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For the Love of God: No More “Will Ferrell as Dumb Athlete!” Movies

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 17, 2008

Semi-Pro: The Legendary Ballad of Glory of Jackie Moon

You know what it is? It’s arrogance. I don’t know if it’s on the part of Ferrell, his producers, or the studio execs that keep greenlighting these movies, but it’s unbelievable arrogance. To think that a comedic setup is so funny, so irresistible, that it can remain invincible through minor variation after minor variation–it’s hubris, plain and simple. Not even The Ramones were able to get away with that forever, and I am sorry Will Ferrell, but you, sir, are no Ramones.

Yes, I loved Anchorman as much as anyone, sure–back then, Will Ferrell’s style felt so new that I even had to watch it a couple times to really wrap my head around why it was so funny. But it really was hilarious, a blend of satire, slapstick and absurdism that was as fresh as any comedy of the new millenium. And the couple other Frat Packers that Ferrell was in around that time–Old School, Wedding Crashers, Starsky & Hutch–they weren’t quite as great, but they were good enough, different enough, funny enough to make their similarity in humor and cast entirely forgivable.

But then came Talladega Nights. In itself, Talladega Nights wasn’t terrible–it’s definitely watchable, thanks in large part to the support of Gary Cole and John C. Reilly–but it was the start of a dangerous trend. For one thing, Ferrell’s character was essentially a southern-friend duplicate of his Ron Burgundy character. For another, the plot structure was virtually identical to Anchorman‘s, as a slow-witted but beloved cultural icon at the top of his game experiences a downfall, is abandoned by friends and loved ones, learns valuable lessons about sharing and compassion, and ends up back on top. And finally, and perhaps most relevantly to this entry, it was set in the world of sports.

All three of these things were once again, not quite so bad when it was just Talladega Nights–a two and a half star movie at best, but one whose status as a Sunday Afternoon Basic Cable Classic is nonetheless fairly assured. But then came Blades of Glory, and it became clear that these movies were starting to be like copies from a Xerox machine running low on toner. You had all the same elements as Anchorman and Talladega–dumb pro fucks up, learns lesson, gets back–but this one didn’t even really change the setting, transforming it from the world of NASCAR to the world of pro ice skating. It was a fruitful breeding ground for more LOL GAY jokes, but besides that, the humor was the exact same as that of Talladega Nights.

Which brings us to Semi-Pro. You’ve no doubt seen the commercials by now, and you probably know the basic plot–Ferrell as Jackie Moon, a one-hit wonder turned ABA basketball franchise owner/athlete who has to resort to crazy crowd-pleasing tactics to boost attendance before the league is folded. OK, so maybe a little bit of the formula has been tinkered with at least, cool. But, c’mon–another WACKY FERRELL ATHLETE movie? Are they just going to keep going down a checklist of major sports, until eventually we get WACKY FERRELL ULTIMATE FRISBEE nad WACKY FERRELL WATER POLO movie?

That picture up there should say it all, really. Five years ago, a picture of a headbanded, scantily clothed and fro’d-out Ferrell, especially one with that half-joker, half-sexual predator look in his eyes, might’ve very well been a source of hilarity (though frankly, I’m not even sure I can remember that long ago). But look at it now. Doesn’t it just seem like a look of total smug and narcissistic self-satisfaction? Doesn’t it seem like Ferrell feels like its about a dozen times funnier than it actually is? Doesn’t it just fill you with hate?

Actually, considering how profitable, and even sort of acclaimed, these movies continue to be, I’m probably far closer to alone on this than I’d care to be. But I mean–I know Stranger Than Fiction wasn’t a masterpiece or anything, but wasn’t it nice to see a movie where Ferrell could go entire scenes at a time without a malapropism? Doesn’t he ever get as sick of playing stupid people as I do of watching them?

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7 Responses to “For the Love of God: No More “Will Ferrell as Dumb Athlete!” Movies”

  1. Jason L said

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here: I thought “Stranger Than Fiction” was the best film of 2006, and not because 2006 sucked for movies and not because Spoon did the soundtrack. I thought the concept was great, the ending was pretty outstanding, and most surprisingly, Will Ferrell was really goddamn good in a decidedly understated role. The ads for “Semi-Pro” piss me off in the same way that “Fun With Dick and Jane” and the last 8 Adam Sandler movies pissed me off. Like Carrey and Sandler, Ferrell has retreated back into the world of carbon-copy comedies instead of stretching his limits. “Stranger Than Fiction” wasn’t too well-received, but you’re right, he wasn’t mugging and/or playing a retard like in everything else. Dude’s got some acting chops and he’s wasting them. The worst part? “Semi-Pro”‘s gonna make a TON of money.

  2. Jack H. said

    But….THIS movie has Andre 3000 in it…

  3. My name is Kenny said

    Talladega Nights, in my opinion, is the funniest Will Ferrell movie, far more solid than the often-better-but-so-uneven Anchorman.

  4. Joe said

    When are we getting the scripted remake/sequel to The King of Kong? Does this movie really happen if Ferrell isn’t in it?

  5. Al said

    Hey, I’d probably pay to see that FERRELL ULTIMATE FRISBEE movie.

  6. Josh said

    You’re far from alone — it seems like the the internets as a whole has turned on Ferrell. The fact that he’s milked his gimmicks dry is certainly a part of it, but there’s also his completely insane and borderline-nauseating ubiquity. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I watch as much basketball as I do, but I feel like I’ve seen Jackie Moon on my TV every 20 minutes for the past three months, hawking beer, deodorant or his movie.

    At this point, I think Ferrell would be best served (though lord knows he won’t actually do it) by taking a few really colorful smaller roles (ala Mugatu) and just knocking those out of the park, so people can ease back into liking him and actually craving his appearances again.

  7. […] so at least this one isn’t about sports, he gets a couple points for at least switching that up (and maybe another point and a half for the […]

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