Mis­matched duo

A pair beats a lone joker.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - by STeven ZeiTcHiK

THERE’S been a lot of talk in Hollywood cir­cles about Will Fer­rell sud­denly prov­ing sup­ple at the box of­fice with The Other Guys.

The­o­ries abound about Fer­rell’s suc­cess with the movie (which be­gan life as The B Team and changed names to avoid con­fu­sion with The A-Team). Af­ter all, the ac­tor had had his share of duds over the last few years with the likes of Land Of The Lost and Semi-Pro.

But Fer­rell hasn’t changed his brand of com­edy that much be­tween the hits and the fail­ures, cul­ti­vat­ing in most of these films a dis­tinct dopily over-the-top per­sona with noted suc­cess. So ex­pla­na­tions have gone else­where.

The Other Guys, the ex­perts say, is the kind of ma­te­rial Fer­rell ex­cels at – a recog­nis­able genre, in this case, a cop com­edy. It had a well-crafted mar­ket­ing cam­paign. It pairs Fer­rell with sure-handed di­rec­tor and long­time cre­ative part­ner Adam McKay. And the movie ben­e­fited from ei­ther smart or lucky tim­ing (a com­edy re­leased late in a sum­mer that has largely been de­void of them).

There is truth in all of these ex­pla­na­tions. But maybe most salient is that in this hit, and nearly ev­ery other of his hits over the last four years, Fer­rell had a charis­matic and top­name co-star. He has one in The Other Guys (Mark Wahlberg), just as he did in Step Broth­ers (John C. Reilly), Blades Of Glory (Jon Heder) and Tal­ladega Nights (Sacha Baron Co­hen, though with a lit­tle less screen time than the oth­ers). In his fail­ures? Not so much.

The big-name co-star gives any film a mar­ket­ing edge, since it means dou­ble the pro­mo­tional power and, for au­di­ences, twice the rea­son to see the film. But there may be a more sub­stan­tive ex­pla­na­tion as to why this works for Fer­rell movies.

The ac­tor seems to do his best work, or at least the work we like most, when he’s play­ing off some­one.

All four of his re­cent hits are a type of oddcouple com­edy, while all three of his re­cent fail­ures are not.

In the last half-decade, this, it seems, is how au­di­ences pre­fer to see Fer­rell – as a foil. We’d rather he share the screen than dom­i­nate it.

Look­ing back at the ac­tor’s re­cent tra­jec­tory, some­thing else jumps out. Since Tal­ladega Nights be­came a mega-hit four sum­mers ago, the ac­tor has had a num­ber of fail­ures and a num­ber of suc­cesses. But he hasn’t had any of them con­sec­u­tively.

His movies have es­sen­tially al­ter­nated at the box of­fice: Tal­ladega was a US$148mil (RM473mil) barn­stormer, then Stranger Than Fic­tion made a mod­est US$40mil (RM128mil). He came back with a tidy US$118mil (RM378mil) for Blades Of Glory, then sank with US$33mil (RM106mil) for Semi-Pro.

Step Broth­ers ush­ered in a come­back with a US$100mil (RM320mil) gross ... and then Land Of The Lost put him in Nowheresville again. Now he’s back on top with The Other Guys.

Statis­ti­cians may call this an anom­aly. When stars prac­tise a one-for-us-and-one­for-them ap­proach, al­ter­nat­ing box-of­fice re­sults make sense. But other than Fic­tion, all of these movies are stu­dio come­dies.

Yet in light of what ap­pears to be movie­go­ers’ pre­ferred way of watch­ing Fer­rell – in a cer­tain dosage, with an­other star on screen to ab­sorb some of the oxy­gen – the ev­ery-oth­eryear pat­tern makes a lot of sense. We still like see­ing him. Just not all the time. – Los An­ge­les Times/McClatchy-Tribune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices n TheOther­Guys opens in Malaysian cine­mas on Oct 14.

Odd cou­ple: Mark Wahlberg (left) and Will Fer­rell in TheOther­Guys.

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