If you’re a fan of the “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” franchise, then you’ve probably noticed one thing in the script of the first film and the sequel: The puns are everywhere (and arguably exasperating). But there’s something about puns related to food that seem to have a cleverness beyond any other subject. Nevertheless, it’s far from the first movie franchise to unload a million movie puns. If you’ve seen a certain franchise called “Shrek” (and its offshoots), then you know how the pun has become a mainstay in the animated family film.
How has the pun managed to stay so relevant in the family films of the 21st century? There’s something about the rhythm of a pun that forces a loud guffaw, no matter how obvious the joke is. Plus, when crafted just right, it frequently brings a collective laugh from both the adults and the kids. That’s especially true when double meanings are attached for both the kids and the adults to assimilate.
Armed with that secret formula, you’re starting to see puns everywhere now in animated films as the way toward getting easy laughs. Can that be considered a copout, or can the pun be considered a legitimate and high quality art form in family film screenwriting?
Here’s where you might be surprised: Puns in film started out mostly in violent action films. In fact, you can blame the British and James Bond for most of that back when cheesy puns garnered enough comic relief to break up tension. You already saw those puns in the Sean Connery era on up until Daniel Craig finally put a kibosh on the cheekiness.
Afterward, it was the 1980s and Arnold Schwarzenegger who started a near long-term brand of bad puns in his action flicks. If you think The Schwartz can’t really do comedy that well, he knows how to spout a cringe-worthy pun without it completely tanking. We even saw how Arnold still had it when he spouted similar puns in his comeback film “The Last Stand” earlier this year.
The “Shrek” franchise managed to bring more family-oriented puns in the early 2000s. It even branched off to its “Puss in Boots” franchise where you had more puns than both “Cloudy” movies have managed. With the latter franchise taking it to the near breaking point, are we going to see puns in every family film before long?
We’re already seeing them in the rebooted “The Smurfs” movie franchise as just one example. If the pun proves anything, though, it’s that the old vaudevillian process of entertainment has never really died out. After all, those who grew up with “Sesame Street” during its glory years know how simple vaudevillian humor still resonated in children’s entertainment. It brings an unmitigated sense of hilarity that’s hard to resist. In that regard, you have to consider it a form of high art when attempting to get laughs any other way is as challenging as solving a physics equation.
The good news to this is that puns seem relegated to other studios and not Pixar. The latter is where more complex dialogue is still being written, even if some of their recent films needed a few cymbal crashes after each line.