Carell is one of Hollywood's most consistent stars. Having honed his craft at Chicago's Second City -- and then on "The Daily Show" -- Steve succeeds by hiding his comedy behind a straight man's facade. He's part of a new breed who leads with naiveté and sweetness instead of the bulging muscles of the '80s and '90s (hi, Ah-nuld!), or the absurd, one-dimensional roles of the aughts (ahem, Adam Sandler). Although many of his characters endure suffering or feel "unlucky in love," what makes Carell so watchable is his perseverance. He's hurt, but he'll heal. He gets down, but he never gets out. It's predictable, but it's comfortable.
With "Seeking a Friend" hitting theaters this Friday, let's take a look at Carell's best lovable loser roles.
Phil Foster in 'Date Night' (2010)
In "Dinner for Schmucks," Carell worked for the IRS. In "40-Year-Old Virgin," he worked in an electronics store. Here, he plays Phil Foster, a tax lawyer in an unfulfilling marriage. Yes, Steve's characters may hold dull jobs, but they're always given a chance to grasp a better, more interesting life. Phil in "Date Night" is no different, as he goes on an unexpected adventure with his wife, Claire.
Cal Weaver in 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' (2011)
Carell plays Cal Weaver, whose wife cheats on him and asks for a divorce. However, their failing marriage isn't victimless: Emily (Julianne Moore) may have been unfaithful, but Cal had grown complacent with their relationship; they're not equal sins, but it's a slippery slope. We laugh when Emily asks for a divorce for dessert, but we empathize as Cal internalizes his own faults.
Brick Tamland in 'Anchorman' (2004)
As the weatherman for Ron Burgundy's legendary San DIego news team, Brick Tamland is earnest, oblivious, idiotic and unable to pull off sexual innuendo (see: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFSWsKiWNBc" target="_hplink">pants party invitations</a>). There isn't much arc for Carell to work with here, but he owns the few lines he has, which are some of the best non-Burgundian quotes from the film.
Andy in 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin' (2005)
Carell's break-out role remains his simplest and sweetest. While conceit drew us in, it's Steve as the awkward, nebbish Andy, with curious hobbies and an embarrassing sexual situation, that won us over. What separates this film from similarly themed teen comedies is a fundamental lack of desperation and no ticking clock of prom night; Andy is just a man fully aware that he may have missed his window. We cheer him on because he sticks to being sincere (which, in the end, helps him lose his virginity).
Dan in 'Dan in Real Life' (2007)
It's not fun to imagine the sweet, charming girl you've fallen in love with to be in a relationship with Dane Cook. Nevertheless, Carell's Dan handles it admirably.
Evan in 'Evan Almighty' (2007)
Lost amidst the news of this being the most expensive comedy ever is Carell's stoic performance as Evan. After following God's (Morgan Freeman's) commands, Evan must deal with the doubts of his wife (Lauren Graham) and family over an impending flood. It would be easy to lose sight of the personal story amidst this biblical comedy (and that manly beard), but Carell manages to lend heart to an otherwise uneven flick.
Barry in 'Dinner for Schmucks' (2010)
Even in Barry, one of Carell's more eccentric roles (a mousey man whose hobby is making mice dioramas, or "mousterpieces"), there is a grounded humanity. Despite Barry's comedic moments, which are full of destructive clumsiness, there is a method to his madness, one made painfully clear when we see the mice diorama that depicts his mouse-wife in bed with another man, and mouse-Barry eating alone. Though Barry's been cheated on, the character in Carell's hands is not a pathetic loser. Instead, he's one sweetly hoping for another chance.
Frank Ginsberg in 'Little Miss Sunshine' (2006)
In a role meant for Bill Murray</a>, Carell gets the ball rolling on one of the sweetest endings in recent movie history. Here, he plays Frank, a gay scholar of French author Marcel Proust, who has just attempted suicide. Eventually, Frank runs into his ex-boyfriend who left him for Frank's chief academic rival. Thankfully, consecutive slaps in the face don't keep him from giving an inspirational talk to the deeply depressed Dwayne (Paul Dano). <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/23/movies/MoviesFeatures/23sund.html?_r=3&" target="_hplink">