When first invented, moving pictures probably were thought by many to be just a fad, but their presence in media has continued into the twenty-first century thanks to various directors, producers, actors and the audience of regular movie-goers. However, even in an age of ever-improving technology and innovation where creativity is more widespread than ever before, mainstream movie plot formulas have, for the most part, gone unchanged, especially for comedies.
Whether this is due to insecurity about deviating from a formula that works, laziness or because it’s difficult to make a comedy movie without following an already proven to work formula. It can’t be denied that today’s movies, especially comedies, are becoming predictable and hard to tell apart from one another.
Here’s a list of some of the recurring tropes that can be found in today’s comedy films:
1. The main characters fall in love and it works out.
You can almost always tell, even if there’s been no relationship mentioned, no friction between the characters or if they are already in a relationship with someone else, that the movies always end with the main characters realizing their love for one another. This may seem like a natural and unquestionable progression in film, but as many can testify, life seldom works out this way. It is a little more difficult to find the moment happy and satisfying when you know there’s no question of whether or not it’s going to happen.
It also isn’t necessary, as you can still find comedy in this moment never occurring, such is the case with movies like Dumb and Dumber. In this movie the character portrayed by Jim Carrey finds out the woman he’s been fantasizing over and risks his life to help, is married to someone else.
Examples of movies that fall into this trope are the following: Trainwreck, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Tammy, The Lego Movie, Dope, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Project X and many more.
2. The separation and reconciliation
You’ll often find this incident occurring in Double Act films, where two different personalities are paired together in order to generate comedic situations. But it can happen in just about any comedy creation as it isn’t hard to create something for characters to fight over. What will often happen is that the relationship will begin to build between two or more characters (albeit a friendship, family bond or a relationship) and then more than halfway through the movie, the characters will go their separate ways, only to reunite with each other before the film ends. Very seldom will you find a comedy film where a separation is permanent.
It could be argued that separation is a bad thing and would certainly cast a melancholy mood over a movie. However, no separation, fight or argument is necessary to put in a film. Especially one that would result in characters leaving each other in movies that have a very light hearted atmosphere most of the time anyway.
Examples of such movies: Ted, Step Brothers, Elf, Meet the Family, Toy Story 3, The Smurfs, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Role Models, The House Bunny, Love & Other Drugs and many more.
3. A Lack of Diversity
Often times, it’s not what comedy movies do that makes them predictable or very similar to one another; it’s what they don’t include.
We live in the twenty-first century, where there is a wider acceptance of different races, different cultures and the LGBT community, when only a few decades ago, talking about such topics was taboo. Yet, most big production movies do not feature much diversity at all; nearly all the couples on screen are male and female, usually white, while those of different races are often times portrayed in stereotypical roles – if they are given acting roles at all. Keep in mind, I am only referring to the major motion picture films in English and am not referring to independently created films or films in different languages, as these go beyond the tropes mentioned in this article and usually create very unique films.
Examples of such movies: Spy, Vacation, Mortdecai, Trainwreck, Entourage, Goosebumps, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lego Movie, Birdman, Inherent Vice, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Croods and many more from the examples in the previous two points.
4. Monopoly on Comedy
Perhaps what is the most upsetting about many of today’s comedy movies is that they star many of the same people over and over again, to the point where it seems like there’s a monopoly on the genre.
It’s no secret that there were a number of prominent actors in past comedy films that starred in a lot of movies during their high days of popularity (Bill Murray, Goldie Hawn, Dick Van Dyke, Leslie Nelson, Holly Hunter, Jerry Lewis). However, there were also minor roles in those films and more minor movies for lesser known actors and actresses (who were just as talented) that could have given them the opportunity to rise through the ranks of stardom.
Today, it seems that directors opt for big name actors to bring in fans rather than taking a chance on a new face. It could also be argued that comedy films that were once written to be brought to life by actors, are now being written to conform to specific actors and actresses and to showcase their comedy.
Prominent actors and actresses that keep coming up today: Jonah Hill, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Bradley Cooper and Ben Stiller.
There are other tropes and themes from comedy movies that can be pointed out: two characters bantering back and forth for an awkwardly long time, the large number of films that involve hosting wild parties and breaking the law and just the overall focus on having “Happily Ever After” situations before the movies end. These aren’t bad subjects or concepts to include in comedy films, but they may work better if done in moderation and if a few movies went against the expected. This would not only set apart those specific movies, but also make audiences wonder if the next film release will hold any surprises.