The 8 Ball 12.17.13: Top 8 Will Ferrell Films
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 12.17.2013
From Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights to Elf, Old School and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 Will Ferrell films!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Top 8 Will Ferrell Films
Welcome back to the 8 Ball, ladies and gentlemen! I would like to thank Scott Rutherford for covering for me last week with a great column; my legendary dexterity came into play and I'd managed to trip on a Christmas light extension cord so I could do a header into my driveway in twenty degree weather. Fun times. Anyway, I'm back and...well, not necessarily better than ever, but I don't think I'm any worse. This weekend Anchorman: The Legend Continues hits theaters, hoping to remind us of Will Ferrell's funnier times. The Saturday Night Live alumni has had quite the movie career of playing over the top goofball characters and while his comedies have seen an overall dip in esteem, he has had quite a hand in shaping the direction of comedic filmmaking over the last decade. And he's even made a couple dips into more serious(ish) work. This week I thought we could look at the best films on the comedian's resume.
Caveat: For this list, I was looking at films in which Will Ferrell had a leading or major supporting role. So for example, his work as Mustafa in the Austin Powers films didn't qualify as he is only brief supporting role in them. Similarly, he has relatively smaller parts in Drowning Mona and even Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back is more of a side character, which left that out of contention as well. The supporting roles had to be a really significant portion of the film. As for ranking placements, I was looking at the overall film as opposed to just Ferrell's work.
Just Missing The Cut
• Step Brothers (2008)
• Melinda and Melinda (2004)
• Kicking & Screaming (2005)
• Everything Must Go (2010)
• Blades of Glory (2007)
#8: Elf (2003)
'Tis the season, so I suppose it makes sense that we kick off the list with a holiday-themed film. Ferrell was already on his way to stardom when Elf released in November of 2003 and it catapulted him into the status of legitimate leading man. The film is considered a holiday classic at this point and a large part of that is because of Ferrell's performance as Buddy, the orphaned kid who is raised as a Santa's elf until he gets kicked out and decides to go find his father. Ferrell was able to embody the innocence of the character in a way that came off as very real and authentic; there's a deep level of hilarity in his enthusiasm amidst the cynicism of the greater world. This was one the first big "Will Ferrell plays a grown-up kid" roles and with a strong supporting cast that includes Zooey Deschanel, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner and James Caan, the film works far better than I ever expected to. There will undoubtedly be people who think that I'm ranking it too low on the list and I get that; holiday films don't often do it for me. However, the amount of heart that this Jon Favreau-directed film mixes in with the humor makes it a definite new Christmas classic.
#7: Megamind (2010)
Ferrell hasn't ventured into animated voice work often, which is perhaps a bit odd as he has the right voice and ability for over-the-top acting which work well within that field. His one entry into the genre, however, was quite enjoyable. While Megamind certainly doesn't stand up to the likes of most Pixar films in terms of pure quality, it's a very fun movie with some surprisingly smart elements. The film takes inspiration from several familiar sources but doesn't copy them, instead making it their own and the dialogue is good, especially the banter between Megamind and both Metro Man and Roxanne. Ferrell does a very good job of toning down his usual act and investing something different into a character that could have gone the way of his "grown child" characters, while Tina Fey, David Cross and Brad Pitt are as good their supporting roles allow them to be. This is an animated action comedy with just as much excitement as it has humor and despite a few rough edges, it is definitely well worth checking out.
#6: The Other Guys (2010)
The Other Guys is one of those films which has the distinction of being far better than it should have been. And that's not a slam on any of the cast or crew, or even the script. The idea of a film satirizing the buddy cop genre by way of a couple of cops who are the opposite of action heroes was a solid idea. The main concern that most people had at the time of this movie's release was Ferrell's diminished reputation following a string of lesser hits (Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro, Step Brothers) and directly on the back of an outright bomb (Land of the Lost). There was legitimate concern that he was falling into the kind of downward spiral that has sunk many a film comedian. As it so happened, Ferrell turned things around with this surprisingly funny action-comedy thanks to an inspired turn by Mark Wahlberg as Ferrell's partner and a great supporting cast that included Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, the Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. The action works well and the pokes on the genre are legitimately solid hits, while the comedy is often far funnier than you could expect. The whole thing comes together well and Ferrell's chemistry with Wahlberg really seals the deal.
#5: Old School (2003)
I will probably get a bit of a hard time for having Old School this far down on the list, and I'm okay with that. Don't get me wrong; I find a lot of amusement in this 2003 tale about three middle-aged guys who try to recapture their glory days. It's just not quite as funny (or overall good) to me than the films below it on the list. This was the first mega-success heavily featuring Ferrell, just before Elf launched him onto the A-list and his turn as Frank "The Tank" Ricard certainly created a great impression with people who were not familiar with his SNL material. Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson are perfectly cast as the other two parts of this little triangle and it is their combination of comedic talents that really take this from being a serviceable comedy to a great one. The concept for the film was good if not particularly original; it was the script by Todd Phillips and Scot Armstrong which really added spark to it and the actors give their all for the sake of comedy. Ferrell's on-screen antics have made this a definite favorite among his fans and while it's not an absolute favorite of mine it's still quite funny.
#4: Zoolander (2001)
You can possibly argue this one's status as a "Will Farrell" film but Jacobim Mugatu, the villainous fashion mogul, is a core and essential part of the film; he is the fourth-biggest character behind Zoolander, Hansel and Matilda Jeffries. And of course he sets the plot in motion as the primary villain, so it's good enough for me. Zoolander is one of those films which didn't quite find its audience upon its release and needed to wait until home video and cable before it really took off. While Paramount didn't take a loss, it didn't make a lot of money and critics liked but didn't love it. I instantly fell in love with the film and it's corny but hilarious riffs on the fashion industry. Let's face it: that is an industry that has always been rife for mocking and while it's taken licks in films here and there, this was a really inspired way to skewer the whole thing and deliver a riotously funny spy comedy at the same time. Ferrell's Mugatu is an insanely over-the-top performance but that's what makes it work, while Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are pitch-perfect in their roles as the dim-witted models. There's so much that works here in ways that you would expect to fall flat: the gasoline hosing-down by Zoolander's model roommates, the David Bowie cameo, the orgy. All of them shouldn't have worked but they do. A sequel to this has been in the making for some time and I certainly hope it comes about because I want to see what happens with the Derek Zoolander School For Kids Who Can't Read Good.
#3: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Talledega Nights is absolutely one of the best of Farrell's purely comedic efforts. It plays to all of his strengths as a comedian and his man-child persona has rarely been pulled off better than here. What helps make this so funny is the great supporting work that Ferrell gets; everyone from John C. Reilly, who is easily the best comedic foil that Ferrell has yet found, to Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael C. Clarke, Leslie Bibb, Amy Adams, Jane Lynch, Gary Cole...the list goes on, and it's the caliber of the performers that makes the material so funny. This is not to say the writing isn't funny on its own. Ferrell and Adam McKay (who also directed) deliver some hilarious gags; how can you not laugh at Ricky Bobby naming his children Walker and Texas Ranger? Not everything works, but enough does work in order to make this the benchmark for racing comedies and just a flat-out hilarious movie.
#2: Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Will Ferrell has, to date, largely avoided dramatic work. He clearly seems to have more of an appreciation for comedy and almost every film he has done to date has gone that route. Even Stranger Than Fiction is more of a dramedy than straight drama, and makes use of his comedic timing as much as anything else. But it is also a movie that shows that, indeed, Ferrell does have some dramatic chops. The film's script Zach Helmby is high on whimsy, with Ferrell's Harold Crick living a life where he is being narrated for a story by Emma Thompson's novelist. And that evolves into a pseudo-romantic comedy with Maggie Gyllenhaal's intentionally tax-delinquent baker, but the film never gets its head too far in the clouds thanks to some great direction from Marc Forster who keeps the tone grounded. Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Gyllenhaal are all great in their roles and Ferrell gets us truly invested in his little IRS auditor to the point that by the climax we really don't want him to die. If Stranger is Fiction is an example of what Ferrell can do with more serious roles, I want to see more of that from him.
#1: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Come on, was their really any other choice? Anchorman is one of the funnier films of the past decade. It's one of the most quotable comedies in recent years and easily the best use of Ferrell's standard "ridiculous egomaniac" template character. Ron Burgundy is the epitome of that sort of a character, an arrogant blowhard who surrounds himself with a group of clueless idiots of a news team. It's almost as if it was the role Ferrell was born to play and Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Christina Applegate are all absolutely at their comedic heights in this film. The script by Ferrell and Adam McKay hit all the right notes and takes some fantastic shots at the 1970s and news in general, with more than a few touches of the absurd for good measure (news team battle royale, anyone?). There's a reason why the new Anchorman is so hotly anticipated; it is the return of Ferrell's most beloved character from what is his best film to date.
Disguise of the Episode
Current Series/Season:Season One (2001 - 2002) Episodes Watched: 11 Last Serial Completed:The Confession - Sydney is grateful and proud of her father after he saves her life while on a case in Havana. But her admiration is short lived when Vaughn discovers further evidence that Jack may have been responsible for the deaths of over a dozen CIA officers many years earlier. Episodes Remaining: 94
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.