Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things movie.

Dominic Corry: New Zealand's funniest movies

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Until relatively recently, New Zealand didn't have the most stellar track record when it came to big screen comedies.

So much so that our funniest movies tended not to be outright comedies at all, rather a genre exercise of some sort that just happened also to be very funny. There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule. And then there are movies like Send A Gorilla (1988).

Our collective ability to identify the funniest elements of our culture received a massive boost in recent years thanks to Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, Bret Mackenzie and their various collaborators.

Although much of that was via Flight of the Conchords, a TV show set in New York, the effect on our collective comedy consciousness is beyond anything we've ever experienced in this country. As Neil Finn accurately observed on the Nerdist podcast recently: "[Flight of the Conchords] made New Zealand reserve seem like a thing."

Additionally, the New Zealand stand-up comedy scene has been in a ridiculously healthy state for a while now, and you can finally feel how that is informing New Zealand TV comedy. We just seem to have a new confidence in our own sense of humour. It's freakin' great!

The latest manifestation of this confidence hits theatres this week in the form of Gary of the Pacific, a new big screen comedy from those stalwart incubators of local on-screen humour, the down-low concept (Hounds, 7 Days).

But it's not alone. To mark the release of the movie, we're counting down the 10 funniest New Zealand movies ever made.

1. Braindead (1992)

Peter Jackson's superlatively bloody splatter comedy demonstrated a hilarious understanding of how to exploit traditional Kiwi repression for big screen comedic bounty. The Ladies Welfare League scene alone might be the funniest moment in Kiwi cinematic history. He mined a similar comedic vein for his next film, Heavenly Creatures (1994), which is also very, very funny. But simply too dark to put on a list of the funniest movies ever.

2. What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

This vampire mockumentary set in a Wellington flat is the funniest expression of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clements' unrivalled ability to take what is very specific to the New Zealand comedic sensibility, and make it universal. It's cult reputation continues to grow all around the world. Bring on the sequel. It has the potential to be the first good New Zealand sequel ever.

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3. Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016)

Shadows may just pip it in terms of number of actual guffaws, but Waititi's Wilderpeople has a warmth at its core that buoys the humour beautifully and embraces an audience of all ages.

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4. Sione's Wedding (2006)

Comedy troupe The Naked Samoans had been demonstrating on stage for years that New Zealand's Pacific Island population contained some of the country's best comedic talents, and they got to prove that on the big screen with this hit crowd-pleaser.

5. Bad Taste (1987)

Peter Jackson's awesomely infantile sense of humour got its first roll-out in this sci-fi comedy, a low-budget passion project that holds up remarkably well today. A turning point for New Zealand cinema.

6. Came A Hot Friday (1985)

Ian Mune's period comedy about a couple of bounders (Phillip Gordon & Peter Bland) getting into trouble with a horse-racing betting scam presents a level of production value not often found in Kiwi comedies. It's a gorgeous, old-fashioned hoot, and the sole cinematic outing for Kiwi comedy icon Billy T James.

Billy T. James in Came a Hot Friday.
Billy T. James in Came a Hot Friday.

7. Meet The Feebles (1989)

If you can stomach the edgy humour in Jackson's insanely dark Muppet satire, there's no denying it's one of the funniest, let alone boldest, comedies ever made in this country. Plus it pre-dated Avenue Q by more than a decade. Just sayin'.



8. Goodbye Pork Pie (1980)

Some of the humour in Geoff Murphy's Kiwi classic has aged poorly, offensively so. But if you can set aside the casual misogyny of those moments, there's a hugely appealing strain of anti-establishment fervour driving most of the film's comedy.

9. Carry Me Back (1982)

This under-remembered comedy is overflowing with charm and local talent. Pork Pie's Kelly Johnson and Grant Tilly play two brothers struggling to get their dad's corpse back to the family farm before anyone realises he's dead. Bruno Lawrence shows up. Predated Weekend At Bernies by seven years. Just sayin'.

10th equal: The Devil Dared Me To (2007) and Housebound (2014)

There is a ridiculous bounty of laughs in these two movies: a gonzo big screen adaptation of the cultishly beloved Back of the Y TV series and a subtly hilarious domestic thriller, respectively. Each of these is arguably a lot funnier than some of the movies that appear on this list, but I felt ethically prohibited from putting them any higher because the film-makers are both pals. Objectively speaking, both films are utterly hilarious and absolutely must-sees. Seriously.

Other Kiwi movies with enough laughs to warrant mentioning include: Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale (1987), Ruby & Rata (1990), Desperate Remedies (1993) Forgotten Silver (1995), Topless Women Talk About Their Lives (1997) Scarfies (1999), Eagle vs Shark (2007), Boy (2010) and Deathgasm (2015).

- NZ Herald

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Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things movie.

A film critic and broadcaster for fifteen years, a movie and pop culture obsessive for much longer. Favourite films: The Lady Vanishes (1938), Ace In The Hole (1951), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Vertigo (1958), Purple Noon (1960), Emperor of the North (1973), The Parallax View (1974), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), Aliens, The Three Amigos (1986), House of Games, Robocop (1987), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Talk Radio (1988), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Midnight Run (1989), Metropolitan (1990), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Dazed and Confused (1995), The Game (1997), The Last Days of Disco (1998), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), Primer (2002), Drag Me To Hell, District 9 (2009), It Follows (2015) and The Witch (2016). See more at www.TheGoodInMovies.com.

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