The Ref is one of the best comedies you’ve never seen. Released in 1994, this thoroughly hilarious, dark Christmas movie stars Denis Leary as Gus, a typically successful cat burglar, who after a botched robbery is forced to kidnap a couple and hide out at their home in an affluent Connecticut suburb to avoid the police. Thinking he’ll be moving along quickly, once his alcoholic schlub of a partner secures transportation to get them beyond the police dragnet, he gets more than he bargained for when he realizes that he kidnapped the family from hell. Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur, played to perfection by Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis, respectively, are a married couple on the verge of divorce who drive Gus insane with their incessant bickering throughout their captivity on the night of Christmas Eve. Continue reading
Released in 1996, My Fellow Americans is one of the sharpest, most well-written comedies of that decade. With an all-star cast including Jack Lemmon, James Garner (both of whom are unfortunately no longer with us), Dan Aykroyd, Bradley Whitford, John Heard, and Wilford Brimley, the movie delivers a plot complete with a frame job that goes all the way up to the Oval Office, and loads of laughs along the way. Lemmon and Garner star as two former Presidents who form a most unlikely alliance, forced to set aside their hatred for each other when one of them is framed for taking a kickback on a defense contract while in office.
In 1996’s Down Periscope, Kelsey Grammer stars as Lieutenant Commander Tom Dodge, a U.S. Navy submarine commander who is specifically chosen to lead a rag-tag crew in an impossible series of war games against a more decorated and power-hungry leader. Admiral Graham (Bruce Dern), has had it out for Dodge for some time due to his spotty track record on missions, and sticks him with a bunch of Navy rejects, which includes another superiors son who has a raging attitude problem, a college basketball choke artist, a driver with a gambling problem, an electrician who’s had more voltage pumped through him than a transformer, and a cook whose water is not exactly boiling. The fun doesn’t stop there, of course, as Dodge is also paired with an executive officer by the name of Marty Pascal (Rob Schneider), who himself has some quite acute anger management issues. Rounding out the cast of major characters is Lauren Holly as dive officer Emily Lake. She is sprung upon Dodge as a surprise by Graham, who is instituting a trial program that would enable women to work on submarines for the first time. As if that weren’t enough, the ship he is given to command is a recommissioned submarine from World War II that is falling apart at the seams, and is set to compete against a world-class nuclear sub in the games.