The comedic “double act” is a concept that has been around for at least a century, first gaining popularity in the vaudeville halls at the turn of the last century, and continuing to be implemented through the comedy generations right up to the present. It’s a ploy often used on the presumption that two opposing forces, when forced to collide, can in the best cases result in explosive, uproarious comedy. We’ve seen the likes of comedy duos Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Brooks and Reiner, and Wilder and Pryor team up to produce memorable acts and classic movies. The gimmick has spilled over the borders of pure comedy to inform a genre specific to the medium of film in the years since—that of the buddy cop genre.
The most recent movie to play on these tropes and traditions is The Heat, starring the unlikely team of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, and it turned out to be a bit of a surprise hit. McCarthy’s comic abilities took center stage for the first time in Bridesmaids two years ago, while Bullock has tended to steer more towards serious roles lately despite achieving some success in previous comedic work like Miss Congeniality. So you’d think the movie would work with McCarthy being the comic and Bullock being the straight woman, but what ends up happening is McCarthy plays up the improvisational, Will Ferrell-style comedy and Bullock contributes more of the 90s-style slapstick gags. When it works, it works wonderfully and hilariously, enough to warrant a recommendation that people go and see it. But there are plenty of moments when the stars just don’t align.
It’s a tall order to find two stars to head up a comedy with just the right amount of contrast and chemistry. Here are 6 movies that have paired some unlikely comedy duos, to varying degrees of success.