Tag Archives: Will Ferrell

Zoolander 2 (2016)

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There’s no to sugarcoat this: Zoolander 2 is gaaaaaabage. Of all the sequels that should never have been made, this one’s right near the top of the list.

I’m sure it seemed like a good idea when Ben Stiller had nothing to do one day and decided to bring back his iconic character, the dim-witted supermodel who made “Blue Steel” the look everyone was imitating back in 2001. But like when Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels returned for Dumb and Dumber To 20 years after the original, it’s just as funny after so much time has passed. And sadly, Dumb and Dumber To is the far superior sequel. Minus a bit of nostalgia and a couple of decent laughs on the rare occasion, everything else about Zoolander 2 just feels stale, contrived, lame, and worst of all, unfunny.

The story is also set about 15 years after the original, with Zoolander and his former sidekick Hansel (Owen Wilson) living very different lives after another stupid tragedy. A new character, an Interpol agent played by Penelope Cruz, gets the ball rolling when celebrities are being killed all around the world. And of course, Will Ferrell returns as villain Mugatu.

So yeah, there’s essentially no story, just a bunch of idiots doing idiotic things. That’s not to say idiocy can’t be funny, because obviously enough people thought it was hilarious in the first film. But it’s simply just not funny here. I’d say a good 95-99% of gags fell entirely flat. It’s not even the delivery — the jokes themselves just had no wit, creativity or element of surprise. After a while, it will make you start to wonder whether you may have been overrating the first Zoolander for all these years. Personally, I started zoning out a little.

It’s unfortunate because the film starts with so much promise. The Justin Bieber gag that kicks off the show is pretty satisfying, though of course it would have been much funnier had the punchline not been tossed entirely into the trailer. In fact, almost all the good jokes have been spoiled by the trailer, which is sad considering the trailer is only about 2 minutes long.

As for the other 100 minutes…well, at least there’s a lot of celebrity cameos for people into those sorts of things. The list is far too long to even bother trying to name them (apparently there’s 39), though those who have seen the trailers won’t be surprised to see the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch or Kiefer Sutherland. Most play caricatures of themselves, and it makes you wonder whether they were just doing Ben Stiller a  favour or if they genuinely thought it was a good idea.

Back in 2001, Zoolander was a sharp satire on the fashion industry. In 2016 — though I’m sure it was made with the best of intensions, — Zoolander 2 feels like nothing more than a stale, feeble cash-grab when the ideas well has run completely dry.

1,5 stars out of 5

Daddy’s Home (2015)

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Will Ferrell’s comedy has always been an acquired taste. For me it’s a little hit and miss, even when it comes to his best stuff, like Anchorman. Which is why is surprises me to say that I laughed a lot when watching Daddy’s Home, his latest effort and second collaboration with Marky Mark Wahlberg (with the first being The Other Guys).

The premise is this: Ferrell plays Brad, a bit of a wuss who is stepdad to two kids after marrying the lovely Sarah (Linda Cardellini). As the title suggests, the biological father of the kids, cool dad Dusty, suddenly announced he is dropping by for a visit. Chaos ensues as the two grown men battle it out to one up each other in the daddy stakes.

One of the advantages I had when watching Daddy’s Home was that I didn’t see much of the trailers, which I assume spoiled some of the film’s best jokes. Having also been underwhelmed by The Other Guys, I went into this one with low expectations. And perhaps I was in the right mood for some stupidity, because I certainly laughed a lot throughout Daddy’s Home, easily obliterating the 6-laugh test for a good comedy.

If you’ve seen any Will Ferrell comedy you’ll know his style — moronic, awkward and with a touch of the random, plus some over-the-top slapstick. A lot of the gags in Daddy’s Home are indeed stupid and immature, but for the most part I think it does a good job of being crude without falling into gross-out, vulgar or gratuitous comedy.

The strength of the film still lies in the charismatic paring of Ferrell and Walhberg, who has proven many times that he has the comedic chips when called upon to display them. They already had great chemistry in The Other Guys, but that film felt like it tried too hard to create gags out of the police action premise. This time, being in a domestic setting, the ambitions are lower but as a result the jokes are also simpler and more effective. Part of it also stems from the design of their characters’ personalities, which suit the actors really well and allows them to play off each other with a lot of juvenile fun, but never in a vicious way. Maybe it’s because I’m a father too, because I can certainly appreciate the lengths grown men would go to impress their kids.

The supporting cast is also great, in particular Hannibal Buress, who is funny more because of his delivery than his actual lines, and Thomas Haden Church, who digs back into the archives of Ned and Stacey fora classic deadpan performance. I do wish Linda Cardellini could have been a little more than just the straight-face character though because she can definitely deliver laughs when given the chance.

There are of course a fair share of misses along the way, though in my opinion the jokes that don’t work are easily outweighed by the ones that do. I particularly liked the basketball set piece, which was hilarious just from the perspective of it being a playoff game between the cellar-dwelling Lakers and Pelicans and Kobe still being a dominant player!

In all, this is one of Will Ferrell’s more likable comedies in recent years. While it perhaps doesn’t take full advantage of the satirical possibilities the premise offers, it is a film that plays to Ferrell’s strengths as a comedian while minimising his annoying tendencies that tend to make watching his movies cumbersome after a while. He seems comfortable in this family setting and with the character he plays, and as a result the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome. It might not be a classic or even a memorable film, but as a generic, formulaic stupid comedy, Daddy’s Home is plenty of fun.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Get Hard (2015)

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Will Ferrell plus Kevin Hart. On paper, putting together two of the world’s biggest comedic stars should be a no-brainer, but Get Hard, their highly anticipated buddy-movie collaboration, turned out to be lesser than the sum of its parts.

Ferrell plays yet another version of himself, this time as James King, a highly successful financial prodigy engaged to the beautiful daughter (Alison Brie) of his boss (Craig T Nelson). King knows how to make loads and loads of money with hedge funds, but he’s a bit of a douche and practically retarded in all other aspects of life, much like all of Ferrell’s other characters. When he is sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security prison for a white collar crime, King seeks the help of his car washer, Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), to help him “get hard” in 30 days so he won’t be (anally) destroyed in prison.

The majority of the jokes in this movie stem from two things: King’s numbing stupidity, and the fact that Lewis, who has never even been to prison, is black. While Get Hard uses the pun in the title a couple of times (as you would), the film is basically a conveyor belt of fairly typical racial stereotype jokes, mixed in with some prison rape jokes and gay jokes, and a whole lot of standard Will Ferrell idiocy. Kevin Hart plays the “straight man” this time, and as a result he doesn’t get to do nearly as much as Ferrell does, though he does have one decent scene in which he shows off his talents by pretending to be several different prison factions at once.

Get Hard has been savaged by most critics, largely for being offensive by relying too much on race and gay jokes. I’m actually quite shocked that people were offended by it. I mean, seriously, this is Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. What else did people expect from a comedy with these two called Get Hard, in which a black man tries to teach a white man how to survive in prison?

The real problem with the movie is not that the jokes are offensive, it’s that they are not funny. Or at least not funny enough. I probably giggled a couple of times and grunted a handful of others, which falls way short of the “six laugh rule” for a good comedy. A lot of the attempts at laughs were cliched and lacking in imagination, and while I applaud Ferrell and Hart for pushing the boundaries, none of the comedy felt as edgy as it could have been.

Ferrell can be lame and Hart can be grating, but when they are on their game they are undeniably laugh-generating machines. They actually have fairly good chemistry in this too, which is why it ultimately feels like Get Hard was a complete waste of their respective talents. To be fair, it’s not horrible — there are much worse comedies being made these days — though there’s just no getting around the fact that this should have been much much funnier.

2 stars out of 5

PS: At least Alison Brie was surprisingly hot in this.

Movie Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

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The original Anchorman, released 10 years ago, is remembered as a classic of random laughs and weirdness, hilarious political incorrectness, memorable characters and masterful improvised dialogue. It’s not actually as funny or as good as you remember it to be, but that’s the way it goes sometimes with movies that end up developing its own legend.

In all likelihood, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, will not be as revered as its predecessor, but the truth is that it’s probably just as funny and irreverent. If you enjoyed the zaniness of the original and developed an affection for the characters, then there’s a good chance you’ll have a great time with this one too.

The “legend” picks up several years after the end of the first film, with Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) sharing anchor duties with his now-wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Their boss, played by Harrison Ford, drops a bombshell on Ron and his ego is too fragile to take the hit. Just when he’s down in the dumps, he gets a visit from an exec played by Dylan Baker (I’ll always remember him as the deranged dad from Happiness), who offers him a job on a new 24-hour news network that no one in the industry thinks will succeed. The story really begins from here, as Ron starts to track down his own team of misfits including Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell), and together they head to New York to challenge the big boys of national TV.

The bizarre absurdity of Anchorman 2 is no doubt an acquired taste. If you get it, however, chances are you’ll love it. Without giving too much away, there are some brilliant sequences that will either have you clutching your gut in laughter or shaking your head at the stupidity of it all. There are also some skits that pay homage to some of the classic moments in the original, including a really epic climax that keeps rolling in one huge surprise after another (best to avoid spoilers). You have to give props to Ferrell and his crew for not sticking to conventions and really going for the weirdest, most non-nonsensical shit they could come up with. While it’s still often hit and miss, the hits are usually big hits, and the misses can be swept aside rather quickly because the gags keep coming at a furious pace.

Even if you take all the randomness aside, Anchorman 2 still has some clever satire and witty social commentary weaved into its narrative tapestry. Again, I don’t want to play spoiler, but let’s just say it takes a fairly sharp stab at the state of Western media networks today and makes intelligent use of information we know in the present but won’t be known to the characters for a decade or two.

For me, Anchorman 2 is still never quite as funny as it should be or thinks it is. I kept feeling like the actors were having a better time than I was, and I sense the reason they even made the sequel in the first place is because they all loved hanging out with each other so much. The chemistry between the characters is definitely there, but if you’re not in the right mood then some of the gags will come across as lame and unfunny. Steve Carrell’s mentally challenged Brick, for example, is more creepily insane than ever, and this time they’ve paired him up with a female version of his character, Chani, played by Kristen Wiig. It was one of those things where you’re thinking, “This should be really hilarious,” but in the end turns out to be “meh”.

That said, Anchorman 2 still probably has one of the highest laughs per minute ratios of any film released in 2013. Part of the reason is that there are so many strong characters that you’ll likely find at least a couple of them funny. My personal favourites were Paul Rudd’s sex-obsessed Brian Fantana and, surprisingly, Ron Burgundy himself, who seems somehow both wiser and dumber than he was the last time around. James Marsden, who plays the new network’s douchebag poster child, and Greg Kinnear, who plays Christina Applegate’s lover/psychologist, are the highlights from the supporting cast. And if you like seeing a lot of A-list stars doing things you wouldn’t expect of them, you’ll love all the great cameos in this too.

Ultimately, despite its flaws — including the excessive running time of 119 minutes — I think there is enough quality stuff packed into Anchorman 2 to call it a worthy sequel. It’s never easy living up to expectations following a cult classic original, but even after 10 years the story and the characters’ goofy charm have not waned. Not everything works, but when things occasionally fall into place the result is comedy magic.

3.75 stars out of 5

2012 Movie Blitz: Part 9

This latest tranche has a political flavour…kind of…

Act of Valor (2012)

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Just the title alone made me sceptical of this film, essentially a US Army recruitment video starring real-life soldiers. There must be people who lapped up the salty patriotism and corny melodrama of Act of Valor, but I was not one of them.

The plot — and there is a plot — is not important, and to be honest, I don’t remember much of it. The story focuses on a team of Navy Seals who have to shot and blow up enemies who pose a threat to freedom in the United States. Terrorists, that is.

The action scenes are well-choreographed, I don’t dispute that. Apparently they are realistic, but the shaky camera movements were too much for me. I had trouble telling what was happening when they had the helmet-mounted cameras and a few of the scenes made me feel nauseated.

But the main problem with Act of Valor, apart from the cookie-cutter plot, is the unintentional Team America: World Police feel that runs throughout the whole film. Much of it stems from dramatic score and the really really really atrocious lines spewed out by the really really really wooden “actors.” They just didn’t feel like real people. It was so bad that it was often either hilarious or distracting, or both. No offense to the soldiers, but it was akin to letting Stallone and The Rock go fight real terrorists on behalf of their country.

2 stars out of 5

PS: The mix of shaky camera movements and over-the-board heroism was enough to do this to me.

 

Game Change (2012)

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A great film for anyone interested in just how stupid Sarah Palin really is. Game Change is based on the true story of the 2008 Republican ticket of John McCain and Palin, and it’s a ripper. Sharp, funny and at times bewildering, it provides a fascinating insight into US presidential elections and the campaign strategies that direct the outcome. And above all, it reveals just how insane the Republicans were to take on a risk like Palin, who was believed to be a potential game changer — and she was, just not the way they wanted.

I loved the Tina Fey impersonations but Julianne Moore is equally brilliant in this more serious portrayal of Palin, who is depicted as an ambitious, self-righteous but incredibly naive and ignorant politician. Most of her most famous gaffes are repeated in the film, and they’re still just as funny. But it was also easy to see why the Republicans were so enamored with her in the beginning and so frustrated with her by the end. They essentially created a monster and didn’t know how to rein her back in.

Ed Harris was surprisingly good as John McCain, who I’ve always liked and was portrayed as a very decent man who really had no idea what he was getting himself into with Palin. The rest of the supporting cast, headed by Woody Harrelson as senior campaign strategist Steve Schmidt, was also excellent. Just a classy production all round.

Of course, the accuracy of the events depicted in the film have been disputed, but I’d like to think it captured the spirit of the campaign. Besides, both Palin and McCain, who said the film was inaccurate, never even saw it.

I really enjoyed it, even though it did have quite a strong TV-movie atmosphere.

PS: Here’s a scene by scene comparison between Palin and Moore.

4 stars out of 5

The Campaign (2012)

The Campaign

While we’re on the subject of election campaigns, I’d like to review The Campaign, a pretty stock standard Will Ferrell farce about two numskulls vying for a congressional seat in a small town.

Ferrell plays his usual douche self who expects to earn another trip to DC unopposed, but a semi-retarded man played by Zach Galifianakis is somehow manipulated by corrupt businessmen to run against Ferrell so they can profit from a Chinese company (go figure). Retardation ensues as the two start getting down and dirty with outrageous plots to derail the other’s campaign.

If you know Ferrell’s brand of comedy and Galifianakis’s brand of comedy then it’s likely The Campaign will offer few surprises. It’s a lot of stupidity and randomness for about 85 minutes, a welcome length because the film starts to lose steam towards the end.

That said, there are some decent moments in The Campaign, and if you were lucky to have missed the spoilers in the trailers then you might find it rather enjoyable. Many of the jokes are borderline offensive or just plain offensive, but because they are almost always self-deprecating and take jabs at the usual politician antics they aren’t difficult to stomach or even appreciate. Both Ferrell and Galifianakis are in fine form and they do have nice chemistry on screen together.

At the end of the day, The Campaign is a forgettable comedy, but it’s also a pretty damn funny one (for the most part).

3.5 stars out of 5

The Watch (2012)

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Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn were pretty good together in Dodgeball, so I thought would give The Watch a shot. Without giving too much away (and there are potential spoilers), it’s about a bunch of average guys who decide to form a neighbourhood watch when locals start dying under weird circumstances.

The main foursome who form the neighbourhood watch are Stiller, Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade (an English comedian I’ve never heard of). They get up to stupid, juvenile stuff, predictably, until a discovery that puts their lives in real danger. There’s a lot of screaming in feigned fear and plenty of vulgar and sexualised jokes but sadly not a lot of originality or wit. In fact, I found the whole film strangely dull despite all the energetic stuff that was happening on screen.

Part of the problem is that Stiller and Vaughn (and to some extent Hill) seem to be playing the exact same characters with the same personalities and traits in every movie. Stiller is the bumbling nice guy who wants to be something more, and Vaughn is the deadpan specialist, while Hill is the awkward fatty. There’s just nothing fresh about it and they feel like actors playing themselves rather than characters.

I’ll admit, there were a few times in The Watch where the inner juvenile in me found a joke in the film funny — but these moments were few and far in between. As much I as enjoy these group buddy movies as much as the next guy, this one was uninspiring and forgettable.

2.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Megamind (2010)

I’m not usually the biggest fan of animation, but Megamind, featuring the vocal talents of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt, is one rare animated film that I’ve actually been dying to see. A story where the anti-superhero villain is the protagonist seemed like a perfect opportunity for lots of laughs, and the trailers certainly delivered. The only thing I was afraid of was that the trailers had shown all the best bits.

Well, the trailers did show a lot of the funniest parts of the movie, as expected, but Megamind has enough gas in the tank to make it probably the second best animated film of the year (behind Toy Story 3, which I am yet to review). That said, I can’t really think of any other animated films off the top of my head right now…

The strange thing with Megamind (the character, not the film) is that even though he’s kind of the reversal of the archetypal superhero, the film is still rather formulaic. There aren’t many surprises here, and just about everything that happens in the movie follows a familiar pattern — from the set-up to the twists to the romance to the redemptive finale.

But it’s still very funny — even some of the jokes I had unfortunately seen in the trailers were still funny, which is a rare and special attribute for a comedy. Much of the humor comes from the kind of random silliness we’re accustomed to from Will Ferrell, but the film also does a hilarious job of making fun of the superhero stereotypes.

Ferrell is of course fabulous as the titular character, with a voice that is, at least to me, not immediately recognizable. The same can probably be said for Fey and Pitt, though Hill and David Cross (the man who was both an analyst and a therapist, ie, the world’s first ‘analrapist’ — Mr Tobias Funke from Arrested Development) are dead giveaways.

Megamind isn’t a pioneer or classic in the animated space, but it’s wickedly funny and plenty of fun. A good one for both adults and the kids.

3.75 out of 5!

PS: I watched the film in 2D because I refused to be ripped off by the 3D prices and endure the crappy glasses.

Movie Review: The Other Guys (2010)

I would say Will Ferrell‘s unique brand of humour is a combination of randomness, awkwardness and absolute stupidity.  When it works (and it sometimes does), it really works.  But when it doesn’t, it’s just tedious and unfunny.

In my opinion, The Other Guys is both the best and worst of Will Ferrell.  There are times when the film is genuinely hilarious, reminiscent of Ferrell at his best (think Anchorman), but when the jokes fall flat, there’s just no nice way to say it — it sucked.  Thankfully, I think the good outweighed the bad in this one by a not insignificant margin.  And that makes The Other Guys one of Will Ferrell’s better films.

The Other Guys is a buddy/cop comedy, what you could probably call a ‘spoof’.  Will Ferrell plays Allen Gamble, a ‘forensic accountant’ in the police department.  His partner is Terry Holtz (Mark Wahlberg) a highly capable detective who is stuck with Gamble due to an unfortunate incident 7 years ago that made him lose all credibility (it’s a ripper).  Together, they are the ‘other guys’ to the supercops in the department, played by Samuel L Jackson and Dwayne Johnson (ie the Rock).

Rounding out the impressive cast are Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes and Steve Coogan, and there are a number of cool cameos thrown in too.

Ferrell, as expected, was perfect for the role of the socially retarded Allen Gamble, but Mark Wahlberg was surprisingly good as his straight-faced partner.  Though they have personalities at opposite ends of the scale, the two characters have an authentic chemistry that provides plenty of laughs.

As usual, the trailers revealed way too many of the best jokes in the film — and the one thing with Will Ferrell’s comedy is that it’s never as good the second time around.  That said, there were still a number of random and bizarre but comically successful scenes that will no doubt please Ferrell fans.  As a bonus, the action sequences were quite decent too.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, many jokes (including some of the best ones) were milked way too far.  Let it go!  At times it was like beating a dead horse.  It was the most frustrating thing with an otherwise fairly good comedy.

2.5 stars out of 5