With summer blockbuster season beginning (see this page for a review of a certain low-key character drama about a superheroic teenager), you might want to take in some films of a less-exhausting nature. Mike White's Year of the Dog is in theaters now, but he's also written a slew of smart, funny movies that you can rent while relaxing at home—far, far away from the superheroes and pirates at Regal Cinemas.
• Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)—Warning: If you're an extremely funny and intelligent television show, your life will be short. Examples: My So-Called Life, Arrested Development, and Freaks and Geeks (of which White wrote a few episodes). Set in the early '80s, this high school drama explores life on the fringes of high school society. The soundtrack is kickass, and so are all the characters, which include sexually active burnouts, mathletes, and pre-pubescent geeks.
• Chuck & Buck (2000)—White's debut as a writer/actor is a creepy yet touching drama about childhood, loss, and obsessive friendship—though there are glimpses of his humor, even in the most painful and awkward moments.
• The Good Girl (2002)—The story of life and death at the Retail Rodeo in small town Texas offers great performances from all its cast members (White included). Jennifer Aniston plays Justine, who feels trapped in her marriage, job, life, etc.—and finds lusty solace in the arms of Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), an obsessive writer type. All this sounds depressing and depraved, but White delivers the goods with humor and sympathy, making the story heartwarming rather than tragic.
• Orange County (2002)—One of the comedies White wrote that features Jack Black (he also wrote School of Rock and Nacho Libre), Orange County follows Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks), an aspiring writer who longs to leave the O.C. to go to Stanford. His application is botched, though, and as his dreams slip away, his family attempts to help—or, depending on the family member, hurt. Excellent performances by Black, John Lithgow, Catherine O'Hara, and Lily Tomlin—plus Harold Ramis on Ecstasy! So good!