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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

in which movies is it completely obvious that the entire cast is having a ball?

Ocean's Eleven Brad Pitt George Clooney

In my review of Much Ado About Nothing, I wrote this:

You don’t realize how infrequently it’s obvious onscreen that everyone is having fun doing what they do until you see it as plain as day, and are forced to wonder why the hell so many other people up on that big screen in other films suddenly seem to have such a puss on about making movies.

To which commenter Captain_Swing666 responded:

I’m wracking my brains to think of other films where this could be said to be true. “Grosse Pointe Blank” perhaps? And another hit man film, “Wild Target”. Oh, and “8 Women” by Francoise Ozone.

So let’s talk about that:

In which movies is it completely obvious that the entire cast is having a ball?

The one that comes instantly to mind for me is Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, which is endlessly rewatchable in part because everyone onscreen seems to be having a lot of fun, and it’s hugely infectious. (The possible exception might be Julia Roberts. I initially thought she looked miserable in the film, but now I’m not sure if that’s just her character. Still, though, even the male characters who are pretty miserable are portrayed by actors who appear to be having fun.)

Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • Isobel_A


    No-one else appears to love this film as much as I do, with the exception of the cast, who look like they’re having a huge amount of fun. Especially Val Kilmer, running around in a dress and a wig.

  • RogerBW

    It’s tricky; I’d say Some Like It Hot, except that everyone involved seems to have felt that Monroe cast a blight over everything each time she turned up on set.

    I do get a certain amount of this feeling from Leviathan. The Return of Captain Invincible. Ice Pirates. Heathers. Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat. Split Second.

    Looking at that list, I suspect that one thing which contributes is the presence of a Big Name (possibly now fading) who’s done it all and can’t take any of it seriously any more. That sort of feeling can be infectious.

  • Stephanie C.

    I have often wondered if Rob Reiner has a +5 ‘Relax the Cast’ or something spell in his arsenal – because every movie of his I have seen, whether serious or silly, seems to have a cast that is just enjoying themselves to pieces. When I am in a particularly foul mood, it’s This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally or The Princess Bride that I turn to.

  • I_Sell_Books

    The Usual Suspects and I don’t even mean the line up scene. There just seems to be a harmony that I really like. Ditto for Star Trek Into Darkness and why do I want to keep putting in a colon in that title?

  • Tangeu

    The best examples I can think of is anything from Happy Madison productions. I mean the whole production company exists solely as a method for Adam Sandler and his buddys to hang out while working.

  • MisterAntrobus

    I’ll throw in a vote for my favorite “cult” movie of all time: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a glorious send-up of Z-grade ’50s sci-fi flicks, played with tongue-in-cheek earnestness by a troupe of gifted comedy actors pretending to be terrible “serious” actors. Well worth checking out.

    Also, most of Mel Brooks’ films have a similar sense of rollicking fun. If you look at the outtakes in Young Frankenstein, for example, you start to think it’s a miracle they ever got a clean take, as often as they were driving each other insane with laughter.

  • FormerlyKnownAsBill

    Charlie Wilson’s War.

    everyone seems to be getting a kick out of the whole situation and putting a little extra juice into their character.

  • possum

    Mamma Mia!- everyone looked like they were having a blast except for Pierce Brosnan when he was forced to sing. *L*

  • Jonathan Roth

    You beat me to it. I was watching Madeline Kahn retrospectives last week, and had to re-watch Young Frankenstein after that.

  • Jonathan Roth

    Good one. :) And yes, I have it on Blu-ray, and even after all these years, it still feels like it holds up as a solid fantasy film.

    Warwick Davis’s video featurette on the Blu-Ray has a lot of interesting moments supporting that statement.

  • LaSargenta

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
    Blazing Saddles
    Running Man

  • Isobel_A

    That sounds like fun but sadly I don’t have Blu-Ray.

  • Danielm80

    I love the movie Camp, and I love it almost entirely because the cast is having a great time. It’s badly written, the acting is terrible, and the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense, but most of the stars are teenagers who’ve never been in a movie before, and they’re all having the time of their lives. Also, the musical performances are amazing.

  • Danielm80

    I should also mention Before Midnight. It sounds odd to say that the cast is “having a ball,” because the story is very dark, and the climax of the movie is a long, brutal fight. But the emotional scenes are really moving, and that’s partly because the cast has been working together for eighteen years. This is the third film in the series, and the romance between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy feels like a real relationship. That makes their arguments much more painful to watch, but when their characters were joking or flirting onscreen, I could tell I was watching real joy. The best scene in the movie was a sequence where the entire cast sat down at a table and ate lunch. It was a long, rambling conversation, the sort of thing most screenwriters go out of their way to avoid, and it was one of the best movie scenes of the year.

  • Tim Norton

    Galaxy Quest. The goofiness was stellar.

  • Kathy_A

    It’s not a movie, but a short film that was on TV back in 1980, called “Who Am I This TIme?” for the PBS series American Playhouse. It was an hour-long film directed by Jonathan Demme, based on a Kurt Vonnegut short story, starring Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon, and it was just brilliant in its story and in the pure chemistry between all of the cast members, but especially Walken and Sarandon (who are both So Young here!!).

    I love to recommend this film for everyone, but especially those into stage acting at any level. It’s about a small-town acting troupe in the early 1960s and its lead actor, Harry Nash (Walken), who is a brilliant performer, embodying every role he takes on to perfection, but who is a pathologically shy man offstage, unable to meet anyone’s eye. One day, the troupe’s new director runs into a new woman in town (Sarandon) and asks her to try out for Stella in their new production of A Streetcar Named Desire, and even though she appears to be very standoffish and rather cold, she surprises herself by coming to the auditions. She and Harry do a read-through together, sparks fly, and she starts to fall in love with her new co-star.
    It’s an excellent romantic comedy, and leads one to ask why the heck Walken didn’t get more roles like this?

  • AG

    Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein have already been mentioned, but definitely Little Shop of Horrors. Even Bill Murray looked as if he might have accidentally had fun there, mainly because he spent his onscreen time messing with Steve Martin (massive ad libs). Also, Caddyshack looks that way, but it sounds as if the reality was more complicated…

  • althea

    I agree, and like you I thought I was the only fan. Surprised me that it didn’t create a following. Now I gotta see it again.

  • Another fan of the movie here. I was 14 when it came out, and ended up having a huge crush on Joanne Whalley’s character(and her?).

    It’s simply a fun movie, and is eminently re-watchable.

  • Rob

    Clue. The energy among the entire cast is just electric. The comedy is so rapidfire, practically bouncing between a cast of such enormously funny people that I can’t imagine that they weren’t having the time of their lives.

  • Isobel_A

    I’m so glad there are other fans about – I must have been about 14, too, an loved it. I had a Val Kilmer crush at the time, and it endured even the wig.

    It’s silly, but I love it.

  • GibsonGirl99

    Maybe it’s just because of Heath Ledger, but I always get that feeling from both “A Knight’s Tale” and Lasse Hallström’s version of “Casanova.” In the former even bad-guy Rufus Sewell seems to be working at being wroth most of the time, & in the latter Jeremy Irons is really hamming, glamming it up as the villainous Cardinal. And Heath, well Heath is just infectiously wonderfully relaxed looking in both. Sigh.

  • PJK

    The Big Lebowski. The cast on that movie always seemed to me to be having a ball.

  • amanohyo

    When I was 13, one of my best friends sometimes walked up to girls in the hallway, dropped to a knee, and proclaimed:

    “You are my sun, my moon… my starlit sky. Without you I dwell in darkness.”

    The girl would typically mumble something in confusion, at which point I would walk up and deadpan:

    “Your power has enchanted me, I stand helpless against it,” at which point one or both of us would completely lose it.

    It was a douchey thing to do in retrospect, but we were silly, hormone-adled middle schoolers and we loved Willow. I still have a soft spot for that scene – Kilmer’s overacting when he falls in love is hilarious.

  • amanohyo

    I agree, and would add all of the later Guest mockumentaries to the list as well – I’d pay to watch the entire filming process of Best in Show unedited.

  • Isobel_A

    I do pity those girls, but it is funny.

    People never understand why I call them Rool, if they’re a fool.

  • amanohyo

    The Rocky Horror cast looked like they were having fun – then again I don’t think I’ve ever seem Tim Curry look blasé (someone mentioned Clue below too).

  • singlestick

    I think it’s a big (though understandable) mistake to assume that just because we greatly enjoy a movie, the cast must have had a great time making it as well. Frank Sinatra and his pals had a great time making the original “Ocean’s 11,” but the movie is not very good. I’ve read that Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller had fun making “The Watch,” but it’s almost as though they made that stinker of a film for themselves, and were too lazy or selfish to consider the ticket buying public.

    Even going back to the silent era, there is a great documentary showing Charlie Chaplain doing take after take to get a visual gag just right. This had to be tough on himself and the crew. The magic is that the final result looks as fresh as if it were done with a single take.

    Debra Winger supposedly called Richard Gere “a brick wall” and director, Taylor Hackford, “an animal,” reflecting some of her dissatisfaction with making “An Officer and A Gentleman.” This does not in any way detract from the greatness of that film, or the pleasure that audiences got from watching it.

    And “Caddyshack” is a good example of how even comedies can have their share of tension. Ted Knight and some of the other good comic actors in the film became frustrated that the roles of the actors who were great improvisers (Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield) were expanded. And Murray was only on the set for six days, and all his lines were unscripted, according to some accounts of the film.


    And maybe sometimes the sense of fun comes from actors knowing that they are doing good work, even if it is harder or more difficult than we might suspect.

  • Captain_Swing666

    I’m honored to be in such august company.

    I’ve thought of another – but it does show that having a good time is conducive to making good films. Bogart, Huston, Lorre and Morley were having a ball when making “Beat The Devil” – but it’s a shaggy mess. Still It’s got Peter Lorre in it and I could watch him open an egg box.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Some of the interviews Susan Sarandon gave after she started doing more serious movies like Atlantic City indicate that filming RHPS was not that pleasant an experience for her . Indeed, she even fell ill from pneumonia while filming it.

    However, it says something about her acting ability and her rep as a trouper that one can hardly tell any of that from her performance in the film itself.

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