Hot comedy films of 2007

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Evan Almighty
Universal -- June 22
Funny people: Divine intervention -- or at least divine casting -- means we get NBC's "The Office's" Steve Carell and 2003's "Bruce Almighty" director-producer Tom Shadyac, plus the resurrection of Morgan Freeman as God. Hallelujah! Make us laugh?: The naturally hilarious Carell has his finger on the pulse of funny these days, and he could make Moses laugh. As a modern-day Noah summoned by the Lord, his deadpan obliviousness will most certainly float. Har-hard numbers: Carell's part of an Oscar-nominated movie cast (2006's "Little Miss Sunshine") and an Emmy-winning TV show ("Office"). Reviving his character from "Bruce Almighty" ($243 million domestic) was a true epiphany. Chance of success: Angels might weep, but audiences will find this filmdevilishly clever.

Hot Fuzz
Focus Features -- April 13Funny people: Sure, it's another buddy-cop comedy film, but 2004's "Shaun of the Dead" was hardly just another zombie film. And since this one's from "Shaun" director Edgar Wright and actor-writer Simon Pegg, hold on to your hats. Make us laugh?: The satirical humor of "Shaun" took viewers and critics by surprise in 2004; expectations will be higher this time around, but the early "Fuzz" buzz looks good. Har-hard numbers: "Shaun" had a budget of a mere $4 million and made that back three times over. This time, there's a bigger budget and higher expectations, but the premise and the cast are red-hot. Chance of success: This one's got more brains (and not just because there aren't any zombies to eat them) and a little less satire, but we'll cop to solid boxoffice for "Fuzz."

Knocked Up

Universal -- June 1
Funny people: We worry about Judd Apatow's social life: He writes about adorable schlubs and the unbelievably attractive women who love them -- and, in this case, impregnate them, as Seth Rogen does to Katherine Heigl. Hijinks ensue. Make us laugh?: With TV series "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared," Apatow was a critical darling; with 2005's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (starring Carell), he worked quirky magic on the big screen. But can "Undeclared's" Rogen break as big as Carell? Har-hard numbers: "Virgin" popped its cherry with a $109 million domestic take, as did Apatow's 2005 follow-up, "Fun With Dick and Jane." But while "Virgin" felt like a delightful fluke, "Dick" came across as limp. Chance of success: "Knocked Up" has conventional written all over it, except for its pedigree. That's a lot to put on one writer-director, but if anyone can handle it, it's Apatow. And if he can't, we'll wax his chest.

Shrek the Third
Paramount -- May 16
Funny people: Third time's the charm for this CG animation tale of an ogre prince (Mike Myers) and his princess ogre (Cameron Diaz), who play politics to decide which monster (Justin Timberlake or Rupert Everett) should assume the throne. Make us laugh?: "Shrek" is never not funny, though the pop-culture references give the films an instantly dated quality and come at speeds that might even give the MTV generation whiplash. And the return of Myers certainly bodes well. Har-hard numbers: The first in 2001 earned $268 million domestically, the second in 2004, $436 million. At that rate, the third's almost guaranteed to crack a half-billion. And marketing dollars -- that'll turn other studios green with envy. Chance of success: Between Puss in Boots' big soulful eyes and Shrek's irascible bad temper, no one's going to stay far, far away on this one. Happily ever afters all around.

The Simpsons Movie
Fox -- July 27
Funny people: After nearly 400 episodes, there's no movie cast closer to their roles. So, with the usual suspects in tow, and "Treehouse of Horror" master director David Silverman at the helm, expectations are that the final result will be ... excellent. Make us laugh?: If "Simpsons" can't make us laugh, then someone's removed our funny bone. Smithers, perhaps? But even Lisa probably can't say if 11D2 hours of "Simpsons" will be an hour too long. Har-hard numbers: Few films come prepackaged with a fan following, infrastructure and a relatively low budget. Fox has plotted this for ages: "SimpsonsMovie.com" was registered 10 years ago. Apu's ears will ring with the jangle of cash registers thanks to tie-ins alone. Chance of success: Best. Movie. Ever.

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