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Will Ferrell Comedies are cool, but kind-of silly

By Peter Veugelaers © 2009

JUNE, 2009: Will Ferrell is an inspirational comedian that could inspire audiences to mimic his delivery of humor. Heís that cool. Heís got that sense of desperation about life thatís utterly charminginly hilarious. But enough is enough. After a weekend of gorging on Will Ferrell comedies itís kind-of-silly in retrospect but Iíd be looking forward to his latest, perhaps ... if youíre in the mood. This yearís Land of the Lost is supposed to be his next family film. But were any of his ďgrown-upĒ comedies, where he played the lead, any good?

The best Will Farrell comedy so far (as of June 2009):

Talladega Nights The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) ****

(Contains offensive language and sexual references) 

A better movie all round for Will Ferrell. The gags are less about Ferrell and more about plot, coming down more on the side of amusing rather than uproarious. Anchorman director Adam McKay with co-writer Ferrell creates lively storytelling. This is especially so when Ricky (Ferrell), a number one NASCAR racing driver from a messed-up family, which spawns raw-hide kids, meets a Frenchman bent on dominating him in the game, played by Sacha Baron Cohen in a delicious role as a pretentious intellectual. The middle doesnít drag, either. Thereís an enthusiastic performance from John C. Reily as Rickyís best friend. It is offensive materialfor some of us, such as the messy, while superficial, love triangle and a new flame, and the man-on-man kiss. They might find forgiveness by the superior storytelling and great, sometimes amusing, car racing sequences, which were very good, and how winning can be important while family togetherness is more so.

The rest of the bunch (as at June 2009):

Old School (2003) **

Directed and co-written by Todd Phillips, who helmed Road Trip in 2000, this has raunchy gags a-plenty, and itís also got a good story with some capable directorial moments. Thereís likeable down-beat characters in a mess Ė played by Luke Wilson, as a guy whose wife left him and is getting over it; Will Ferrell Ė a husband coaxed into his old partying and struggling with being a one-woman man, and Vince Vaughnís role initiates a fraternity in an old professorís house on High School property with older men. The Dean, an angry man with a grudge, isnít going down without a fight.

Itís in the vein of Animal House, although never reaches those hankering for nostalgic heights. It has itís share of off-putting moments Ė such as the oral sex instructor scene, the wife needing more of a turn-on than convention doesnít seem to apparently supply and the high school girl getting her sex fix, thank you very much Ė as well as human ones and Wilson comes off the best in that way. I didnít find it funny although Ferrellís physical comedy is appealing. I had enough and turned off half-way through and hankered for something, well, more like a fine wine in a tall glass. Itís a paltry 92 minutes long, which is tolerable, but go buy something else.

Anchorman The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) *** 

Will gets above the line billing in a throwback to the 1970s Ė a comedy about all-male news anchors with egos astray. The values are between people and ambitions. The entrance of power-woman Veronica (Christina Applegate) into the news room causes quite a commotion in a male dominated job.  The meeting with Veronica happens to induce his real feelings giving Ron a layer of depth. There are some other light touches, like the 1970s feel, which arenít fully capitalized on, and could have made a better story, which in itself is lightweight, uneven and incomplete, although has its better moments. There are slapstick references to sex, which involves a major turning point, and God, which are off-color and offensive.   

Better than Farrellís Old School thereís a few good laughs to be had like when Ron introduces himself to Veronica at a party and when he loses his pet (which involves a cameo from Jack Black). Ron and his co-stars on the news show grow on you.  Its farcical nature predominates which should keep audiences happy if they want over-the-top.  Ferrell looks like he is in his element, but Anchorman is too slight to hit the bullís-eye.

Bewitched (2005) *** 

Director/co-writer/producer Nora Ephronís cute romantic comedy reinvents the Bewitched television series by bringing the old series up-to-date into the 21st century. Nichole Kidman plays Isabel, a witch wanting to tame her ways Ė which dynamically calculate into cursing someone whoís offended her Ė and become normal. Will Ferrell, in a comedic role reminiscent of the Anchorman big head hot-shot, is cast in the lead of a remake of the show and is looking for a suitable actor to play Samantha, the witch in the program. Their paths cross.  Witchy comedy has that flavoring and thoughtfully so. Farrell shows some appealing broader range, albeit more or less, as a romantic lead not so much as a comedian in this one. The famous twitching of the nose is put through the ringer a number of times, and Farrellís hot-shot persona is re-worked numerously including a pretty-clever rewind sequence where Isabel twists things around to get one back and the movie goes back in time to an earlier point in the plot. The movie maintains the cute nature of the series especially in Nichole Kidmanís splendid cute-as-nails performance which accentuates innocence above treachery. Isabel is human and flawed. Sheís caught between wanting to be normal and a witch. The movie doesnít side either way. The audience is given the latitude to make their own judgment because the message is love the person in spite of what she does or does not do.  More accomplished than the humor, which isnít that funny, is the storytelling. Itís the most artfully executed storytelling that Ferrell as a lead man has been in until the time of this filmís release thanks to Nora Ephronís influence. Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine offer very able and charming support. Not a favorite of mine, but well-done.

Blades of Glory (2007) **

(Contains sexual references)

Tacky, silly plotting, and some even sillier scenes, such as those on the ice rink and in sportís practice and at the sex therapy session, doesnít help Ferrell in this dumb comedy which starts off promisingly then doesnít up-the-ante in the last hour of a waste of time of 90 paltry minutes. Itís got some nice sentiment Ė the value of people verses ambition Ė in a story about how two pro ice skaters end up doing regular jobs when a loophole in the rules allows an unlikely comeback. One or two laughs, and an awkward co-star in blonde dude Jon Feder, donít make up for a ponderance of a story which should automatically eject the DVD.

Semi-Pro (2008) ***   

By now the down-on-my-luck and rags-to-riches or big-head with low self-esteem personas have done their dash, but they still keep bringing them out with this similarly-told tale harking back through all of Ferrellís comedies. Heís trying to restore a lagging basketball team. What starts off low-key gets progressively, and surprisingly, better and funnier.

Step Brothers (2008) **

From producer Judd Apatow, who also helmed Ferrellís Anchorman and Talladega Nights, both better films than this, a silly comedy with a good one idea Ė about the predicaments of two thirty-something men, played strictly for laughs by Ferrell and John C. Reily, whose mother and father respectively marry each other and the two become step brothers living at their parentsí joint home. They donít hit it off, to put it lightly, acting more like jealous and spiteful eight-year-olds. It is hilariously stretched out for a little over a half-an-hour with a mix of bawdy and age-related predicament jokes. Unfortunately, it wears out and for the next hour, of a 90 minute movie, the plot takes a different route, and works well, and then goes for the worse with weak turning points and simplistic solutions. The filmís message is a joke in itself: You can live your dream. You may have had childhood issues which affect your life today but you can still be a big kid and live as you like. Donít let that stop you. It doesnít have to be like anyone elseís or what your parents tell you. As long as youíre living how you want and getting what you want out of life, and making enough money in the process.

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