Last week, in honor of Women’s History Month, we spotlighted films featuring powerful women from around the world. For our latest Netflix recommendations, we’re getting ready for April Fool’s Day by highlighting movies about people pulling pranks both big and small.
As many of you know, Netflix has a tradition of doing some sort of gag on their site for April Fool’s, whether it be switching up their genre categories to something goofy and overly specific (Movies Starring Actors Who Look Like Zach Galifianakis) or debuting faux original content like Sizzling Bacon, a 20-minute video of bacon frying on a pan. You’ll have to check for yourself to see what they do this year, but while you’re there you might as well watch any of the following funny flicks that are currently streaming.
Right now, there’s no shortage of films on Netflix dealing with fraud in the art world (as well as the world of wines, as evidenced by Sour Grapes). While the drama The Best Offer (2013) and the slow-but-fascinating documentary Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (2014) are worth the time, our pick is the provocative Banksy doc, Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film which may or may not be part of an elaborate hoax.
Far more dangerous pranks can be found in Jackass 3.5, the crass stunt-a-thon that could very well be the crew’s swan song, plus the mind fuck that is Creep (starring Mark Duplass). There’s also a deadly prank-gone-wrong in the biting ‘80s high school satire Heathers, starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. Rounding things out is the giant shit show Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, an antagonizing comedy that doesn’t revolve around pranks but that does, fittingly enough, involve a couple of fools.
Warning: May Contain Spoilers
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
Starring: Banksy, Mr. Brainwash, Shepard Fairey, Space Invader
Genre: Documentary, Art
Upon its release, Exit Through the Gift Shop stirred up a lot of discussion, not just for its merits as a documentary about street art, but about one of its main subjects, Thierry Guetta. As seen in the film, Guetta starts off as an entrepreneur fixated with video cameras who eventually becomes a filmmaker documenting the exploits of world famous artists Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and Space Invader. In an unexpected turn, however, Guetta transforms himself into a so-called artist known as Mr. Brainwash. Immediately, audiences questioned the authenticity of Guetta and his “art,” which is clearly ripped off from legit artists and was created with the help of a small staff. Was Mr. Brainwash, as his name suggested, just a living embodiment of how easily the public could be duped into buying shitty art that’s been hyped? And in the process, was Mr. Brainwash himself the best art piece Banksy ever created? Getting to these answers is half the fun of this mind-boggling documentary.
Jackass 3.5 (2011)
Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Ryan Dunn, Dave England
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Genre: Comedy, Action
Most of the world is already familiar with the wild Jackass crew, who, for over a decade, have been making audiences laugh with their stupid-and-dangerous brand of physical humor. In Jackass 3.5, a collection of footage that didn’t make the final cut of Jackass 3D, you’ll see quite a lot of the type of extreme stunts that made them famous. (You’ll also see a lot of gnarly male genitalia, so try not to watch while having dinner or babysitting.)
But in between the laughs, we get a sliver of what it’s like for everybody to film the actual movie, with footage documenting the crew’s ever-present fear of getting pranked by the others. The behind-the-scenes material gives you the sense that the cast, most who are now in their mid to late 30s, were probably thinking, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”
Most of all, though, it’s evident that the thing that has always set the Jackass squad apart from their imitators are the personalities and sense of humor of the team, including the late Ryan Dunn, who died in automobile crash back in 2011.
Starring: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice
Director: Patrick Brice
Creep is one of those movies that runs the risk of being completely ruined the more you know about it going in. But for those who need plot details, try this: a videographer (the movie is seen through his POV) responds to a Craigslist ad for a job in a house out in the woods. His client is, well, strange. Trying to figure out what this weird dude’s true intentions are—is he really trying to pull a complex prank on the protagonist?—makes up the bulk of the movie.
Creep plays on our instinctual distrust of strangers. We’ve all heard about the terrible things that have happened to certain unlucky people who answered random ads on the internet. As the movie unfolds, you start to worry about what comes next. The potential for danger lies around every corner. Creep is disturbing because the world is a frightening, unforgiving place. Or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe.
Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty
Director: Michael Lehmann
Heathers ruthlessly satirizes the 1970s-1980s TV movies about troubled teenagers made by out-of-touch adults. Those (mostly) bygone flicks offered young viewers over-simplified solutions to their problems, sort of like when Nancy Reagan told kids to “Just Say No” to drugs. As such, Heathers doesn’t spare any archetypical high school character — overbearing parents, hokey teachers, and caricature-like students all get skewered in the cult-classic.
Winona Ryder stars as Veronica, the only one in her popular high school clique not named Heather. She’s smart enough to know that her besties are superficial and cruel, yet hasn’t brought herself to unfriend them. But things begin to change when she meets a rebellious loner (Christian Slater) who ends up involving her in a murderous prank.
Heathers is often thought of as precursor to Clueless (1995) and Mean Girls (2004). But, ultimately, those later films are still a celebration of high school life whereas Heathers sneakily chastises the narcissism, selfishness, and trendy behavior that really goes on during our teenage years. Even today, the movie retains some of its edge, mainly due to its nihilistic viewpoint and unfiltered commentary about suicide, eating disorders, and other usually fragile subject matter.
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (2012)
Starring: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Zach Galifianakis, Will Forte
Directors: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim
Even diehard fans of Tim and Eric’s subversive TV shows may not like Billion Dollar Movie. The duo’s bat-shit-crazy, proto-viral humor is way easier to handle when administered in 12-minutes-or-less installments (the length of Awesome Show, Great Job! when it was on Adult Swim in the mid-aughts). At 90 minutes, their first feature-length film can feel like observing people run a surreal marathon, one with no finish line (or even path) in sight.
So why recommend Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie at all? Well, for starters, despite some shit awful moments in this twisted tale about two buffoons who set out to renovate the world’s worst mall, there are still nuggets of comedy gold to discover here amongst the poo. (The scene where Tim tells an employee’s child that he’s his new father remains a classic.) Plus, there are countless cameos from funny people like Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, and John C. Reilly.
You can also consider it a pre-game warm-up to their 10 Year Anniversary Awesome Tour coming this summer. Or, in the spirit of April Fool’s Day, you can trick your way-too-serious friend to watch it and totally fuck up his or her evening. Because nothing screams comedy like pissing off your buddies.