Other Things That Have Not Jumped the Shark: Will Ferrell

Last week Variety reported that Will Ferrell has signed on to star in a small indie comedy called Everything Must Go.  In response to this news Spout posted a round-up of blogger’s comments on Ferrell’s “retreating career move.”  The feedback seemed to indicate that Will Ferrell is at an important crossroads, that maybe his best days are behind him, and that perhaps this is a redemption project after “all of his recent crap like Land of the Lost.”

It was surprising and perhaps a bit untrue to assert that Ferrell’s career is now hanging by frayed thread.  Yes, Land of the Lost was an unmitigated disaster.  But I recall that it had some good buzz, and the trailer was amusing enough.  And it seemed like a good idea, take a very popular property with a build in audience, pair Will Ferrell with the then white-hot Danny McBride, throw in a little female eye candy (Anna Friel), mix it all together and it couldn’t be worse than Bewitched.  But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that Land of the Lost was an irredeemable mess from its inception to the screen, from script to performance.  Even then, really, that’s the only big budget black eye on Ferrell’s recent resume, especially if you focus only on comedies.  Indeed, his recent box office results look like this (courtesy of Box Office Mojo):

Will Ferrel BO

Looking at these numbers, it’s not  quite fair or accurate to say that Ferrell has been on some kind of epic slide at the theater.  2008’s Semi-Pro was a disappointment, but Blades of Glory, another silly sports comedy that was released the previous year, was a hit.  So what explains the difference?  A wane in Ferrell’s popularity?  Maybe.  Or maybe Blades of Glory was just a better movie.  Indeed, later in 2008, Ferrell scored again when he reteamed with Adam McKay and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers, breaking $100 million.  And his very next film was Land of the Lost.  It was a flop yes, not even grossing $50 million, but one flop a slump does not make.

If you want to argue that Ferrell has yet to find success in more dramatic roles, fine, go ahead.  No argument here.  But to claim that he’s in some career limbo, like Lindsey Lohan or Tom Sizemore, is a bit extreme.  The truth is that the point is  moot, you can’t really question his ability to be leading man anymore, because he has yet to genuinely establish himself as a bankable leading man in the first place  Ferrell has had four movies cross the $100 million mark, Elf, Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory and Step Brothers (this list does not include his cameo appearances, like in Wedding Crashers); in the first case, Elf, this was a bit of a surprise hit, and it’s really a family film, not his traditional brand of comedy.  The latter three are all in Ferrell’s general comedy wheelhouse, and while he has top billing in all these, he’s supported by a strong ensemble cast in each (including John C. Reilly, Sasha Baron Cohen, John Heder, Jenna Fischer, Amy Poehler, and John C. Reilly again).  So, really, you could legitimately propose that no movie has yet to succeed on the basis of Will Ferrell alone.  Talladega Nights, perhaps, but even though that movie outgrossed Anchorman, it was basically an Anchorman sequel in different clothing, and the earlier film is still the more appreciated of the two.

The point is, get off the ledge.  Will Ferrell’s career has not been ruined by his string of box of disappointments.  In fact, this alleged bad streak is greatly exaggerated, and is really only attributable to one film.   Yes, he has yet to prove himself in dramatic roles, and has not quite established himself as a dependable leading man.  And he may never get there either.  But it’s silly to assert his greatest successes have past him by or that he should only participate in the same dumb, sophomoric comedies.  Stay classy and give him a chance.

In the end, this is really just a great excuse for a Ferrell SNL video.  It was in this sketch that Jumped The Snark truly began to appreciate the man:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Filed under Analysis, Good Humor, Jumped the Shark, Saturday Night Live, The Big Screen

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