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Childish cliques are ruining American comedy

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Why Will Ferrell and co. are responsible for the out-of-touch ‘comedy’ currently filling our multiplexes.

Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller – these are all guys who clearly never got to play on the swings in the playground because the cool kids would hog them, and now they’re getting their own back by hogging an entire industry. Take Will Ferrell, for example. Hear his name and most people will instantly think “comedy legend”, known for his classic appearances on Saturday Night Live and, of course, Anchorman, his best-known work. But how legendary is he really?

Anchorman 2 was childishly stupid, embarrassingly self-indulgent and callous to the point of being genuinely offensive

Many went into Anchorman’s long-awaited sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, expecting good things. In reality, the film was childishly stupid, embarrassingly self-indulgent and callous to the point of being genuinely offensive – I was 100% ready to walk out after the first hour. Apart from the odd clever moment in the film’s first act, Anchorman 2 was mainly comprised of the sort of obvious, unthinking slapstick that would make even James Corden cringe. After the first 45 minutes, the film was mainly pointless shouting and silly noises.

Awkward comedy, when done properly, is absolute genius. But Anchorman 2 was less Ricky Gervais in The Office and more your mum, after one too many G&Ts, laughing at her own slightly racist jokes, then tripping up and having a sparkly dildo fall out of her purse in front of all your mates at your 18th birthday party. It was embarrassingly out-of-touch and, at times, painfully hard to watch. Take, for example, the first time that Ron Burgundy and the gang are introduced to the head of the cable news station, who happens to be an African-American female. Wow – unusually progressive casting for Hollywood, you might think. But Ron just stands there muttering “black… black… black… black…” Is this still 2014?

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Those defending Ferrell might say that the film was set in the 70s, when a white man would have been shocked to have a black woman as a boss, but this joke is nowhere near subtle enough to be classed as satire. At any rate, the Austin Powers films, set in the 60s and 70s, never stoop to obvious racial humour. Anchorman 2’s “black” ‘joke’ was even stolen from Goldmember (moley moley moley), but completely ruined by Ferrell’s antiquated and damaging humour.

The distinctly average Ferrell is raking in more cash per film than most of us will earn in a lifetime

Of course, not happy with degrading Meagan Good for being the only non-white lead in the entire film, Will Ferrell (along with director Adam McKay) also had to make her character an aggressive sexual predator, because what other kind of woman could rise to a position of power like she has, right? For Ferrell to use his huge platform in this way is seriously disgraceful. Ferrell himself, meanwhile, offered barely anything to what was already a pretty shitty film.

But maybe we should cut Will some slack? It must have been a lot of pressure following the success of the first film, right? He’s done loads of other good stuff, after all… Actually, a short look at Ferrell’s comedic history makes it clear that he really hasn’t. In fact, he’s only acted in one feature-length, adult audience comedy since Anchorman in 2004 that’s received much of any kind of critical acclaim. And yet, Will Ferrell seems to be increasingly in demand. He’s currently involved in three more upcoming Hollywood films, and will most likely continue to be cast in major roles for some years to come. This distinctly average comedian is raking in more cash per film than most of us will earn in a lifetime.

An alternative opinion: Anchorman 2 is a comedy sequel done right

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In 2010, Ferrell made the top spot on Forbes’ most overpaid actors; he also made the top ten in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. No doubt he’ll make the 2014 list as well, after the box office flop of Anchorman 2. Ferrell is the prime example of a massive problem in Hollywood. It seems like the whole comedy scene has deteriorated into one big circle jerk, where rich white dudes get together, smoke weed and spend millions of dollars turning their moronic, stoned ideas into overly-produced 90-minute doses of dross and nonsense for poor punters all around the world to waste their money on.

The world is full of young, talented comics who just don’t have the keys to this childish, self-preserving little club

That’s not to say that the aforementioned comedians and their peers aren’t talented – they’ve all made excellent movies in the past – but no one can deny that Hollywood comedy has taken a massive downturn in recent years, and this culture is particularly to blame. The world is full of young, talented comics who just don’t have the keys to this childish, self-preserving little club. Until Hollywood starts investing in new talent, expect to see a continued churning-out of more of the same unfunny, out-of-touch tripe as Anchorman 2.

 

More on comedy: The evolution of Michael Cera, typecast comic

 

All images: Paramount

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