These are the saddest of possible words; Tinker to Evers to Chance…
Franklin P. Adams,
Baseball’s Sad Lexicon, 1910
F.P.A. obviously never heard the words “Will” or “Ferrell” or he would never have promoted “Tinker to Evers to Chance” over “Will Ferrell,” had he been a movie fan (to be fair, his poem was written when movies were aborning).
This latest edition of Ferrell’s work raises an interesting question. If you put a bunch of highly competent and qualified actors, like Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton (whose character is named Gene Mauch, the name of a former second baseman with the minor league Los Angeles Angels and the Boston Red Sox, and major league manager who won more games without getting into a World Series than any other manager), and Eva Mendes into a film with Ferrell, will they raise him to their level or will he lower the lot to his level?
This film answers that question. Directed and written (with Chris Henchy) by Adam McKay, this fits right in with such Ferrell drivel as Talladega Nights (2006) and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), both written by McKay. Both films feature Ferrell in the same role, a character who is ingenuous to a fault. Like those films, it is not funny; it makes absolutely no sense; Ferrell’s character is so over-the-top imbecilic that it defies humor; and it has scenes that are excruciating to watch.
Just as an example, Mendes (who is Ferrell’s wife) sends her mother out to Ferrell as a courier. She traipses out and says lots of foul things to him from Mendes. Then she goes back to Mendes and says foul things to her from Ferrell; then back to Ferrell, on and on, each time repeating things they want to do to each other that are base, to give them the best of it.
McKay and Ferrell come from Saturday Night Live, which is a late night show that has been the spawning ground for lots of movie stars, like Steve Martin, John Belushi and his crowd, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal; the list goes on. While it is true that SNL has been the source of some classic comic routines, the ratio of class to trash is about 1 to 100. For every treasure, there are at least 100 duds like the vomitorium. McKay and Ferrell insist on creating dud after dud, conforming to SNL’s stock in trade, low class material.
Ferrell, who is a high ranking member of the goofy Hollywood left, couldn’t help but put in a dig at Justice Scalia. Like everything else in the movie, the dig is inappropriate and makes no sense. It’s just a gratuitous insult out of nowhere. When will these nitwits realize that America is still a center-right country and, regardless of political orientation, most viewers have no interest in what some Hollywood pretty face thinks about anything, regardless of political slant? Maybe if what Ferrell did or said was actually funny, like Will Rogers (“I’m not a member of any organized political party; I’m a Democrat”), occasional forays into politics, if they were non partisan, might work. But he’s neither funny nor intuitive, nor non partisan.
This film is not only disgustingly prosaic, its advertisements border on fraud when they parrot the presence of Jackson and Johnson as headliners in the cast. In fact, both die in the opening scenes and are never seen again.
McKay seems to think that just because he’s directing something that is to be presented as a “comedy” the film can possess plot holes that defy explanation. Example: Wahlberg and Ferrell are being chased through New York City in a car chase. They turn a corner and their car disappears. The chasing cars give up the chase because they can’t find them. Where were they? They were in a stack of perfectly aligned cars, like cars waiting to be shipped, on the top row. How did the car get up in a perfect place on top of the other cars? In the space of five seconds? Even comedies have to have some sort of correlation to reason, but that seems to have escaped McKay and Ferrell, who, as Executive Producer, is in almost every scene.
Ferrell has only surprised me twice. I liked his first starring role, Elf (2004), where he first tried out this ingenuous character. Like Charlie Chaplin with the tramp, Ferrell has continued to play the same character, even though it was already getting stale at the end of Elf. Unlike Chaplin’s character, Ferrell’s is not only not lovable, it’s not even likeable. Then he did a good job when he ventured away from his attempts at comedy in Stranger Than Fiction (2006). Other than those, his performances have been less than pathetic, insulting even, and this is no exception.
Walhberg, Mendes, Keaton, and Steve Coogan, as the guy everybody is after, give good performances with the woeful material. But not nearly good enough.