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It’s a historic moment: Schools closed, workers staying home and normal life at a near standstill due to an unprecedented pandemic. And with local theaters closed, you can’t even go out to a movie.
Luckily there’s plenty of streaming and digital content available — and right now, you could probably use some mindless entertainment.
In that spirit, here’s a list of comedies that we’ll graciously call unchallenging, the kind that aim to offer big yuks and loud guffaws. We’re going slightly off the beaten path (we’re assuming you’ve seen “Anchorman” and “Airplane!” enough times) and choosing titles you may have overlooked, or old favorites you may have forgotten. Some are kid-friendly, though some are definitely not.
A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (2014) For his live-action acting debut (following “Ted”), writer-director Seth MacFarlane stars as a neurotic sheep farmer trying to survive in a violent Wild West town. This R-rated film took plenty of lumps for its white-dude humor — the whole concept feels very Woody Allen — but it also has an aw-shucks love story involving Charlize Theron as a gunslinger’s girlfriend. The cast includes Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried and Neil Patrick Harris. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes,Google Play, Vudu)
BAD MOMS (2016) A so-so sequel and numerous imitators haven’t taken the shine off this comedy about three moms (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) who decide they deserve to goof off as much as the men. The three stars are terrific, Christina Applegate gets to play a grown-up mean girl and there are several unexpected moments of sweetness. Also with Wanda Sykes and Clark Duke. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes,Google Play, Vudu)
BLADES OF GLORY (2007) Will Ferrell teams up with Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”) to play disgraced figure skaters who, out of desperation, become the sport’s first male-on-male pair. Ferrell and Heder make a great team in this wacky but not-too-raunchy comedy; it’s a shame they haven’t done more together. Amy Poehler and Will Arnett are the icing on the cake as the skating Van Waldenberg siblings. (Sling TV, YouTube, Amazon, iTunes,Google Play, Vudu)
IDENTITY THIEF (2013) In one of her first post-“Bridesmaids” comedies, Melissa McCarthy plays a Florida fraudster who steals the identity of corporate drone Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman). The perfectly-cast stars play off each nicely in this buddy comedy from Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses”). Reviews were mixed, but the film earned a solid $174 million. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes,Google Play, Vudu)
LIFE (1999) Ted Demme’s film is an overlooked title in the careers of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. It’s a prison comedy, which means crude humor and plenty of stereotypes. But it also has a poignant storyline in which the two imprisoned heroes age over the course of 50 years. The movie earned an Oscar nod for best makeup. (Sling TV, YouTube, Amazon, iTunes,Google Play, Vudu)
MURDER MYSTERY (2019) Adam Sandler and Netflix — it's a combination that rarely produces greatness. Maybe the addition of Jennifer Aniston is what makes this spoof a pleasant diversion. The two stars play an American couple swept up in a murder case with a bunch of foreign snobs (Luke Evans, Gemma Arterton, Terence Stamp and others). “Murder Mystery” is no masterpiece; it was intended for theaters but didn't clear the bar. It’s a breezy trifle, which right now may be just what you need. (Netflix)
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969) Charming gunfighter Jason McCullough (James Garner) finds himself appointed sheriff of a lawless town in this loopy farce. The lovable cast includes Harry Morgan of “M*A*S*H*,” old-timer Walter Brennan, the great Jack Elam — he of the lazy eye — and a young Bruce Dern. Think of it as a kid-friendly version of “Blazing Saddles.”. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes,Google Play, Vudu)
THE FOOT FIST WAY (2006) Danny McBride plays Fred Simmons, a small-town Taekwondo instructor who, after his wife confesses to a drunken affair (“I mean, like, Myrtle Beach drunk”), attempts to regain his confidence by entering a martial-arts expo. It’s an early version of McBride’s swaggering lowlife persona, and the first release under the Will Ferrell-Adam McKay banner Gary Sanchez Productions. (Crackle, YouTube, Amazon,Google Play, Vudu)
THE JERK (1979) Steve Martin’s first starring role is Navin R. Johnson, a naive man-child who becomes a millionaire by inventing a pointless eyeglasses accessory. Directed by Carl Reiner, “The Jerk” was not a critical hit, but audiences recognized it as a modern classic, a nonstop barrage of absurdity worthy of “Duck Soup” or “Airplane!” Also starring a wonderful Bernadette Peters. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes,Google Play, Vudu, Hulu)
THE NAKED GUN (1988) The makers of “Airplane!” followed up with this cop movie spoof inspired by their own “Police Squad!” television show. Starring Leslie Nielsen as a bumbling detective assigned to protect Queen Elizabeth II, this is a ruder, cruder “Pink Panther.” The cast is a trip down memory lane: Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalban, George Kennedy and O.J. Simpson. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes,Google Play, Vudu, Netflix)
TOMMY BOY (1995) What haggis is to foodies, “Tommy Boy” is to comedy connoisseurs — an acquired taste. It’s mostly a showcase for the over-the-top antics of Chris Farley playing an overgrown man-child (as if you had to ask) who is heir to an auto parts manufacturing business, while David Spade plays his frenemy. With Rob Lowe (!) and Bo Derek (!!) in the cast, “Tommy Boy” is about as brainless as comedies come. (YouTube, Amazon,Google Play, Vudu)
TROPIC THUNDER (2008) Ben Stiller’s satire of Hollywood, about actors in a war movie who get trapped in a real war, may have been the last of the un-PC comedies. Audiences balked at some of the jokes, but it’s hard to resist the film’s wild energy and its talented cast, which included Jack Black, Steve Coogan, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Downey Jr. (in an Oscar-nominated performance) and a still-astounding Tom Cruise in a bald cap. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes,Google Play, Vudu)