The Films of Adam McKay
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (May 24/12)
Incredibly silly yet often hilarious, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy follows a 1970s news team (Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy, Paul Rudd's Brian Fantana, David Koechner's Champ Kind, and Steve Carell's Brick Tamland) as they're forced to contend with the presence of a woman (Christina Applegate's Veronica Corningstone) in their ranks. Director Adam McKay, working from a script cowritten with Ferrell, has infused Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy with a freewheeling sensibility that, generally speaking, proves impossible to resist, with the uniformly charismatic work from the four leads heightening the movie's pervasively affable atmosphere. (It's not surprising to note, then, that the film fares best in its newsroom-based sequences, as such moments are rife with quotable, laugh-out-loud funny bits of comedy.) There's little doubt, however, that the movie's momentum takes a palpable hit with the introduction of Applegate's energy-draining character, with the actress' less-than-engaging performance - ie she seems to be struggling to keep up with her razor-sharp costars - resulting in a number of lags within the decidedly erratic midsection (eg a long, tedious sequence in which Ron and Veronica head out on a date). It's just as clear that Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy demonstrably bounces back after the title character experiences a series of setbacks (eg his dog is thrown off a bridge, he loses his job, etc, etc), with the ensuingly engaging third act essentially (and effectively) compensating for the lackluster stretch that precedes it - which ultimately cements the film's place as a hit-and-miss (but mostly hit) comedy that boasts an impressive number of memorable lines and gags (eg "60% of the time, it works every time!")
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (July 31/06)
Like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell's previous collaboration with filmmaker Adam McKay, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby's few genuinely funny bits are wrapped up in an incredibly tedious, thoroughly predictable storyline. And although the movie is entertaining for a while - something that can be primarily attributed to the off-kilter yet engaging supporting performances - it's not long before the leaden pace and egregiously familiar plot bring the proceedings to a dead halt. Ferrell stars as Ricky Bobby, an egomaniacal Nascar driver who finds his dominance of the sport threatened by a French import named Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen). Things go from bad to worse after Ricky is involved in a disastrous crash that leaves him unable to race, and his wife (Leslie Bibb) dumps him for his best friend (John C. Reilly). As expected, Ricky must put aside his hubris and stage a comeback to reclaim his place of glory. Talladega Nights subjects Ricky Bobby to virtually the same arc as his Anchorman counterpart Ron Burgundy, right down to the public humiliation and brief stint at rock bottom. And while nobody would ever expect a silly comedy to possess an entirely fresh storyline, one can't help but lament McKay and Ferrell's (both of whom are credited with the film's screenplay) decision to essentially carbon-copy Anchorman's structure. It is subsequently exceedingly easy to focus on Talladega Nights' various deficiencies, particularly in its plot-heavy and strangely dramatic midsection. That being said, Ferrell remains a charming and engaging figure, and the actor is - more often than not - able to wring laughs out of even the most hackneyed situation. That he's been surrounded by undeniably talented folks such as Gary Cole, Amy Adams, and John C. Reilly (the latter of whom deserves some kind of an award for his gleefully irreverent performance) ensures that the film is never entirely flat-out boring, although there's simply no getting around the pervading feeling of mediocrity that's been hard-wired into the proceedings.
There's little doubt that Step Brothers, the third collaboration between director Adam McKay and star Will Ferrell, instantly establishes itself as a far more comedic and flat-out entertaining piece of work than predecessors Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, as the movie has been infused with an unapologetically broad, gleefully silly sensibility that ultimately proves impossible to resist. The exceedingly thin storyline - which details the rivalry that ensues between two grown men (Ferrell's Brennan and John C. Reilly's Dale) after their parents marry and move in together - is primarily used as a clothesline for a series of increasingly zany interludes, with the majority of such initially revolving around Brennan and Dale's mean-spirited pranks on one another (ie Brennan attempts to bury Dale alive). And while there's little doubt that Ferrell and Reilly's gleefully absurd work plays a significant role in the movie's success, it's just as clear that the unusually strong supporting cast - which includes, among others, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, and Adam Scott - effectively sets Step Brothers apart from the majority of its Ferrell-centric brethren. Having said that, the film does suffer from a loss of momentum as it approaches the one-hour mark - with the inclusion of a few eye-rolling predictable and downright melodramatic elements (ie two fake break-ups) certainly proving a test to one's patience. Still, it's impossible to deny that Step Brothers primarily comes off as an agreeable (if almost relentlessly ridiculous) endeavor whose unexpectedly high joke-to-laugh ratio buoys it through its overtly ineffective stretches.