Funny can mean murder in these really, really dark comedies, now available for uncomfortable laughing fits on Netflix Instant..
I Love You To Death, the chronicle of a long-suffering wife who decides to have her seemingly indestructible womanizing husband murdered, is a very, very strange movie — and the fact that it’s directed by Lawrence Kasdan and sports an A-list cast of Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman, River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, William Hurt and Joan Plowright makes it even stranger. It’s as if Kasdan kind of lost his mind, found a really bizarre and awkward script and called in some favors from a lot of his famous actor friends — and then they all got stoned and made a movie. It’s definitely worth watching, as you expect it to completely derail at any second… and yet it never does. We picture Reeves and Phoenix reunited on the My Own Private Idaho set a year or so later and recalling I Love You To Death during a lunch break: “Well, that happened.”
“Revenge is sweet… and low.” The film’s tagline might be the most clever thing about She-Devil, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good for a few laughs… and for the rare chance to watch Meryl Streep be really, really sexy. Ultimately, Susan Seidelman (Desperately Seeking Susan) might not have been the best choice to direct this kind of nasty, dark material, in which a put-upon housewife (Roseanne Barr) seeks to destroy everything her husband (Ed Begley, Jr.) holds dear after he begins having an affair with a romance novelist (Streep), though the film manages to keep your interest with the spirited performances of its two leading ladies, who manage to transcend their stunt casting and emerge as a pretty good team.
A film that’s actually gotten better with age, Throw Momma From The Train made a strong first impression with its pretty amazing teaser trailer, which was basically a truncated version of this scene. While the film can’t quite sustain its one-joke premise over the course of an already lean 88 minutes, the spirited performances of Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal and the inimitable Anne Ramsey keep things on track. This was also DeVito’s feature debut as a director, and it’s a blast to watch him develop what would become his trademark playful style (assisted by Barry Sonnenfeld’s equally playful cinematography). “The night was sultry.”
It’s no comedy classic, but Cadillac Man is far from the disaster it’s reputed to be. Robin Williams actually does some of his finest work here as a car salesman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a man with an alimony-demanding ex-wife, a missing daughter, two mistresses, a sizable Mafia debt and an order to sell 12 cars in two days or he loses his job. Things go from bad to worse when a maniac with a machine gun (Tim Robbins) shows up at the car dealership, freaking out because he believes his wife (Annabella Sciorra) is cheating on him. With Robbins abandoned without a director (this may be the worst performance of his career, though you sense that it’s not his fault), the entire film pretty much rests on Williams’ shoulders — and he almost pulls it off.
Another Danny DeVito-directed dark comedy (and another entry starring Robin Williams), Death to Smoochy is another film that got a bum rap upon its initial release. Edward Norton is horrendously miscast as the host of a Barney-like children’s television show who ends up being a star after his successor, the sleazy “Rainbow Randolph” Smiley (Williams), is disgraced after an FBI investigation, but — once again — Williams manages to keep things afloat with another underrated performance (even though this earned him a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor… sigh). Smoochy sports DeVito’s imaginative visual style, and — more impressively — a genuinely bleak and uncompromised portrait of a corrupt world in which kids are the unsuspecting victims of the off-stage sins of their “heroes.”
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