Really serious movie people, like the kinds who write for newspapers and magazines and want to be taken really really seriously when it comes to opinions on movies (which they would of course refer to as “films”, or “cinema”), usually prefer movies that are serious so they can talk about them in a serious way and demonstrate how serious they are. If you take a look at the yearly top ten lists for most critics, they’ll be comprised of many serious dramas. I’m guilty of this. It’s understandable why these movies can be divisive. Opinions naturally split on whether a dramatic movie works or not. The same is true of comedies, perhaps even more so, because comedy is often an even more particularly subjective experience. People differ on comedic takes rather strongly. And yet there are some movies that seem to be impossible to dislike. They have a spirit of general enjoyment, a tone of happiness that is overwhelming, though not to the point of being suffocating. There are lots of movies that try too hard to be cheery, and that can be annoying, so it should not be discounted just how difficult it is to pull off a truly happy, universally-appealing movie. But there are a number to draw from, that frequently end up in people’s lists of all-time faves. Here is a list of 8 happy movies that I have yet to hear complaints about, except from angry people who genuinely hate life and detest joy.
These are all things I thought before I saw it, but then Jean Dujardin smiled at me. And damnit if I didn’t lose all sense in that moment. It’s like that moment in Ratatouille when the food critic tastes his meal and all of a sudden he’s a little boy who had fallen off his bike. Reality melts away and you’re left with a dumb grin on your face and all you can think about is why can’t everything be this happy all the time.
Everyone Says I Love You
Singin' in the Rain
I feel like one scene sort of sums up the whole movie. A diction coach is teaching the Gene Kelly character proper enunciation by repeating the phrase “Moses supposes his toeses are roses which Moses supposes erroneously.” Donald O’Connor arrives and they decide, as one does, to ridicule the teacher by turning the silly phrases into a rhythmic song, and then proceed to dance like crazy people. It’s glorious. That’s pretty much what the whole movie is like, and I can’t imagine a person responding to it with anything but, for lack of a better word, glee.
Happy Go Lucky
She’s instead an incredibly savvy, people-smart person who has made a conscious choice to try to maintain positivity and give people the benefit of the doubt. We expect her to be naive but she’s anything but. So she eventually wins us over with her good spirits and humor, but this little wrench thrown in by writer-director Mike Leigh actually makes her extremely admirable. This is one that requires a little more patience but the payoff is worthwhile.
Happy movies like Happy-Go-Lucky, which goes a bit dark but then returns to the light, are underrated. They’re also more than mere escapism, which today tends to rely more on awesomeness and overwhelming action instead of simple but strong enjoyment. It also takes more than a Disney sensibility where the cute supplants the smart and the fun suffers. It would be great to see more movies that are both happy and serious, because these are not antithetical concepts, get recognized for their quality and appeal as broad works that can still be just really good.