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“Bridesmaids” and “Submarine” Herald Great Things for Stars and Fans of UK’s “The IT Crowd”

"Bridesmaids" and "Submarine" Herald Great Things for Stars and Fans of UK's "The IT Crowd"

It may not be the monster hit that its male-counterpart cousin, “The Hangover Part II,” is so far, but “Bridesmaids” has been a pretty steady success (its weekly box office declines are better/lower than most films’) and at the end of the day/year it will be remembered as one of the best comedies of 2011. While many will continue thinking of how great “Bridesmaids” is for female roles, though, one gentleman in the movie also stands out: Chris O’Dowd. The Irish actor could possibly be recognized by those moviegoers who saw him in small parts in “Dinner for Schmucks” or “Gulliver’s Travels,” but to most people, playing Kristen Wiig’s adorable, law-enforcing love interest was a breakthrough.

To a few in the U.S., he is already well-known for his starring role on the hit British sitcom “The IT Crowd,” which just announced its upcoming fifth season to be its last. Hopefully enough filmmakers and casting agents are keen to his positive reception from “Bridesmaids” audiences and will become a great success when his series goes off the air. He’s already part of the heavily “Bridesmaids”- overlapping ensemble of Jennifer Westfeldt’s upcoming comedy “Friends with Kids.” And I think he has more potential, leading man-wise, than the comparable Brit-com breakout Simon Pegg (more on him in a moment). He needs a major showcase as a film’s protagonist, soon, though, if he’s going to be headed in that direction.

Meanwhile, O’Dowd’s “IT” co-star Richard Ayoade (whose character, Moss, I once dressed as for Halloween), is showing great promise of his own, in another way. He has directed what deserves to be a major sleeper hit this summer: “Submarine,” a Toronto and Sundance festival favorite (see my mini-review here) that opens in limited release this Friday. It’s not surprising that he’s gone behind the camera. Unlike O’Dowd, Ayoade has written for and directed other TV projects, including the hilarious, under-seen “Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace” and the cult hit “The Mighty Boosh.” He’s also done videos for such musical acts as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend and Arctic Monkeys, for whom he also directed the concert film, “Live at the Apollo” (and whose frontman, Alex Turner, scored “Submarine”).

Even if “Submarine” doesn’t blow up stateside (it’s made more than $2 million already in the UK), Ayoade is a filmmaker on the rise in Hollywood, partly thanks to Ben Stiller, who became a fan and lent his name to this film out of Toronto. According to The Playlist, back in January, among the potential projects Ayoade could helm as a follow-up is a Stiller production currently known as “The Untitled Victoria Strouse Project.” Also reported by The Playlist earlier this year was the plan for Ayoade and Avi Korine (Harmony’s brother) to adapt Dostoevsky’s “The Double.” This latter idea seems to have become the priority, but regardless the guy is not sweating the end of “The IT Crowd,” either.

So where is the third primary member of the “IT” crowd in all this? Katherine Parkinson has been very present on British television, as part of the cast of such recent shows as “The Old Guys” and “Whites” and as a sketch-writer for friend Katy Brand. Film-wise, though, she’s only appeared in small roles alongside O’Dowd in both “Pirate Radio” and “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” and can be seen in 2009’s “St. Trinian’s” sequel, “The Legend of Fritton’s Gold.” But other than being one of the highest paid and most respected British comediennes at the moment, on her home turf at least, there’s no sign of her joining her two male “IT” cohorts in breaking major ground in the U.S. anytime soon.

Is it because she’s a woman? I can’t make that claim for sure, but her lesser notoriety reminds me of Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson), who starred opposite Simon Pegg on the Brit-com “Spaced,” which they both wrote. While Pegg and their supporting co-star Nick Frost went on to greater fame with “Spaced” director Edgar Wright through films like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” Hynes had relatively minor roles in movies like “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” “Son of Rambow” and “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the latter in voice only (and she’s been replaced as the character she portrayed, Mafalda Hopkirk). She also appears in “Shaun of the Dead” for a cameo, as a nod to “Spaced” fans. In interviews she seems uninterested in anything greater, though, focusing instead on family, stand-up, TV writing gigs and authoring children’s books, all fairly domestically. Still, it would be nice to see her show up in some capacity in another Wright/Pegg/Frost collaboration (she is at least prominently reunited with Pegg in John Landis’ decent “Burke and Hare,” which will hopefully get some kind of U.S. release soon).

Anyway, back to Parkinson. Perhaps it is fitting that her co-star has gone off to do an American comedy being celebrated for what it’s done for funny American women in an industry and culture favoring male “Saturday Night Live” vets over female. She and Hynes (and Lucy Punch, too) should get together and do a UK counterpart with, say, Adam Scott as the love interest. Regardless, I’d love to see more of her. She may come off on “IT” as a kind of Margaret Dumont foil to O’Dowd and Ayoade’s antics, but she’s obviously an equal talent deserving of worldwide acclaim. Someone make it happen, please.

For now, go see “Bridesmaids” if you haven’t yet, check out “Submarine” in theaters this weekend, and watch the first four series of “The IT Crowd” streaming on Netflix Instant.

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Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic)

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