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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

a cuppa tea with your ha-ha’s? check out classic British comedies

With the witty Death at a Funeral now playing and Mr. Bean’s Holiday, which is practically a silent movie in the style of Charlie Chaplin, opening this week, the multiplex is a suddenly a treat for fans of British comedy. Need more? You’ve got lots of choices on DVD. Be warned: this is not a comprehensive list — there are too many great British comedies to run down all of them.
Passport to Pimlico: In this clever 1949 farce, a borough of London declares independence from the rest of the city, with unforeseen results. [buy at Amazon] Parodying the deprivations of the war, it is nicely matched up with…

The Mouse That Roared: A decade later, a tiny European duchy declares war on the United States… hoping that it will lose and benefit from America’s post-WWII largesse to its conquered foes. [buy at Amazon]

Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life: Or any movies from the Pythons, either collectively or separately (I’m looking at you, Terry Gilliam). [buy Holy Grail at Amazon] [buy Meaning of Life at Amazon]

Local Hero: Again with the tweaking fun at the Americans, this time when a big oil company wants to buy a small Scottish town. [buy at Amazon]

The Tall Guy: See it if only for Elephant!, its musical adaptation of The Elephant Man (though the rest of this romantic comedy is delightfully wacky, too). [buy at Amazon]

A Fish Called Wanda: One of the funniest movies ever made? Could be… [buy at Amazon]

Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: Nick Park’s claymation house knows how to send up the British character and Hollywood cliches, and he does both to hilarious result in these two charmers. [buy Chicken Run at Amazon] [buy Were-Rabbit at Amazon]

Keeping Mum: This little seen film from last year gives us Rowan Atkinson as a rural preacher, Kristin Scott Thomas as his cheating wife, and Maggie Smith as their new maid. Morbid comedy ensues. [buy at Amazon]

Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are paving the way to a future of British comedy that, like Nick Park’s movies, combines the best of the British approach with a wise and loving takedown of Hollywood. [buy Shaun at Amazon] [buy Fuzz at Amazon]

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