The 1990s spawned some of the best-loved and most fantastically fun-to-rewatch comedies ever made.
It’s easy to understand the world’s affection for cultural touchstones on the order of House Party (1990), Groundhog Day (1993), Dumb and Dumber (1994), Friday (1995), Clueless (1995), Tommy Boy (1995), Happy Gilmore (1996), Austin Powers (1997), and American Pie (1999). Cult favorites such as Problem Child (1990), The Cable Guy (1996), and The Big Lebowski (1998) also pack unassailable appeal.
What to make, though, of movie farces that are clearly not “good” in any kind of conventional (or perhaps even rational) sense, yet which never fail to crack us up. Over and over and over. For decades now. No matter how much we want to “know better,” these stinkers just absolutely slay us, every time.
Bio-Dome, one of history’s prime examples of “how can I possibly find this funny?” filmmaking, hit theaters on January 14, 1996. Let’s honor 20 years now of succumbing to the sly wit of Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin with a list of other ’90s flicks that uncomfortably splatter the lines between stupid and sublime.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, co-star in BASEketball, and off-the-wall sports romp written and directed by David Zucker, one of the original team members who created Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies.
The movie’s pedigree, then, is comedy gold. Its execution, however, is as clunky and obvious as the version of A-Ha’s “Take on Me” performed by ’90s ska one-hitters, Reel Big Fish.
Still, just try not smiling over BASEketball’s straight-up the middle silliness, as embodied by team names such as the New Jersey Informants, the San Francisco Ferries, the L.A. Riots and the Detroit Lemons; as well as Bob Costas and Al Michaels’ flawlessly straight-faced sportscasting as they witnesse one ridiculous cockamaminess after another.
Captain Ron (1992)
Captain Ron could so easily have been a dull, by-the-numbers, fish-out-of-water (or, more specifically, fish sailing on the water) rom-com. Through luck or pluck, though, the movie subverts its own limitations by flipping the script when it comes to casting.
Robust action hero Kurt Russell goes bare-chestedly berserk as the title character, a party-hearty, lady-loving, eye-patched boat commander who tears up the tropics, while the normally antic funnyman Martin Short plays its straight as the uptight businessman who just wants a simple getaway with his family. They pull it off, and peed pants have been known to happen as a result.
Class Act (1992)
House Party, the 1990 big screen debut by hip-hop duo Kid ’n Play, is a legitimately sharp, well-made, uproariously funny movies. Its 1991 and 1994 sequels, unsurprisingly, prove the expected law of diminishing returns.
Class Act, Kid ’n Play’s in-between-HPs project, is a hip-hop reworking of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. It’s as subtle as the Eraserhead homage atop Christopher “Kid” Reid’s noggin, in addition to being a gut-buster from the get-go, Ivy League brainiac Kid swap places with high-school drop out and ex-con Play. Oh, the gloriously stupid lessons each one learns!
Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993)
It’s insane enough that 1989’s original slapstick corpse romp Weekend at Bernie’s has endured as a giant laugh classic. The fact that the four-years-later sequel is also almost on par with the first one—well, aren’t we all just a bunch of lucky stiffs?
B.A.P.S. stands for Black American Princesses. The case of this culture-clash comedy, that raucous royal status is bestowed upon Halle Berry as Nisi and Natalie Deselle-Reid as Mickey, a pair of down-home Georgia soul food waitresses who end up in a Beverly Hills mansion, “livin’ large and takin’ charge!”
Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)
The title provides the basic premise as Christina Applegate and her four younger siblings get a whole summer to themselves after their mother splits for a couple of months and the nagging hag she left in charge keels over.
’90s kids took to the fantasy-fulfillment Don’t Tell Mom immediately. Unlike other preteen comedies of the era, though, this one lives on due in large part to Christina’s comic chops and the inventive farcicality involved in keeping the nannie’s expiration secret.
Adam Sandler, Brendan Fraser, and Steve Buscemi star in Airheads as the Lone Rangers, a heavy metal group who share infinitely more in common with the Three Stooges than any of their musical power trio heroes.
The band takes over a radio station and ignites a huge happening, summoning very funny performances from very funny other people o the order of Chris Farley, Michael McKean, Harold Ramis, Michael Richards, and even Lemmy from Motörhead.
Booty Call (1997)
Jamie Foxx presently reigns in Hollywood as an A-list box office draw and Best Actor Academy Award winner.
Back circa ’97, though, Foxx was still hot off TV’s In Living Color and took his first major swipe at big-screen stardom playing bad boy Bunz opposite his ILC co-star Tommy Davidson as a buttoned-up Yuppie in the immortal sex farce, Booty Call. Oh, how it’s rung our funny bells ever since!
Pauly Shore’s ’90s output may seem to have peeked after Encino Man (1992) and Son-in-Law (1993). Who could have imagined, then, that pairing him Stephen Baldwin—the talent runt of a famous acting clan who’d later redefine himself as Mr. No Fun Jesus Freak—would have resulted in The Weasel’s most affectionately cherished and unabatedly uproarious cinematic opus?
That’s what Bio-Dome is. Plot-wise, it’s the saga of Shore and Baldwin as “Squirrel” and “Stubs,” two bombastically brainless party bros, hermetically sealed inside the title structure for a year with a team of brilliant scientists. Hilarity happens in there, all the time.
Beyond the empty-headed heroes, Bio-Dome also boasts a huge cast of crack-ups that includes William Atherton, Joey Lauren Adams, Rose McGowan, Taylor Negron, Henry Gibson and, in their movie debut, Tenacious D.
No wonder that once the world checked into Bio-Dome, none of us have ever wanted to leave.