Three new comedies to welcome the summer

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JUNE 29 — The time when the summer movie season included blockbuster comedies and rom-coms is probably long gone, with Hollywood almost fully concentrating on guaranteed moneymakers like franchises, comic book adaptations and the new trend of cinematic universes. 

Rom-coms, especially, have long been pronounced "dead" by industry watchers and have more or less found a new home on Netflix and other video-on-demand (VOD) services, probably because the financial risks are much lower when you don’t have to worry about the huge costs of promoting a theatrical release and the completely unpredictable pattern of box-office takings nowadays.

So going into this summer, of course one of the biggest comedy juggernauts that has dominated cultural conversations all over the world came from Netflix with their latest rom-com hit Always Be My Maybe

There are quite a few new summer comedies and rom-coms there hidden in the glut of new material released on the streaming service, some good and some merely passable (like the dramedy The Last Summer), but one of my most anticipated summer comedies, Late Night (starring Mindy Kaling), is miraculously a theatrical release in the US, so hopefully it’ll make its way here soon.

Always Be My Maybe aside, two other new comedies have caught my eye recently; both I think very much deserves your attention and viewing. 

So without wasting any more time, here are my thoughts on all three:

Always Be My Maybe

When this movie first dropped on Netflix a few weeks back, the first wave of conversations surrounding it were generally in the tune of how much more realistic and relatable it is for Asians when compared to that other Asian-headlined blockbuster, Crazy Rich Asians

There were a few grumblings as well about how this movie is much better than Crazy Rich Asians, which I think kind of misses the point as they’re not at all similar as this one’s more of a straight up comedy with a little bit of the rom-com formula thrown in whereas Crazy Rich Asians is a full-fledged rom-com.

It’s a story of two childhood best friends who became estranged and who later meet again when they’re adults, one a classic successful-Asian-child type and the other a classic yet-to-flee-the-nest Asian child type. 

Even though Randall Park and Ali Wong are perfectly cast in the central roles and are excellent comedians in real life, I found this movie to be only adequately enjoyable. 

It’s funny, even hilarious in places, and it contains loads of very relatable moments for all of us Asians, but it just never clicked as a whole, especially in the chemistry and feeling part when it came to the romantic elements. 

Let’s just chalk this one up as another win for Asian representation in mainstream American movies, and let’s hope there’s many more to come, preferably much better.

Plus One

When it comes to comedies with rom-com elements and with Asian representation, this under-discussed film is the undisputed winner so far this year. 

Arriving out of nowhere, with a star making performance by Asian American actress Maya Erskine, Plus One is one of those wedding season rom-coms (like Four Weddings And A Funeral or My Best Friend’s Wedding), with the twist here being that it’s about two single best friends who decided to attend all the weddings they’re invited to as each other’s plus one, so as to avoid the deathly depressing singles table. 

It’s a very character-based film, so the film takes its time laying out the characters of its two leads, and the comedy often comes from their character and behaviour, instead of from situations, so the first 20 to 30 minutes or so might test the patience of some viewers as the film doesn’t shy away from laying even the more unpleasant parts of the two lead characters.

But once you’ve gotten to know them, I can assure you that you’ll be fully in for the ride, just as the two characters are, as they both warm up to each other, and of course, fall in love. 

It’s one of the best rom-coms I’ve seen in recent memory, though be warned that there’s a lot of raunchy comedy here, and Maya Erskine is as game for raunchy jokes as she’s radiantly a joy to be around with. 

It’s funny, heartfelt, so Asian-ly relatable (wait till you meet her family and savour her mum’s antics) and has that requisite bite-sized wisdom about love and life that all great rom-coms possess. 

Do yourself a favour and don’t miss this one.

Booksmart

Out on Netflix, and directed by the actress Olivia Wilde (a name that I’m sure many aren’t familiar with, but Google her and you’ll instantly recognise her face... you’ve seen it in a lot of movies, trust me), Booksmart is kind of like a stoner comedy, but for geeky smart girls. 

It’s not quite as gloriously full on stoner as last year’s Never Goin’ Back, but this is still very much a legit stoner comedy a la the Harold & Kumarmovies, only this time the two leads are geeky smart kids who found out on the last day of school that the cool kids they’ve been looking down on are actually going to good colleges as well, so in order to make up for lost time (as they’ve missed out on partying throughout high school in order to focus on getting good grades etc) they’ve decided to really go out and party this time.

And that’s basically the whole plot. And like all good high school stoner comedies (remember Superbad or Pineapple Express?), a lot of random and hilarious incidents are in store for these two girls, and by the end of it they learn a thing or two about life in high school, and what awaits them in college. 

It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s really entertaining, and the two girls are really fun to be around which is more than I can say for a lot of comedies being made nowadays.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

Three new comedies to welcome the summer