie pairing up co-stars Amy Poehler and Rachel Weisz.
Beverly Hills Ninja THE MATCH-UP: Chris Farley and Chris Rock APART, THEY MADE: Tommy Boy, Saturday Night Live; CB4, Saturday Night Live TOGETHER, THEY MADE: “essentially a one-joke film… lackluster and unfunny.” –James Berardinelli BY THE WAY: Farley was originally to have co-starred with Jackie Chan. Hey, better this than a Rush Hour movie.
Semi-Pro THE MATCH-UP: Will Ferrell and Woody Harrelson APART, THEY MADE: Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Elf; Cheers, White Men Can’t Jump, Kingpin TOGETHER, THEY MADE: “one of the most sluggish sports comedies ever made — even the supposedly rousing final sequence feels belabored.” –Stephanie Zacharek, Salon BY THE WAY: Screenwriter Scot Armstrong went solo here, but he usually collaborates with co-writer/director Todd Phillips, who directed…
Due Date THE MATCH-UP: Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis APART, THEY MADE: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Wonder Boys, Soapdish; The Hangover, Bored to Death, The Comedians of Comedy TOGETHER, THEY MADE: “this decade’s equivalents of bad Chevy Chase movies.” —Mick LaSalle, The San Francisco Chronicle. BY THE WAY: Not only were Downey and Galifiankis wasted; Jamie Foxx, Danny McBride, and Matt Walsh also appear in this mostly laughless Planes, Trains, and Automobiles rip-off.
Nothing But Trouble THE MATCH-UP: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy APART, THEY MADE: Fletch, Caddyshack, Vacation; Ghostbusters, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places; Planes Trains and Automobiles, Spaceballs, Splash TOGETHER, THEY MADE: “a charmless feature-length joke about the world’s most elaborate speed trap.” –Vincent Canby, The New York Times BY THE WAY: Chase and Aykroyd had, of course, worked together on SNL; they had also previously appeared in the films Spies Like Us and Caddyshack II. Yet, still, someone thought they should go ahead and do another movie together.
Three Amigos! THE MATCH-UP: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short APART, THEY MADE: The Jerk, All of Me, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid; Fletch, Caddyshack, Vacation; SCTV, Saturday Night Live TOGETHER, THEY MADE: “a seminar on how to suppress Short, misuse Martin and ignore Chase.” –Roger Ebert BY THE WAY: We know, we know, Three Amigos! has become a cult classic, and we almost didn’t put it on this list–even though we know as well as you do that it should be far, far funnier considering the talents involved. But trust us, go read that Ebert review. It’s mighty persuasive.