I just saw "Brick," which is a completely great movie in every way. The basic idea is an LA detective noir set in a modern-day high school. Sort of Encyclopedia Brown where everything looks like Details magazine. Anyway, it's a great flick, and one of the simple great things about it is that is funny and serious at the same time. I mean, in an alert-the-media kind of way.
The separation of "comedy" and "drama" is one of those things that, while inarguably fundamental to our culture, is, and has always been, totally stupid. It's a particularly acute stupidity in Los Angeles, where the words are repeated ad nauseum, meaning nothing, serving only the shorthand economics of the business and the classification system at Blockbuster. It spawns all sorts of categorical nonsense, actors who are only good at comedy, writers who are only good at drama, and TNT's continuing campaign to define and claim "drama" as Their Brand. It makes everyone dumber.
As I (poorly) understand them, the old-school definitions of Comedy & Tragedy have some usefulness towards planning one's plot mechanics, but the split of Comedy & Drama means NOTHING. No one has ever agreed with me that "NYPD Blue" was at one time the funniest show on television, but it was, imho.
So when there's a movie that gets both things to happen simultaneously, it's a welcome shock for me. And "Brick" is not, as I see it, just a serious movie with funny bits. Because of the wonderful conceit of its high school setting, the whole thing is funny. It's so absurd that these kids are doing and saying these things, it's like conceptual comedy. It's also about the deathly serious things that high schoolers have to deal with, yet without the whiny sense of importance that most teen dramas seem to be striving for.
I'd give an example, but I think it would be lost in the telling. It's like, you know how in high school there was some drama queen who had really amusing personality tics but you knew she was a sad case because her family was so horrible, you just wanted to save her from her train wreck but never really got around to it because she was too busy annoying you with her knowledge of New Kids on the Block trivia? Kind of like that. Not that you don't know whether to laugh or cry, but you're doing both as the same time, all the time.