Two actors in search of a good movie
Opening this weekend, buddy-cop action-comedy The Other Guys stars a pair of actors caught in a mid-career slump. Though Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell haven't appeared in a movie together before this, the two stars have a few things in common: both arrived on the big screen after successful careers elsewhere (Wahlberg as a pop star in Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Ferrell as a comedian and Saturday Night Live cast member), and both produce shows for HBO (Wahlberg's Entourage and How to Make It in America, Ferrell's Eastbound and Down).
Of greater concern is the fact that neither actor has made a good movie in years. Wahlberg's last positively-reviewed movie was 2006's The Departed, which is also the last time that one of his movies grossed more than $100 million. Ferrell, meanwhile, has experienced both box office success and major flops in recent years, but his last three movies (Semi-Pro, Step Brothers, Land of the Lost) have been critical duds. And both actors are a bit outside of their comfort zones in The Other Guys; Ferrell generally doesn't do a whole lot of action (admittedly, neither does his character), while Wahlberg has yet to star in a well-reviewed comedy (we loved I Heart Huckabees, but many critics didn't).
The career numbers for both actors up to this point are surprisingly similar. Unlike Ferrell, Wahlberg has a few especially strong films on his resume -- a result of working with directors like Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, and David O. Russell -- but both stars have appeared in far too many middling films, as you can see below. Note that many of Ferrell's most memorable big-screen appearances have come in cameo roles (including in Austin Powers and Wedding Crashers) that are not included in the stats.
|Will Ferrell||Mark Wahlberg|
|Avg. Metascore (All Films) *||21 movies, 50 average||24 movies, 55 average|
|Avg. User Score||20 movies, 7.4 average||22 movies, 6.7 average|
|Avg. Metascore (Last 5 Films)||52 average in 5 films since 2006||45 average in 5 films since 2007|
|Box Office Performance|
|Avg. Box Office Gross||$53.6 million||$52.9 million|
|Avg. Opening Weekend||$19.1 million||$19.2 million|
|Biggest Hit||Elf (2003) 64
Gross: $173.4 million
|The Perfect Storm (2000) 59
Gross: $182.6 million
|Biggest Flop||Land of the Lost (2009) 32
Gross: $49.4 million (Budget: $100m)
|Rock Star (2001) 54
Gross: $17.0 million (Budget: $52m)
|Movie Quality Breakdown|
|# Great||0||3 (13%)|
|# Good||7 (33%)||2 (8%)|
|# Mediocre||9 (43%)||16 (67%)|
|# Bad||5 (24%)||3 (13%)|
|1||Stranger Than Fiction||2006||67||7.9|
|"Stranger Than Fiction may not be the typical crowd-pleaser, but it's a sweet, funny, intelligent film that showcases just how much Ferrell can do, even when he's doing less."
-- Connie Ogle, Miami Herald
|A textbook example of a comedian successfully expanding his range, Marc Forster's quirky conceptual dramedy finds Ferrell playing an IRS agent who discovers that he is a character in a novel. While some critics felt the film was an inferior take on Charlie Kaufman-style inventiveness, nearly everyone praised Ferrell's atypically low-key performance.|
|2||Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby||2006||66||6.1|
|"Ferrell reminds the audience of why he matters: because he's the loudest, driest, and most fearless comic actor working."
-- Robert Wilonsky, Village Voice
|While Ron Burgundy may be Ferrell's most iconic big-screen role, this NASCAR-themed comedy from the same creative team behind Anchorman 63 received slightly better reviews and was a bigger box office hit, earning nearly $150 million. Writer-director Adam McKay would re-team with Ferrell for the disappointing Step Brothers 51 in 2008, as well as this week's The Other Guys.|
|"Ferrell strides through Elf like a crazily cheerful wind-up toy: arms swinging, legs stiff, mouth fixed in an impossibly happy grin, eyes wide with wonder. He's the Christmas gift nobody thought to ask for but everybody will want to play with. "
-- Lawrence Toppman, Charlotte Observer
|The first film to establish Ferrell as a box office draw -- and still his highest-grossing film to date -- is this Jon Favreau-directed holiday comedy that finds the comedian playing a naive man raised by Santa's helpers who goes in search of his biological father in Manhattan.|
|1||A Night at the Roxbury||1998||26||8.9|
|"Steve and Doug's story just isn't funny, and it would take far better writing than Kattan, Ferrell and Steve Koren can muster to make it less than an ordeal."
-- Sandra Contreras, TV Guide
|Ferrell's first starring role on the big screen is also his worst. Based on a series of Saturday Night Live sketches featuring Ferrell, Chris Kattan, and a series of rotating guest stars (who arguably were the best part of each sketch) spending a night at a club, this big-screen bomb wasn't necessarily any worse than the many other SNL-based films before or since. In fact, if we include his supporting roles, Ferrell's lowest-scoring movie is the SNL-inspired The Ladies Man 22, starring Tim Meadows.|
|2||Land of the Lost||2009||32||5.0|
|"Lame sketch comedy, an uninspired performance from Will Ferrell and an overall failure of the imagination turn Brad Silberling's Land of the Lost into a lethargic meander through a wilderness of misfiring gags."
-- Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
|A huge financial and critical misfire, this remake/parody of the Sid and Marty Krofft children's series from the 1970s didn't appeal to moviegoers of any age group, while Ferrell's lackluster performance (which earned him a Razzie nomination) didn't help matters.|
|"Oh, let’s just cut to the chase here: What the hell is Will Ferrell doing to his career?"
-- Ken Tucker, New York Magazine
|Yet another bad Ferrell film with its roots in television, Nora Ephron's reimagining of the '60s sitcom was hampered by an unnecessarily convoluted premise and a lack of on-screen chemistry between the comedian and his miscast co-star, Nicole Kidman.|
|"Wahlberg -- a charismatic, always underrated natural -- digs into his own Mean Beantown Streets background and comes up with surprising fury."
-- Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
|Sharing screen time in Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning drama with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin, and Jack Nicholson, Wahlberg still managed to stand out; his supporting performance earned him an Academy Award nomination, among other honors. A sequel centering on Wahlberg's character is in the early stages of development.|
|"The movie's special gift happens to be Mark Wahlberg, who gives a terrifically appealing performance in this tricky role."
-- Janet Maslin, The New York Times
|Wahlberg's breakthrough role came in Paul Thomas Anderson's exhilarating epic about the rise and fall of a young porn star -- and the L.A. adult film industry in general -- during the 1970s and '80s. It was only the actor's second leading role (after the 1996 thriller Fear 51), but Wahlberg's lack of experience isn't evident in his memorable performance as Dirk Diggler.|
|"It's like a madly inventive hybrid of 'Dr. Strangelove' and 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.'"
-- Robert Horton, Film.com
|David O. Russell's Gulf War satire is a faultless blend of comedy, action, style, and intelligence. Playing an American soldier stationed in Iraq in 1991, Wahlberg is one of three leads in a strong cast that also features George Clooney, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze.|
|1||The Big Hit||1998||31||5.6|
|"That rarest of all genre hybrids, the screwball-romantic-action-situation-black comedy. Rare for good reason. Who'd want to see a thing like that?"
-- Jack Mathews, Los Angeles Times
|The title doesn't refer to the film's success at the box office (of which there was little), but rather to Wahlberg's role -- that of a hit man with a heart of gold who hatches a kidnapping scheme to raise money. A hyperactive Hong Kong-style action-comedy, Hit was a miss for most critics.|
|"The role requires Wahlberg to run the gamut of emotions from A to A."
-- Jim Ridley, LA Weekly
|Just as Will Ferrell never could accomplish the improbable -- a good film based on an SNL sketch -- Wahlberg failed to achieve the impossible: a good film based on a videogame. While stylish, this poorly written film (based on the 2001 game) about a revenge-seeking NYPD cop also boasts one of Wahlberg's least impressive performances -- not that there was much anyone could have done with his underdeveloped role.|
|"Wahlberg turns in one of his worst performances ever, but then he's saddled with preposterous scenes."
-- Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader
|Wahlberg had the misfortune of starring for M. Night Shyamalan at the wrong end of the director's fading career, though he did himself no favors with a mostly panned performance that was overshadowed (undershadowed?) only by Zooey Deschanel's even less believable star turn.|
What do you think?
Which Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg films have you enjoyed? Does The Other Guys look any good to you? Let us know in the comments section below.