The fact that April Fools’ Day was first referenced in something as classic as Geoffrey Chaucer's 1392 masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, doesn’t make the sting of today's practical jokes and online headline hoaxes any less painful. While some revel in finding new ways to prank friends and coworkers, others yearn for less stressful comedy. For those who desire to be in on the joke, rather than being the butt of it, we’ve put together some Focus Features' comedies that will this April Fools’ (or any day) purely entertaining. From the zany send ups of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and the loopy lunacy of Burn After Reading to the dreamy high-jinx of Moonrise Kingdom and jaw-dropping jokes of Bad Words, everyone can find something to laugh at here.
Shaun of the Dead
Do you feel like the walking dead after fending off April Fools' Day jokes all day? Watching Edgar Wright’s hilarious Shaun of the Dead might give you a new lease on life. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star as pint-tossing blokes who gather their gang together to save the world against the Zombie apocalypse in this comic revival of the genre that refuses to die.
Having worked together on the TV show Spaced, Pegg and Wright decided to turn their deep love for the George Romero “Living Dead” movies into a feature film. Their unique mix of blood splatter and witty banter made Shaun of the Dead an instant classic, even inaugurating a new genre, the Zom-Com. Newsweek’s Devin Gordon calls it “bloody hoot.” And Stephen King, a man who knows a thing or two about having fun with horror, ranks it “a 10 on the fun meter.” So get out your cricket bat and play along.
Watch Shaun of the Dead now on iTunes.
Shaun of the Dead’s trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost reteam to mix mayhem with merriment in Hot Fuzz. But these creative minds takes their silliness seriously. Screenwriters Pegg and Wright watched 138 action films and conducted over fifty interviews to get their comic buddy-cop thriller just right.
A supporting cast that includes Timothy Dalton and Olivia Colman, and uncredited cameos from the likes of Cate Blanchett and Steve Coogan, not to mention a screenplay chock full of hilarious jokes–– “He's not Judge Judy and Executioner!”––should be enough to earn WhatCulture’s honor of the “Greatest British Comedy Of All Time.” But this spoof goes above and beyond the call of duty to also be a terrific thrill ride. “Hot Fuzz is everything an action-comedy should be,” writes the AV Club. “It achieves through parody what most films in the genre can't accomplish straight.”
Watch Hot Fuzz now on iTunes.
Burn After Reading
Put together George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and J. K. Simmons, add equal dashes of slapstick and espionage, have the Coen brothers stir it together, and you end up with the tasty madcap comedy, Burn After Reading.
Many of the lead characters were specifically tailored by the Coen brothers to fit the actors who play them. The dim-witted, hard-bodied personal trainer, Chad Feldheimer, was inspired by a botched dye job Pitt got making a commercial a while back. Pitt, a newcomer to the Coen brothers’ universe, loved playing against type. “It's much more fun to play the guy who makes the wrong choices and makes the wrong presumptions,” Pitt explains. “That's the fun we had with this one."
Watching intelligence agencies do dumb things is what makes this comedy so hilarious. When the CIA analyst played by Simmons tells his minions to “Report back to me when it makes sense," he’s providing a running commentary on the film’s own zany sensibility. “For dark laughs and hurtling narrative momentum this spy caper is their best work since Fargo," exclaims the Chicago Reader.
Watch Burn After Reading now on iTunes.
With summer on the horizon, and people acting today like, well, fools, one’s thoughts might drift to the magical world of Moonrise Kingdom. With a cast of talented adults (including Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, and Tilda Swinton), Wes Anderson unspools an enchanted story of first love between two 12-year-olds (played by Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman).
Set during the summer of 1965 on the fictional New England island of New Penzance, the tale is far from autobiographical. But the experience of first love it captures is both real and universal for the director. “I remember the emotion of feeling like I was falling in love at that age, and how powerful it was and sudden and inexplicable,” Anderson tells NPR.
With an impeccable attention to detail, from the perfectly fitted Khaki Scouts’ uniforms to the quaint decor in the house Murray and McDormand share to the animal costumes and amateur theater sets for Benjamin Britten’s opera Noye’s Fludde, Anderson constructs a wondrous nostalgic fantasy. But what brings this world to life is the director’s unique sense of comedy. As The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis points out, “Moonrise Kingdom breezes along with a beautifully coordinated admixture of droll humor, deadpan and slapstick.”
Watch Moonrise Kingdom now on iTunes.
On a day filled with bad deeds, have a bit of naughty fun with Bad Words, the wickedly funny tale about a 40-something man, Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman), who cons his way into competing against kids in a national spelling bee. Bateman, who was looking for a movie to direct, worked with screenwriter Andrew Dodge to bring out the best in his already comic cast (which includes Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, and Philip Baker Hall, as well as the young newcomer, Rohan Chand).
As director, co-writer, and lead actor, Bateman orchestrates the humor to make sure there are as many giggles and guffaws as there are “oh-no-he-didn’t” gasps. "I wasn't afraid about pushing the envelope as far as possible because I knew that I'd be playing the character,” Bateman explains to Metro. And in the end, Bateman ensures there a light at the end of the tunnel in this otherwise brilliantly black comedy. As the Daily News’ Elizabeth Weitzman puts it, “the right delivery can turn something d-e-c-e-n-t into a d-e-l-i-g-h-t.”
Watch Bad Words now on iTunes.