Happy 46th birthday to Will Ferrell, one of the smartest guys ever to make ten thousand stupid movies. We’re all here because we care about you, Will, and we want you to stop hurting yourself with these sub-par comedies and get back to your hilarious roots, wherever they’ve migrated off to in the process.
I know what you’re thinking — you’re sitting there reading this and saying inside your head, “but I like Will Ferrell movies!” Maybe you do. Maybe you really and truly do, but if you have half a sponge in your head, you may have noticed that their general quality has been on a steady decline since the early 2000s. Yeah, you quote Old School on the regular, and Elf is an absolute mainstay come Christmastime, and let’s not pretend we don’t all have chunks of Anchorman memorized word-for-word, but those movies came out in 2003, 2003 again, and 2004, respectively. (Also worth noting that Stranger Than Fiction came out in 2006, and I highly enjoyed it.)
Since then, it’s been a steady diet of increasingly niche and decreasingly funny buddy comedies like Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, Blades Of Glory, and Semi-Pro. By the time Step Brothers came out, I was so burned out on Will that I couldn’t even bring myself to see it, even though I’ve heard from multiple sources that it’s good. It’s just after a while, once you start burying your good work in a whole bunch of mediocre, mass-appeal slop, I don’t get so excited about digging through it anymore. I dipped briefly back into it for Land Of The Lost, at the urging of a friend, and swiftly dipped out again, faster than you can say, ‘that was legitimately one of the worst movies I have ever seen’.
And what’s he up to these days? The Other Guys in 2010? His weird work as Deangelo Vickers on The Office in 2011? The Campaign in 2012? What are we waiting around for, at this point? Some weird racially-based humor surrounded by every single celebrity cameo in Anchorman 2, is what it looks like to me in the previews. I think I’m good on that, thanks. I’ve already had enough sequels (and racism) this year and we’re barely halfway through July.
I get that I’m sounding like an entitled little assclown, as if my opinion matters at all to people who think his movies are great, I just have higher expectations of this guy because I’ve seen what he can do! It’s the same thing Jenni and I argued over earlier this year about Steve Carell – we don’t get why such a smart, talented guy is putting out such weirdly bland, lazy, and unremarkable work.
Because he really is smart, guys! And funny! He really is! This is a guy who beat out the aforementioned Steve Carell for a slot on Saturday Night Live and went on to have a seven-year tenure there complete with the highest salary of his time frame ($350,000 a year) and an Emmy nomination, something most cast members never achieve. He has a college degree and extensive training in improv with The Groundlings, something that doesn’t really stick if you’re not self-aware and intelligent (HI I DO IMPROV ALSO TOOT TOOT TOOT THAT’S MY HORN). Plus he has three adorable sons with the kind of names that prove to me he’s not a nicompoop: Magnus, Mattias, and Axel. They’re unique, quirky in a good way, and all matching. Can’t get much better than that, especially in Hollywood.
He’s also received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2011, launched Funny Or Die, produces Eastbound And Down, writes for his own movies, and was nominated for a Tony for his Broadway show You’re Welcome, America: An Evening With George W. Bush. In fact, if Will Ferrell gets nominated for an Oscar at some point, he’ll have a NEGOT, which is a thing I just made up where a Golden Globe substitutes a Grammy and it’s all nominations.The guy’s got a ton going for him.
I think the bottom line is, Will is an extremely talented comedian whom we have encouraged into mediocrity by supporting all his work equally. I think his best work arguably came between the years of 2001 and 2006, when he was really getting into the swing of things at SNL, exercising that comedy muscle every day, keeping it sharp. He pumped out all his best movies in that five year segment, and then once he left the show, things just got a little…flabby, comedically. Here’s what he had to say about his comedy in 2006, right as he was leaving the show to pursue movies full time:
“I was never the class clown. I was popular in high school and in college. I was good at sports. I’ve always been a ‘but look, the glass is half-full’ kind of guy. I used to worry that I wasn’t crazy enough to succeed in comedy. Or troubled enough. In the beginning, people were surprised that a seemingly mild-mannered person could bring a script or a character to life. But I’m not above throwing a chair out a window just to see what happens. I may not have demons, but I am kind of immune to inhibitions.”
I think that when he left SNL, he got away from the feeling that things didn’t have to be crazy to be funny. That if they were grounded and realistic, that the audience was smart enough to go along with that. Will Ferrell’s got a big old brain and a big old talent, but I feel like lately he’s been trying to pull his work down to a more universal, common denominator level, and that’s a disservice to him, to us, and to the work he’s truly capable of.
Happy birthday, though, man. No offense.
(Image: Adriana M. Barraza / WENN.com)