What was the intention of the film? Is it a slapstick comedy? Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a "dramedy"?
What was the intention of the scene? Is it a dramatic film that uses humor to diffuse a tense situation?
I think it is all about the execution. Ghostbusters is a "comedy" but it is presented in a serious way. Anchorman is obviously a comedy, and doesn't take itself seriously, but it also effective. Both films achieved their end goals and were entertaining to watch.
I think this issue presents itself most prevalently in the recent works on one George Lucas. I don't particularly find his brand of sense of humor that funny to me personally. With the newer Star Wars movies, he tended to insert slapstick jokes that I felt distracted from the rest of the films. (Think "peeuuusah" or the countless other sight gags). In those cases, I thought the execution was poor.
I like films with humour but some of my favourite films are utterly humourless. These aim to strike the most austere note possible, and so, for them, humour would be a hindrance. Example: 'A Short Film About Killing' by Kieslowski.
Depends on the movie. I prefer humor that rises naturally from a particular situation. Jar Jar's slapstick in TPM was a jarring (pun intended) change in tone from the rest of the movie (most of it anyway) and immediately took me out of the reality of the story.
One of my biggest issues with comedy comes from the Evil Dead movies. The first was pretty much straightforward horror but in the second movie Three Stooges slapstick reared its ugly head culminating in the not at all serious Army of Darkness. I don't think slapstick humor and horror are a good mix but I know many people who love it.
I think it totally depends on the situation. Just watched LOTR: The Two Towers the other night and saw a scene that kinda nailed this topic. At the battle of Helm's Deep, Aragorn and Gimli are trying to hold the bridge to the gate, Aragorn says, "It's a long way" and Gimli gets this look and says, "Toss me....but don't tell the Elf." The timing was awesome and it wasn't too forced. It came at an intense moment and I think helped with insight into the character, giving a glimpse into his personality at such a tense time. The humor didn't detract from the scene or the battle which is the key for humor in those situations. I'm guessing that's what you were getting at, does humor hinder a film that is other wise on the serious side.
Another example is The Princess Bride (one of my all time favorites). The story could be very serious, but has some hilarious moments ("The first of which is never get in a land war in Asia") that make it a much more upbeat movie. Thoughts?
If there is one movie that I thought started out so well and took a deep nose dive later on because of the humor, it would be Independence Day.
You have that deep, brooding score. You have the suspenseful mystery on why the Aliens are parking their big ships over major cities. Than we're in a race for survival when the countdown clock shows up. I loved that part of the movie. But during the second half, we get Will Simth's antics, Randy Quaid's drunk demeanor, the very not-so-subtle Brent Spiner comic relief, it almost feels like a completely different movie. And this is after billions of people have died, and the movie is trying to get me to laugh.
I don't mind humor is situations, but keep the tone consistant.
Humor is tricky.
It is easy to over do it and it is subjective.
Highlander had humor but was serious. The humor helped but didn't ruin the mood.
In Thor I actually laughed at the thunder god being hit twice by the vehicle and Kat Dennings taxing him then saying " What? He was freaking me out." but I assume some fans would be turned off by it.
American Werewolf in London managed to be a real horror film and also funny.
Humor is one of those elements that can be done right or wrong. It is very difficult to achieve properly, but when it hits right, it knocks one out of the park.
Most interesting example of humor in a scene one would not expect to see it in was the climax fight in Blade between Blade and Stephen Dorf's super vampire character. Blade chops him in two and is kneeling with his back as Dorf reforms into one piece. Blade just turns around, looks at what happened and silently mouths the words "What the F***!" In my opinion it was TOTALLY appropriate considering the circumstances.
There is no time humor is inappropriate. Also, no one can judge humor for someone else, by definition. The second somebody tries to judge what is funny to someone else, they fail at life. Chances approach 100% what you think is funny I will not.
Unless you like Monty Python and Firesign Theatre.
The poster's question is a little odd, really, in its present form. does it help or hinder. In comedies it obviously helps! If we're using 'help' to say that it is a requisite - that is, that all films should have humour and humourless films will always be improved by a touch of it, wel, no. I addressed this with the example in my first post.
Does it hinder? So long as the humour remains within the bounds of the film's tone - as it doesn't in Independence Day - then there's no problem. Films with the bleakest possible tone can contain humour, but in these cases the humour convincingly comes from the blackly witty imagination of a character, who's usually cracking jokes to stay sane or whatever.
I'd say yes. Humor is a part of most people's lives and helps us connect with each other. So, when done right humor in a movie helps the viewers relate to the characters and care about them more, enriching the film.
A good for instance is inside jokes that are natural to the story because of the situation and you have to know the characters and what's happening to think it's funny.
For instance: We know Indy hates snakes because they showed us that early in the film when a snake was in the plane. So when he gets dropped into the ancient Egyptian pit and it's FULL of snakes - 'why'd it have to be snakes' is funnier and connects us to him.
Another example is in Star Wars when C3PO is following Han and Leia through the halls of the Hoth base as they are trying to escape. The door closes before he can get out and he says 'typical'. And then the door opens and Han reaches in and grabs him to bring him along. Also when C3P-O says 'shutting down sir' Or when Han says 'never tell me the odds'
Those examples of humor in tense situations aren't necessarily 'haha!' moments, but they not only lighten the mood slightly, they help us connect to the characters and sympathize with them because it has everything to do with their personality.
Firefly was excellently written using that method of humor that drew you into the characters.
A not as good type of humor is when something from outside the film or that is typical funny to anyone. Sometimes it is cheap and easy and thrown in there because the story 'needs a laugh' or else the scene seems boring.
Example: most of Star Wars burp jokes or puns. Not necessary and distracting.