At some point this past summer, between all but consecutive viewings of The Dark Knight, I slipped into a screening of Step Brothers with the same tempered expectations with which I had greeted Blades of Glory and Semi-Pro -- and found myself equally surprised in the coming days and weeks and months by just how admittedly tickled I was by any of them (quoting lines was moderate on all counts). Mind you, I'm saying this as the guy who chuckled during Anchorman, sure, but not really enough to keep it on my shelf or call myself thankful for it.
That's nothing against our Eric D. Snider, and nothing against the star of each film mentioned, Will Ferrell (yes, he was actually Batman). In fact, with Step Brothers hitting shelves today (with reports of a wholly sung commentary track), it only seemed fitting that we go over his most amusing roles as overgrown man-children (Ferrell's, not Snider's). Because they're there, and they always will be, and the sooner that I admit to being vulnerable to his shtick, a better world this very well may be.
1. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
I'm not picking this as my first because of personal preference -- truth be told, I'm pretty sure that I haven't watched this all the way through since seeing it in theaters on a particularly bored afternoon (and if I do watch it again any time soon, it's due to my fondness for Steve Carell and full-blown man-crush on Paul Rudd, so there). No, this comes first because Ron Burgundy is the archetypal Will Ferrell dolt. The man'll read anything off a teleprompter, opt to drink milk of all things on a particularly hot day, say anything to win over a woman (according to him, San Diego is German for "whale's vagina"), and fail to mask any erection when he actually succeeds. Yep, Ron Burgundy is indeed the model for what it means to stay classy -- and the model for several other characters to come...
2. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
...specifically, this one. I mean, come on, this has the same star, director, even initials! Regardless, people turned out in droves to see this even more scattershot lark at the expense of NASCAR culture, and it makes equal rounds on frat-house shelves as Anchorman had. Have I seen it since theaters? No. Might I watch it again? Someday. Was Gary Cole the best thing in it? That much, I do recall. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and once again, Ferrell did blissful ignorance as only he quite could.
3. Old School (2003)
Yes, even before 2004, the first signs of Ron Burgundy and friends were apparent in the antics of beer-guzzling, streaking-prone Frank "The Tank" Ricard, who teams up with the equally disenfranchised Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn (speaking of shtick...) to open up a frat house filled with expectedly racuous shenanigans. Again, though, if anyone can take a tranquilizer dart in the neck point blank and proceed to stumble through a child's birthday bash like a curly-haired Gojira on 'ludes, it's Ferrell. (I'd like to think that his guidance counselor might've said the same thing once upon a time.)
4. A Night at the Roxbury (1998)
Yes, even before 2003, the first signs of Frank "The Tank" and company were apparent in the antics of Steve Butabi, brother to Doug (Chris Kattan, most recently known for dropping off the face of the planet) and every bit the equal club-hopping, babe-bopping maniac. And by babe-bopping, I naturally mean that Steve and Doug would often thrust girls between one another in a so-called dance before they fled in terror, not that they were bedroom macks, as revealed in one of the few funny gags I can recall to date when they finally do bed a hottie each and find themselves reacting violently to the new-to-them pleasures of a woman's touch.
5. Wedding Crashers (2005)
Chazz Reinhold, on the other hand, need not worry about how to please the ladies. Held in high regard by Vince Vaughn's character for crashing weddings first and foremost, it takes Owen Wilson to discover that this man of men lives with his mom -- from whom he demands meatloaf with a considerable temper -- and has taken to picking up dates at funerals instead (according to him, "grief is nature's most powerful aphrodisiac"; just picture those words coming out of Burgundy's mouth).
6. Elf (2003)
To date, if one's looking for family-friendly Ferrell, you have two options: the unsurprisingly shrill Kicking & Screaming, or the surprisingly sweet Elf, which wouldn't have worked without Ferrell's pitch-perfect performance of naivete as he travels from the North Pole, where he was raised by elves, to that magical land known as New York City (this must've been the movie that Enchanted reminded me of). He's all wide eyes and syrup on spaghetti, striking as much a wonderfully demented attitude as any of his other characters, yet with the vulgarities turned all the way down.
7. Blades of Glory (2007)
And last -- maybe even least -- is what is perhaps my personal favorite and thus not all that important really... Oh, you're still reading? Well, good then, because as much as he may resemble Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby and Brennan Huff and so many other characters, so-called "sex tornado on ice" Chazz Michael Michaels makes me giggle the most with his misguided machismo and constant harassment of the petite, effete Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder). Only he would name a best-selling book of poetry "Let Me Put My Poems in You", only he could love a hair brush more than any human baby, only he could believe that Louis Armstrong went to the moon and remains there to this day. (Okay, so any of his characters might do all of those things.) But the way he eagerly dismisses an American journalist as being "able to work the Google on the internet machine", or equally dismiss a Japanese journalist by claiming that whatever she's asking about must be "in the other room"... it's the little things, really. It's my kind of dumb comedy, and as his character might claim, Will Ferrell IS dumb comedy.