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Monday Discussion: Is Will Ferrell Burning Out?

by
March 3, 2008

Will Ferrell

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.

Step BrothersI'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.

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  • Please let him be burning out! I can't stand him and his overratedness and over acting. He is so annoying!!! Don't get me wrong though, he has made a few good movies like Stranger Then Fiction (but thats because he wasn't his usual self). Elf wasn't bad either... but everything else is just so bad and stupid, especially Anchorman which is his worst movie.
  • Heckle
    Well my only comment on this is that he is great given the right material. Don't let him do his own thing. Stranger than Fiction is an amazing film and he was great in it.
  • Nathan
    I thought Semi-Pro was a middle of the road movie for him. I fell out of my chair laughing once or twice during. Its didn't have the sweetness of elf or stragner than fiction, and it won't be as quotable as anchorman or talladega nights. It was better than blades of glory. I think there is still plenty in him.
  • Avelanch
    stranger than fiction was good because it evolved ferrill as an actor and took him out of his typecast role. its one of my 3 favorite ferrill moves as a result. they are (in specific order) Old School, Anchorman, Strnager than fiction and then elf. the rest of the movies are after he had been typecast into a unidimensional role and refuse to let him do anything different. Ferrill should pull a Jim Carrey and move into Dramedies or Drama's with comedic undertones. His straight comedies are just getting worse each time.
  • Ian
    Will Ferrell is a one note actor. His two comedic talents are good timing (or perhaps the irony of bad timing and how uncomfortable it can be), and the fact that he'll simply do anything for the sake of physical comedy. He does it well, but... we've seen it. Mike Myers is about to prove he is only capable of the same character in different outfits too. When the Airplane movies came out (and Top Secret and ...) they all played on the same kind of gag - so we made a few of them, killed the genre and now they are hard to watch. When they first came out, we felt like we could never get enough of that kind of comedy. Well, turns out, when it hits the wall, we can't stomach it anymore. I like Will Ferrell, I respect his ability to make me laugh, I tell people that I hate the fact that I like his movies. But he's no comedic genius. It's time for something new. Mustafa, Ron Burgundy, both Chazz's, Ricky Bobby, Jackie Moon - are all the same character, they are funny for the same reasons, and they have the same basic motivations. They overstate the obvious, they think they are worth more than they are, and they use the "Family Guy" technique of saying the same thing over and over to both waste time and hope that you'll start giggling because it's so ludicrous. Has he peaked? Yes unless he re-invents. He has some quiet characters that are really good. He needs to do more of them. Like Curious George, Harold Crick, Corbit in "Winter Passing"... I'm sure producers will continue to drive truck loads of money up to his door, but there is a time to rework and get some respect. Time has come.
  • I think that its a matter of the wrong roles and the wrong supporting cast. Talladega Nights and Anchorman did so well because of the top notch supporting casts. Woody is funny but there needed to be another big name. He needs to do more dramadies and maybe even a straight out drama.
  • re: #5 I am inclined to agree. Farrell is about as 1 dimensional as an actor can get. Frankly, I can't stand the man, but I can at least tolerate him as a B-rate comic relief character (see Old School) from time to time. But he only has one speed, and it shows how ineffective he is as an actual actor. This is similar to Ben Stiller. They have a moment here and there, and there will always be a role that just "works" for a certain actor, but one performance does not a quality actor make. Compare him to someone like Jim Carrey. While there are plenty of people who aren't praising some of his more recently flicks, the man runs circles around Farrell in every meaningful event. And to be honest, Carrey is a phenomenal all around actor (that's looking at it from a purely characterization and performance angle, not based on how good a movie with him in it is overall). Steve Martin is another one. Robin Williams. You can be funny AND be a good actor. Heck, even Jack Black has mad skills compared to Farrell. @ #6: I disagree. Farrell should never do a drama, because he simply can't. Stranger than Fiction was as close as he can come to that, and even then they had to goofy up the movie once in a while for him. And there was nothing that he brought to the role that couldn't have been done better by any other actor. He is simply, flat out, incapable of playing a character straight. It's weird, because to look at him, you'd think "Yeah, I could see him in such-and-such dramatic role," but then you'd see it, and the entire film would be flat.
  • I've never been a big fan of his, even when he was on SNL. Sure, I've enjoyed many of his supporting roles, like in Old School and Zoolander, but he just annoys me in a starring role.
  • Movie Lover
    I agree with another commenter. He has shown that he can do black comedy very well...with "Stranger Than Fiction." I would like to see him try more 'serious' roles, because he can do it.
  • I think the main factor to consider is that the movies where Ferrell sees higher box office are the movies where he has either wrote or co-wrote the screenplay. Semi-Pro wasn't his script and I think that accounts for a lot of the terrible word of mouth. Also, is it fair to categorize Zoolander as a Ferrell vehicle? Owen Wilson got higher billing than him!
  • Keith
    Ferrells humor is indeed burning out on the silver screen, I dare say. I barely liked Talladega Nights and I couldnt stand Blades of Glory or Semi-Pro. Every film since Talladega Nights has dropped in total box office. I like his stuff on FunnyorDie but I just cant stand his new films, although the older ones are still good. If he lets Apatow Company produce his next few films I think he will be ok. I agree with #5 completely.
  • Darrin
    he needs to do another old school
  • Spider
    Will Ferrell is good! But it seems as though he's beginning to overexpose himself amidst the carbon copies of his earlier flicks and going back to the tried and true of formulas–a la Eddie Murphy and his multiple character comedies. Another sports flick or retro-sports-comedy this year in the form of "Semi Pro" has opened at multiplexes and I'm actually sitting this one out. Don't get me wrong- he's funny, but a little too repetitious for my taste.
  • Purpose
    Will Ferrell definitely isn't burning out, it's just the audiences are getting smarter. Even though Semi-Pro was marketed correctly, it still didn't have appeal and it looked more like an ensemble than a Will Ferrell flick. If you won't take my word for it, wait till July 25th when Step Brothers opens. The trailer is already hilarious and the hype is building even more with Judd Apatow's name attached. Semi-Pro plainly did not look funny, it looked ridiculous and everybody knows that the movie wasn't going to be good if there weren't scenes in the trailer that appealed to you to begin with. Couldn't Step Brothers, July 25th- could possibly be the best Will Ferrell comedy ever? Considering how Adam McKay and Will Ferrell always brings us hits- this one shouldn't disappoint, especially with an R rating this time around. Only 4 more months....
  • KS
    He's been Sandlerized. Or Schneiderized. The question is why is David Spade still hilarious?
  • xCloudbox
    I have to agree with Ian, and a few other people. Will Ferrell is best in supporting roles. I have never liked a movie where he was the lead. It is the same character over and over and it gets boring. I was never a big fan of his to begin with. I saw Anchorman in theaters and did not laugh once. I will never see a Will Ferrell movie in theaters again.
  • xCloudbox
    oh, and David Spade is still funny because he was never that big. Sure, he had a peak, but nowhere near the kind of peak Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler or even Rob Schneider reached.
  • Matt
    I like Will Ferrell still but its just the same old roles now. I'm pumped for Step Brothers, though, that looks to be easily one of his funniest movies.
  • Tyler
    I don't think that he is burning out. It's just that he has been recently stuck in a "(Insert Sport) Movie" rut. His worst movies to date have been sports movies (and Bewitched). But it now looks like the streak is coming to an end after seeing the trailer for "Step Brothers" and the announcement "Land of the Lost"
  • John
    Ferrell burned out a LOOOONG time ago. You're just now having this discussion?
  • James
    Ferrell always acted better / had better roles / was more comical as a supporting actor, or a side character. When he takes on a main character, it's extremely hit or miss. I don't think he can hold his own.
  • You read my mind completely. In fact it has been the topic of my thoughts recently with Semi-Pro releasing. I have no desire to see it. I am sick of Ferrell's downhill spiral. I think his best bet would be to start mixing in some serious roles and see if he can learn how to act. He has always been funny to me, but he comes out with the same stuff constantly. I think you are absolutely right; Will Ferrell is burning out. He still has hope though.
  • crabby
    Yes! Yes! Yes! Ferrell is burning out and jumped the shark years ago by making the same ol' sh*t jokes.
  • No he isn't at all!!!! It was the R-rating! I have two friends thaty work in theaters and they said they sold only 30% of a house in big locations, yet looking it was WAY more than 30% with kids! I think Ferrell's marketing is for those UNDER 17. My brother is younger and I sneaked him in (I know it si wrong, but I bought a ticket for another movie so it kind fo justifies it) and again, KIDS! It is the R-rating that killed. Am I wrong?! Kids just buy tickets for other movies and then sneak into his. But truthfully, I love Ferrell, but this WAS NOT good. ** out ****.
  • Curtis
    Semi-Pro wasn't his best movie but it was entertaining and i had fun watching it, I loved Talladega Nights and Blades of Glory i thought they were hilarious and everyone i know loves them as well. Everyone hits a bump in the road and Ferrel has finally hit his, just like he did during Bewitched, he'll get back in his prime with Step Brothers and Land of the Lost. Everyone hits a time when they're not in there prime just give it sometime and he'll be back.
  • cornholio_by_the_sea
    Ferrell may as well be burning out as I have never found him to be the LEAST bit funnny...he reminds me of the embarrasing relative who is always cracking jokes that just arent funny...at besst I feel sorry for him...give it a break Will...
  • harrison
    whaaaatt?? old school did worse than bewitched and kicking and screaming??? and how did blades of glory do so well, better than anchorman, i watched a few minutes and saw the previews, that movie was utter crap.
  • Scarlet
    I really like his non traditional roles. I still love and quote ELF quite often. Stranger than fiction was also well done. I am tired of sarcastic and done over comedies. I think he tries to cater to his "traditional fans" who enjoy the non-intellectual crap comedies. He needs to keep expanding.
  • Scarlet
    AND......Really Will, no one like to see you naked..... Or even shirtless.....
  • mike
    Stop haten on will. hes like the funniest person ever! sure hes been in a couple movies that weren't good but so have a billion other actors. semi-pro got like 2 mil less then old school and that movie was awesome. and i think the reason semi-pro only got lil is cuz it was rated R and most other ones r pg13. oh and number 29 commenter is a douch... hes sp-osed to be gross shirtless. thats why it funny.
  • I like Will but I do find a lot of his films, and a lot of comedy films over the last 5 years, have been one joke films. Zoolander, Dodgeball, Talladega Nights, Anchorman. Ok they might have an amusing concept but whereas they would be discussed in a creative meeting and then passed over these films always seem to be greenlighted. All the jokes and the predictability of the story is revealed in the trailer meaning actually seeing the film is completely unneccesary.
  • Will Ferrell has always been hit or miss with me. I loved Elf, Anchorman, Stranger Than Fiction and Blades of Glory. Other stuff he does is either too crass or just not funny. Step Brothers does look funny to me though, and it looks like he might play a different sort of comedic character this time.
  • Avelanch
    "whaaaatt?? old school did worse than bewitched and kicking and screaming??? and how did blades of glory do so well, better than anchorman, i watched a few minutes and saw the previews, that movie was utter crap." old school didn't do well on opening weekend because it was a sleeper, it found great success later on and especially on DVD. Old school was really the reason kicking and screaming and bewitched did so good. Blades of glory is definitely not one of my favorite Ferrell movies, but I can see why it had a good opening weekend, it looked like he was getting back to his roots
  • Avelanch
    also he was riding the success of Talladega nights (not one of my fav's either, but many people liked it)
  • Ian
    Oddly, I think we are all saying the same thing. Will Ferrell does the same trick over and over, and some of us like it, others are tired of it. It seems like we want to like the guy, we even think he can still be funny. But he's got to expand his repertoire. It's hard not to keep doing the same shtick over and over when they keep writing cheques. The sad part is the people will walk away and not come back even if he does make a desirable move to better roles. I hate to like Will Ferrell movies; but I keep paying to see them. I guess I keep hoping he'll change the character just enough to make me like the whole film. Batting 500 so far in my books. Others hit the nail on the head - he's a good character actor, I love seeing him pop-in and do his thing, for about 5 minutes. But when the whole movie is centered on the one note joke, it tires quickly. I'd like to meet him and poke him in the eye.
  • lyle
    gad he's awful to people so it's a good thing he's burned out. See what Joan Rivers said about him...
  • Stew
    I really think Semi-Pro would have done a lot better as a PG-13 rated movie. There has been such an influx of R rated comedies recently that a PG-13 would have attracted a whole new audience. This movie also could have really aimed at kids. There was huge buzz with young teens from early trailers, but none of these kids could watch it. There's only so silly you can be if your if you're going to be that raynchy as well. Look at the difference between Knocked-Up and Tenacious-D and the Pick of Destiny. A PG-13 rating would have saved this movie.
  • ZeroDragon
    As for Will Ferrell and movies, I don't think it just the actor but the script of all the lame movies that have been pouring out of the studios. I understand that a good script is hard to come by let alone actually put it to film, but maybe it's not the actors but rather the writers. Yes Will Ferrell as put it seems movie after movie out, but think about it, he gets payed either way the film goes. I'm beginning to think that just about all actors are struggling with good scripts, and in the sea of bad scripts are grasping at anything that may seem to be just an OK movie. Hench all the bad reviews from both sides. If we want to think the fault lays on the actor it's a double edge sword that both (they) and the (writors) need to think about before taking the job, and before submitting a poor or lame script. I'm not sticking up for Will or any other actor, but rather saying that maybe Hollywood needs to rethink their strategy on how to go about choosing and producing a film. After all it's the public that ends up picking up the tab for all these Lame and awful movies that have been pouring out of the studios. If you want to blame the actor go ahead but as I have said they get paid either way, so why not take a lame script and put out a movie, after all it's a paycheck. Just remember it's you that pays the actors check, if you don't want this to continue, then stop going to see every lame movie.
  • Gorax
    Post #31- Will Ferrell was never in Dodgeball... /agree with Semi-Pro being mediocre comedy, a few laughs... but overall i was unimpressed.
  • Will Ferrell isn't that great of an actor to begin with. I think the ONLY movie I enjoyed his acting in was that one where the author writes the book and he can hear her and such. I don't remember the name of it. Other then that I refuse to watch any of his other movies.
  • WILL FERRELL=CHEVY CHASE
  • AGGRESS AutoPost Test
  • Step brothers is a classic

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