Monday Discussion: Is Will Ferrell Burning Out?
by Alex Billington
March 3, 2008
As I was flying home from my cousin's wedding yesterday, I was thinking about Will Ferrell and Semi-Pro and how huge that movie flopped (more on that later). Although we already ran a Sunday Discussion for this week (on Iron Man and Batman nonetheless), this was too big and important to pass up, so I decided to run it anyway. I've started to wonder - is Will Ferrell burning out? Is he overrated and rehashing nothing but the same old act over and over again? Anchorman is one of my personal favorite comedies, but now only 4 years later it seems like everything he does is trying to live up to that movie and his other classics from that era (like Elf, Old School, even Zoolander). It's time to let it all out - what do you think of Will Ferrell's movies now?
Semi-Pro ended up making just over $15 million this weekend, which is a pitiful amount for a comedy that was expected to take in over $40 million. It had great marketing, it had a solid concept (to draw audiences), and it had Will Ferrell - that should mean it easily could've brought in $40 million, right? Wrong. With that kind of poor box office performance, mediocre reviews (including Jaq's 5 out of 10 rating), and a 6.4/10 on IMDb, I'm really starting to wonder if the whole US thinks that Will Ferrell is burning out, too? For the sake of comparison, listed below are Ferrell's top 10 opening weekends for live action movies ranked in order of their box office earnings. (Thanks to SlashFilm for compiling the list.)
1. Talladega Nights (2006) - $47M
2. Blades of Glory (2007) - $33M
3. Elf (2003) - $31.1M
4. Anchorman (2004) - $28.4M
5. Kicking & Screaming (2005) - $20.15M
6. Bewitched (2005) - $20.13M
7. Old School (2003) - $17.4M
8. Zoolander (2001) - $15.5M
9. Semi-Pro (2008) - $15.2M
10. Stranger Than Fiction (2006) - $13.4M
I'm amazed that Anchorman isn't number one, but that's a story for another day. Who do you want to blame for Semi-Pro being that low? New Line Cinema (although we already know what happened to them) or Will Ferrell? Even last year's Ferrell flick, Blades of Glory, performed quite well (the second highest earner), but as far as I know, isn't loved by anyone as Ferrell's best film to date. Talladega Nights was when I first started to feel like Ferrell was going downhill, but maybe that's just me.
It seems Ferrell's most successful project to date is his comedy website, FunnyorDie.com, which probably had more viewers this weekend than Semi-Pro. Not only are the videos Ferrell contributes quite hilarious, but all of the videos on there are great, which has all helped the website become an instant success. So this discussion isn't to say Ferrell on the whole has burned out, but looking at the content and quality of his latest feature films, I'm starting to worry.
I'm not trying to claim that I think Will Ferrell is completely burned out. I was probably more excited than anyone else I know for Semi-Pro. I think he's still got a lot in him, just in the right roles. Step Brothers looks pretty damn funny and Land of the Lost sounds like a perfect fit for him. But his last three films have been mediocre at best - Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory, and Semi-Pro. Maybe I've just grown out of the Ferrell humor that I used to love? I don't think I have - but how many other explanations can I come up with?
I've said as much as I can, it's now time to turn this conversation over to all of you. I'm crossing my fingers hoping for the best with Step Brothers, but if that turns out to be another flop, this may be official. If you've seen Semi-Pro already, then think over that and all of the other Ferrell movies you've seen recently and ask yourself - is Ferrell burning out? Is this just a bad time for him? Or am I missing the point entirely? Let's hear what America really has to say about Will Ferrell.