5 Phenomenal Movie Doofuses

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What are the qualifications for being a phenomenal movie doofus? I mean if you think about it there are a wide variety of characters throughout cinema’s history that could be singled out for their idiocy. They appear in every genre: horror, romance, comedy, and action films. Doofuses are everywhere on the big screen. But this week I’m looking at the dumbest of the dumb. These five doofuses are the cream of the crop in terms of clueless buffoonery. But I have to be honest, sometimes these characters are the funniest and that’s why I love these five. So on this week’s Phenomenal 5 I’m giving them their due. Now with so many brainless doofuses gracing the screen, it would be ‘doofusy’ to call this a definitive list. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to call these five movie doofuses absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – AGENT HUBERT BONISSEUR DE LA BATH (“OSS 117” series)

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The OSS 117 series was initially a group of serious spy movies made in the late 50’s and early 60’s. But in 2006 director Michael Hazanavicius and star Jean Dujardin teamed up to create a parody of those films with OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and its sequel OSS 117: Lost in Rio. If you haven’t seen them you’re missing a comedic treat. Dujardin’s Agent OSS 117 doesn’t waste time revealing his cluelessness and ineptitude. Whether he’s stumbling over obvious clues or offending women, countries, or religions, it all spawns from his undeniable idiocy. He’s a hysterical character and Dujardin’s committed performances and impeccable comedic timing are big reasons why.

#4 – FRANK DREBIN (“Naked Gun” series)
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Leslie Nielsen was a comic genius and that was never more evident than in “The Naked Gun” series. In Frank Drebin, Nielson created one of the most idiotic yet lovable comedic characters in film. Whether he’s destroying property due to his constant clumsiness or struggling with speaking or understanding the English language, Drebin is hilarious. Nielsen was also brilliant in selling Drebin’s sincerity even in the most ludicrous of scenes. Detective Frank Drebin found his origins in a small TV series that was canceled after six episodes. But this well-meaning moron made a name for himself on the big screen and he has to be on this list.

#3- CLARK GRISWOLD (“Vacation” series)

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Can you possibly have a list of great motion picture doofuses and not include Clark Griswold of the National Lampoon’s “Vacation” films? I think not. Chevy Chase had several good movie roles but for me none are as memorable as his portrayal of the good-hearted but dimwitted family man Clark Griswold. Clark always had good intentions when it came to family vacations. But whether it was his wandering eye, his volatile temper, or his unquestionable stupidity, he always managed to foul things up. But it’s that imbecilic nature that makes Clark such an endearing character as well as one of the funniest to watch. Either in Europe, Vegas, at Christmas time or Walley World, Clark is going to flub things up. What else would you expect from such a classic doofus?

#2 – LLOYD CHRISTMAS & HARRY DUNNE (“Dumb and Dumber”)

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Look I know this is a cheat, but how can you separate Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) from Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels)? These two best friends from the Farrelley brothers insanely funny “Dumb and Dumber” are textbook doofuses. In their cross-country trek to meet the girl of Lloyd’s dreams, these two imbeciles find themselves in more and more trouble all due to their lack of sense. There’s no denying it – these guys are doofuses. I mean I can’t even look at them without laughing. For me this is a side-splitting comedy and that’s mainly due to these two big time buffoons.

#1 – INSPECTOR JACQUES CLOUSEAU (“The Pink Panther” series)

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For my money the quintessential movie doofus was Inspector Clouseau from Blake Edwards’ classic “Pink Panther” series. Peter Sellers may have been the funniest actor of all time. Just ask some of his co-stars. I grew up watching Clouseau and his lame-brained attempts at detective work and these films are still some of my all-time favorite comedies. Clouseau could make something as simple as opening a door hilarious and his harebrained deductive skills give us some priceless cinema. Clouseau’s utter stupidity astounded people and even drove his boss mad. But it also cemented him as the all time greatest movie doofus in my opinion.

So where did I go wrong? There are several others than came to mind but there is only room for five. Who would have made your list?

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” – 4 STARS

Vacation posterThere may not be another Christmas movie with more laughs than “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”. Moviegoers have followed the Griswold family on a cross-country vacation, a European vacation, and a Las Vegas vacation. But arguably the funniest of the “Vacation films” focuses on their attempt at a “good old-fashioned family Christmas”. Anyone familiar with the Griswolds knows this is easier said than done and the results are nothing short of pure hysterical fun for the audiences. But while this film does capture many familiar and funny family situations surrounding Christmas time, it also features some of that typical National Lampoon naughtiness that works against the holiday appeal that it has as well.

Chevy Chase reprises his role as Clark Griswold, a well-meaning but moronic husband and father who sets out to have a traditional family Christmas. That includes venturing out in the wild to find a real Christmas tree, decorating the outside of his house with Christmas lights, and inviting his parents and in-laws to his home for the holidays. Naturally there is not a single one of Clark’s good efforts that work out as planned mainly due to his lovable stupidity. Beverly D’Angelo is back as Clark’s wife Ellen who, as in the other movies, perfectly understands her husband’s propensity for overdoing things. She’s a sometimes calming voice of reason and a perfect complement to her nutty husband.

But aside from Clark and Ellen the movie is filled with great characters. E.G. Marshall steals several scenes as Clark’s cantankerous father-in-law Art. He grumbles and gripes and never passes up a chance to put Clark down. Doris Roberts is also good as Ellen’s mom who is a little too friendly with the booze. And then there’s John Randolph who is great as Clark’s supportive father. I also have to mention William Hickey as the stogie-chomping Uncle Lewis and Mae Questel as the senile Aunt Bethany. They arrive later in the film but inject their own heavy doses of laughs. But the real star of the movie is Randy Quaid as cousin Eddie. He and his family show up uninvited and that’s when things really turn wacky. Quaid’s real life antics have proven that this is a part that suits him well. He is absolutely hilarious as a dimwitted bum and moocher who is family nonetheless. Everything from his wardrobe to his mannerisms will remind you of someone that you know and he gobbles up every scene that he is in. It’s safe to say that he steals the movie.

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We get all of the standard “Vacation” occurrences. Several times Clark completely goes out of his mind. Several times he almost kills himself. And of course things go from bad to worse as every one of Clark’s good intentions blow up in his face. And we the audience laugh all the way through it. But that same National Lampoon Standard is also something that keeps the movie from being as great as it could be. It seems they just couldn’t resist putting in several doses of innuendo and raunch, just enough to clash with the holiday spirit that it conveys elsewhere. I know this isn’t a big deal for many people, but I saw this as a wasted opportunity that strips the movie of its Christmasy, family-friendly potential. There are still some incredibly funny moments. But for me, you can’t just set the family down and enjoy it, unless you DVR a TV version.

There are so many scenes and so many lines in “Christmas Vacation” that you just can’t forget. Aside from the few seemingly compulsory instances of vulgarity, its a hilarious comedy that really works. It takes so many of the familiar family and Christmas quirks and accentuates them as only the Griswolds could. It’s hard to believe that “Christmas Vacation” is already 23 years old. But there’s no denying that in that time it has evolved in to a holiday classic. It’s a movie that so many watch every Christmas. I know we do.

5 PHENOMENAL MOVIE SCENES SET IN PARIS

Well, before I walk out of the door for our trip to Paris, France, I thought it would be cool to make my final pre-trip post tie in to our vacation. So how about we look at 5 phenomenal movie scenes set in Paris this week. Now there are some really great scenes that I left out but for good reason. I really wanted there to be variety in this list and I certainly think there is. I almost cheated simply because there are some scenes I HATE to leave out. But after much deliberating, here they are. Of course, as always this isn’t the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 movie scenes set in Paris are absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – THE RUDE WAITER (“National Lampoon’s European Vacation”)

Ok, I freely admit that this isn’t a great film. In fact, a good argument could be made that the ending derails the entire picture. But I have to admit that I laughed a lot as the Griswold’s stumble their way through England, France, and Germany. But for me, the funniest moment is at a cafe near the Eiffel Tower where they encounter a rude but hilarious waiter. Clark’s horrible French mixed with the waiter’s condescending mockery is laugh out loud funny. This will never be considered a classic movie, but I do love this goofy scene.

#4 – CLOUSEAU’S STREET PATROL (“The Return of the Pink Panther”)

Sticking with comedies, how can you not love Peter Sellers as Jacques Clouseau in Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movies. I swear these are the rare comedies that I can watch anytime and still laugh even though I know the gags by heart. In this particular scene, Clouseau’s incompetence has resulted in his demotion to a beat cop. But always dedicated (and always the buffoon) he comes up on a blind accordion player playing on the street as his monkey collects money from pedestrians. A hilarious conversation follows as Clouseau pesters the man for not having the proper license. Meanwhile a real crime happens right behind him which, of course, he’s oblivious to. It’s vintage Sellers and a truly funny scene.

#3 – THE CAFE DREAM SCENE (“Inception”)

One of my favorite movies of the last several years is Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”. This particular scene is set in a quite neighborhood in Paris at a small corner cafe. Actually, to be perfectly honest, it’s not. It’s all a dream as Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) gives Ariadne (Ellen Page) her first lesson in shared dreaming. The scene starts as a cozy conversation set in an even cozier corner of Paris. But Ariadne begins to panic giving us one of the coolest special effects sequences of the entire movie. Shot on location in south Paris, the scene is visually stunning and beautifully crafted. It’s definitely not your traditional pick for a Paris movie scene but I love it.

#2 – THE OPENING MONTAGE (“Midnight in Paris”)

Many of my movie friends know that I LOVE “Midnight in Paris”. Originally I had several scenes from the film that could have made this list. It was incredibly hard to narrow it down to one scene from such a fantastic movie about a fantastic city. But after thinking about the film and thinking about Paris, how could I not choose the opening 4 minute montage? The opening introduces Paris as a major character by showing it’s history, charm, and beauty. We see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the cafes, and more. It starts in the morning, takes us through an afternoon rain shower, before showing us the city of lights at night all as “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” plays in the background. Could you find a better introduction to such a magnificent city.

#1 – WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS (“Casablanca”)

It’s fitting that the best Paris movie scene is also the most romantic movie scene of all time from my favorite movie of all time. Throughout the early parts of “Casablanca” it’s clear that Bogart’s Rick is a tough cookie. But his tough guy persona takes a big hit when he crosses paths with his old love Ilsa played by the gorgeous Ingrid Bergman. After the encounter, Rick drowns his sorrows while reflecting on memories of their romantic getaway to Paris. In the flashback we see the couple taking a drive down the Champs-Élysées. We see them enjoying a cruise on the Seine River. Then there’s the romantic night on the town topped by dancing and a kiss. It’s the perfect scene that not only gives us a look at their past relationship, but it also presents Paris as the link that will always connect them. I have no reservations about calling this the best movie scene set in Paris. “Here’s looking at you kid”.

And there they are? What are your thoughts on my picks. I know there are other great scenes that take place in the City of Lights. As my wife and I travel down the Seine River, please leave your comments and share your top 5 Paris movie scenes!