I was walking through the mall today, and saw a poster for the next Will Ferrell movie. It’s called “Talladega Nights” Just from the poster and the bylines and such you can tell what kind of movie it is. Surprise of all surprises, Ferrell will be playing a really really dumb guy. This time, a really really dumb guy that is also a NASCAR driver.
This will be biting at the heels of the latest Adam Sandler offering, “Click”, which despite whispers of somewhat unique material, is, according to reviews, filled with the requisite Sandler toilet humor and adolescent sexual fixations.
What do the stars of these two movies have in common? Other than a complete void of originality, both have expressed, and in small ways attempted to make the cross into…(wait for it)…More dramatic roles.
Like Jim Carrey before them, these gross-out idols of dumbed-down cinema have on various occasions mentioned plans to make what some have called the “Tom Hanks Conversion”, from goofy comedies, to mainstream, respectable (mostly) dramatic story telling. With the brief exception of Sandler’s Punch Drunk Love, neither Saturday Night Live alumnus has proven consistently that they have the ability to flex dramatic chops. I would even argue that Jim Carrey has not quite sealed the deal himself on this matter.
One main reason for this is that people have yet to truly buy into these men being dramatic. Some have not yet made an official attempt, (Ferrell), while the more serious undertakings of the others are more often than not met with tepid response from the public. (Carrey)
The reason, in case they are reading, is that unlike pre-Philadelphia Tom Hanks, the comedies of Ferrell, Sandler, and Carrey have been, by and large…stupid. Childish. Ignorant, poorly written, site gag infested, cookie cutter dreck. It is obvious that there is a loyal demographic for such drivel, and the money will always roll in for it. Yet it is for that very reason that they cannot at this time expect to ever be taken seriously.
At best, a mainstream audience is going to be skeptical about any of these gentleman trying to establish pathos or gravitas. At worst, the movie going public that seeks more from their comedies than extensive farting, drunkenness and genitalia references has already forever written off all three actors, and other of their genre.
That is not to say that every script Hanks accepted in his early career was stellar. Yet I think most serious movie critics would be hard pressed to disagree with the notion that most of Hanks' comic work at that time was at least well thought out, sincere, and even sometimes smacking of depth of character. Therefore, Hanks’ move into more meaty, sober fare was seen not so much as a paradigm shift as a logical progression.
Can you watch “Anchorman” or Little Nicky and feel you are witnessing the birth of the next Paul Newman? If you can, in all sincerity, you are both more generous and open minded than I am.
(Writer's Note: I realize Jim Carrey started out early on in dramatic roles before stardom...but does anyone really remember him doing that anymore?)