5 Dark Comedies to Harsh Your Mellow (In a Fun Way) This Weekend (August 25, 2017)

5 Dark Comedies to Harsh Your Mellow (In a Fun Way) This Weekend (August 25, 2017)

The human foibles these films reveal might send you spinning off into a head trip.

by Gabriel Alvarez

Anybody who's ever sparked up a few bowls and sat back to catch a comedy knows how great of an experience it can be. But experienced smokers also know that not all comedies are meant to be enjoyed high. We're talking about those films that are still funny but that venture into not-so-happy terrain. The kind of movies that if you're smoking sativa could lead you on an intense head trip.

This week we'll be picking out various dark comedies currently on Netflix. Whether you watch 'em high or not we leave that to your own discretion.

For those who take perverse pleasure in seeing other people squirm while stuck in awkward situations Donald Cried provides uncomfortable scenario after uncomfortable scenario when a man runs into a weird, old high school buddy with limited social skills.

Starring the late Robin Williams and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, World's Greatest Dad is a ruthless takedown of American family life strife, high school cluelessness and pretty much all the other crappy behavior we all engage in but hardly notice about ourselves.

Super might not have gotten the reception it deserved upon its limited theatrical release in 2010, but the superhero parody starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, which shows us what would happen if regular people turned into crime fighters, is a blast of energy, blood and raw emotion. Those expecting something goofy and endearing get that, too, sandwiched in between head-splittin' action.

The Mule is an equally comedic/dramatic story loosely based on true events about an ordinary Australian man who makes a giant mistake when he agrees to smuggle drugs. The consequences ain't pretty and this one is definitely not for the squeamish.

And, finally, Better Living Through Chemistry deals with unhappy marriages, infidelity and addiction in the lives of well-off people in Maryland. Oh, and murder as well. Because what's a dark comedy without a deadly sin or two?

Warning: May Contain Spoilers

Donald Cried (2016)
Starring: Kris Avedisian, Jesse Wakeman
Director: Kris Avedisian
Genre: Comedy, Drama

Meet Donald. We've all known guys like him. He's the hometown loser with limited people skills, who all he seems to talk about 20 years later are the high school days. So it doesn't take a lot of explaining as to why Peter (Jesse Wakeman), who has returned to his old neighborhood to deal with the death of his grandmother, would want to avoid his weird pal Donald (Kris Avedisian), who he hasn't seen since he moved away. But that's going to be a lot tougher than expected.

Obviously, some people might find it pointless to watch a movie about an annoying guy that they wouldn't want to hang out with in real life. But there's more to Donald than meets the eye. We know he's immature, lacks self-control and doesn't respect personal boundaries, but what else could there be lying just below the surface?

Avedisian is a one-man army, serving as actor, writer, director and executive producer. The film is shot as if you're eavesdropping on Peter's and Donald's conversations. After a while, Donald seems like an actual person. Wakeman does solid work as the straight man. Donald may get all the crazily inappropriate lines, but they need Peter's flabbergasted reactions to make them really pay off, which they do more often than not.

World's Greatest Dad (2009)
Starring: Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, Alexie Gilmore
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Genre: Drama, Comedy

One has to wonder how many people watched World's Greatest Dad not knowing anything about it except for its feel-good title and the fact that it stars Robin Williams. There's got to be at least a few instances where an unwitting family threw this sick puppy on and were horrified to discover one of the darkest comedies anyone's ever likely to see.

Marching along with a take-no-prisoners attitude, World's Greatest Dad is this era's Heathers, a vicious takedown of the high school experience, particularly teenager's inescapable need to fit in. But it also mocks the insincere empathy that society as whole often engages in, picking apart our tendency to try and look good by appearing to care more than the next person.

Seen today, World's Greatest Dad could be a tough watch considering Williams passed away just three years ago. But the film is a fine example of why so many people loved the actor. He often brought a certain amount of vulnerability to many of his roles (here he portrays a frustrated school teacher yearning to be a writer, who also happens to have one crappy son). But just be forewarned: the film should come with a trigger warning for anybody that's dealt with depression.

Super (2010)
Starring: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon
Director: James Gunn
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Action

Released on the heels of the similarly-themed, far-more-financially-successful Kick-Ass, James Gunn's Super has in more recent times started to get its proper due. Rainn Wilson gives an inspired performance as a painfully average, God-fearing man distraught over losing his wife (Liv Tyler) to a local thug (a meanly funny Kevin Bacon). Then one day he has a vision that leads him to believe he should become a crime-fighting superhero.

Gunn doesn't shy away from the ramifications our cities would face if superheroes became a reality. Some of the action might be cartoony, but it's still shockingly violent. Without being preachy, the film poses the problems that come with vigilantism, whether it's committed by "good guys" or not.

There should be mention of Ellen Page's performance as a loud, hyperactive sidekick who works at a comic book store. She's enough of a possible distraction that she could be a dividing factor amongst viewers, as is some of the religious humor. But there's an emotional depth to this darkly comedic, multidimensional story, as seen in the scene where Wilson cries his guts out while praying about his shitty life, the anguish of a lonely outsider captured quite accurately.

The Mule (2014)
Starring: Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Hugo Weaving 
Director: Tony Mahony, Angus Sampson
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

It's not every movie that can find the humor in a hapless bloke who swallows 20 condoms filled with heroin, gets busted, and then tries to avoid prison by not "going to the loo" for a week. But that's what happens to TV repairman Ray Jenkins (Angus Sampson), who is convinced into smuggling drugs from Thailand back into Australia for some local hoods.

And even though much of The Mule's plot revolves around this dimwitted chap's struggles not to poop out all that dope in front of the cops who have him sequestered in a hotel room, there's surprisingly not as many fart and shit jokes as you might expect. There are some, of course—especially in one super gross-out scene—but for the most part, the humor comes directly from the personalities of the idiosyncratic characters.

There are stretches in The Mule where you can't tell if you're watching a comedy with dramatic moments or the other way around. But perhaps the biggest compliment that you can give the movie is how you don't notice a few conventional plot devices it employs until the movie is over.

Better Living Through Chemistry (2014)
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Monaghan
Director: Geoff Moore, David Posamentier
Genre: Comedy, Drama

In Better Living Through Chemistry (which also happens to be the title of a dope QOTSA song), Sam Rockwell plays a straight-laced pharmacist with an uncaring wife, a troubled son and overbearing father-in-law whose life gets more complicated when he can't resist the temptations of a sexy, spoiled, and bored housewife (a very on-point Olivia Wilde) who has a bit of prescription drug habit.

Normally, rich people's problems aren't exactly things most average people care about (people barely care about the poor). But Rockwell makes for a sympathetic figure. He's essentially a decent guy who can't stand up for himself. What further makes these character relatable, regardless of their social status, is their search for happiness. Like many others, they mistake the fleeting euphoria of sex and narcotics for the real thing. But if they're going to learn the difference, there's some pill-popping partying, late night vandalism and a poorly-thought-out murder plot they got to get through first.

Better Living Through Chemistry is narrated by Jane Fonda and features memorable support from Norbert Leo Butz, as a dorky DEA agent, and Ben Schwartz as the world's worst deliveryman. The script offers no mind-blowing revelations, but it does prescribe a tidbit or two about turning your life around, a surprisingly uplifting development for a dark comedy.


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Gabriel Alvarez has written about rap music and movies for over 20 years. He’s from Los Angeles.



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