This articles is not about the classics from 1990-1999. The celebrated hits of pop culture like Office Space, Happy Gilmore, or Tommy Boy. These are about the ones that have their audience, but largely you’ll come across more people that haven’t seen it than have.
THE GUILTY PLEASURE
Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead (1991)
Starring: Christina Applegate, David Duchovny (no, seriously)
This is the one you get laughed at for liking, if you’re a dude. But since I don’t give a shit, let me tell you this about this flick: The pacing and structure are insanely good for a comedy.
The plot, like the best comedies, is born out of complete absurdity. After the matriarch of this insanely large family (whose dad ran out on them after pumpin’ in like, 5 kids into this poor woman) who mostly have ZERO problem living in their own filth, leaves to a foreign country, she (without ever telling her children at any point and hours before her flight) saddles the kids with a babysitter. This babysitter turns out to be a huge bitch and, as the title suggests, kicks the bucket while in the service of these latchkey kids. And that’s simply the set up for the rest of the hour and ten minutes of the flick!
Here’s where this movie would lose the younger Millenials who might be reading…instead of simply calling their mom, having her return home to take care of them, and thus continue shirking their responsibilities and enjoy the summer (which by the way was the only thing Applegate’s character longed to do) she instead…GETS A FUCKING JOB. That’s right newly minted 22 year olds! This minor, who was the oldest of the bunch, went into the workforce to provide for her family and allow her freedom during the summer…all to keep her mother from coming back and cramping her style! Oh, and P.S. she doesn’t do literally ANY of the things she talked about as what would have made for an enjoyable summer. She just gets sucked into the rat race and large shoulder pads. Still, it’s a fun flick.
THE ONE THE COOL KIDS KNOW
So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993)
Starring: Mike Meyers, Nancy Travis, Alan Arkin (remember that name)
Have you ever imagined or dreamed that one day SNL’s Mike Meyers would ever play a fuckin’ normal person for once? Well guess what, he has, and he did it 14 years ago.
So I Married an Axe Murderer is a straight up joke machine. It’s quotable, it’s cute, it’s smart at many points, and as you’d expect in a Meyers flick, it’s ridiculous. I’m now finding that I’m starting off this piece by presenting two flicks that the title basically tells you everything about what’s going on. Don’t worry, I will not be pontificating on Weekend at Bernie’s. (ooooo I wonder where and how long that takes place!) Perennial bachelor, Charlie (Meyers) finally finds the woman of his dreams (Travis) but can’t escape a sneaking suspicion that she is a husband killing black widow, a person only brought to his attention by his mother (as mother’s do, they breed suspicion of significant others in all their beloved sons).
Great dialogue, endearing characters, and an amazing cameo by the late great Phil Hartman made for many a viewing in the Bauer house growing up. Oh! And in 90’s comedy fashion, a kick ass soundtrack.
THE SPORTS MOVIE
Tin Cup (1996)
Starring: Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Cheech Marin
Two great golf-centric comedies in one decade?! It happened! This romp follows the talented, hot headed, under achiever Drew Bauer as he-oh wait…sorry, that description was just getting a little close to home. Talented, hot headed, under achiever Roy McAvoy (Costner) as he falls for a quirky hot shrink (Russo) whose influence leads Roy to try and win the PGA Masters. However, it’s not the competition that poses the biggest threat, but Tin Cup’s self destructive ways.
Costner has goofy drunken idiotic machismo charm, which is partly why I like him in the film and drives a narrative, that while (SPOILER ALERT) doesn’t end with him hoisting the trophy, he does manage to get what he wanted, and sees the potential to improve upon himself in the future. Costner and Russo have annoyingly cute chemistry and Cheech Marin as Cup’s foil and best friend makes for great moments when the leading lady isn’t on screen.
THE ONE THAT’S CUSACK’S BEST
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Starring: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Jeremy Piven, Dan Aykroyd, Alan Arkin (see?)
Bro, I fuckin’ love this movie. Again, ridiculous premise: professional killer gets invited to 10 year High School reunion…hilarity and chaos ensues.
Laugh-a-minute dialogue. This flick has different and interesting characters FOR DAYS. The dialogue is sharp as a tack, the performances couldn’t be better executed, the soundtrack couldn’t have more punch, and that fight scene in the hallway could not have been more awesome! All of these elements make for repeated watching enjoyment and a main character that lends himself to being one of the best anti-heroes in cinema history…yes I said it. And because it’s a Cusack flick, you better believe the Clash are all over this piece.
This movie made Minnie Driver just such a crushable gal, and Joan Cusack steals the scene every time she’s on. In fact, they all do! Cusack (Joan), Aykroyd, Piven, and Arkin are all shining every time the camera is on them. That’s not to downplay how good John and Minnie are, they’re incredible, but these characters are just phenomenal.
THE ONE YOU PROBABLY HAVEN’T HEARD OF
High Strung (1991)
Starring: Steve Oedekirk, Thomas F. Wilson (that’s right, it’s Biff) and an un-credited James Carrey
To be honest, I don’t remember how this movie fell in my family’s lap. I don’t recall, and I don’t care. I wanna say we were at the movie store and one of us saw this cover with Jim Carrey on it and we got it out of that and that alone.
But man, this movie shaped me…and I’m not sure if it’s for the better. The film follows Thane Furrows (Oedekirk) as he trolls insurance salesman, blows up on his boss, and deals with strange visions, all in the span of a day. Oh, and 98% of the movie takes place in his apartment.
Heavy, heavy and hilarious rants make up each scene of this low budget masterpiece. In camera talking, cheap and effective camera tricks, and just the energy of Oedekirk make this such a fun movie to watch if you want to laugh at “it’s funny cuz it’s true” moments, one after another.
So that’s my list of unsung 90s comedies. What are some of your underappreciated gems?