On his Hollywood & Fine blog, Marshall Fine wrote an open letter to The Hangover‘s Zach Galifianakis urging him to stay focused and not be lured into starring in scripts that Seth Rogen, Jack Black, and Steve Carell turned down. It’s good advice, because Fine is right: Someone is going to want to turn him into a comedy commodity, and “Invariably, it leads the comedian to abandon his instincts — or compromise his vision — in pursuit of a massive payday. Or it leads the comic to believe that, in fact, his flatulence is vanilla-scented – and that every idea that comes to his mind or bursts from his lips is pure genius, deserving of the aforementioned buttload of cash.”
Fine then runs through the actors whose careers went off-course or are threatening to. Comedy is subjective, yes, but do you agree with his analysis? A few highlights:
• He says Chevy Chase “went on to an undistinguished movie career notable for its lack of memorable films (possible exceptions: National Lampoon’s Vacation and Caddyshack).” Since when are those films only possible exceptions?
• He says Dan Aykroyd never headlined a movie that didn’t costar Jim Belushi that was worth the price of admission: What about Ghost Busters, Spies Like Us, Dragnet, The Great Outdoors, and My Girl?
• He says good marketing is behind the success of Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, and Rob Schneider, as opposed to the quality of their movies. Maybe a little strong, but okay. “Each has dozens of titles on his filmography — and no more than three that you’d want to see at all, let alone more than once.” Definitely true for Schneider (who I’d rather remove from this conversation entirely) and Sandler (though I suspect that number is too low for even moderate fans). But I’m torn on Ferrell: Of the films he’s toplined, I’ll only sit through repeat viewings of Old School, Elf, and Anchorman, but that’s just because they don’t play Dick a lot on cable. While I was let down by Blades of Glory and Step Brothers, I don’t regret seeing them and I have watched certain scenes again…
• “The same thing is happening now to Steve Carell, Jack Black and Seth Rogen.” I concede that there’s a certain type of role that appeals to each of them, but I’m not ready to sound the alarm. At least not on Carell…
• “I find it dismaying when I read interviews with young comics who proclaim Sandler as their role model. I’ll give him props for films like Reign Over Me and Punch-Drunk Love — but little else on his resume. Sandler’s success is really what’s wrong with film comedy today.” To me, that last sentence refers to the fact that a funny man becomes a franchise in himself when the humor stays the same even as the roles change names (see also: Ferrell and his sports oeuvre.). Becoming a “comedy commodity” is risky: You do what you’re good at because it works and people love it, but the moment you cease to make us laugh, we call you a one-trick pony and suddenly, you’re someone whose films half of moviegoers have to see and the other half couldn’t be paid to watch.
Whose career do you think Galifianakis should model his after? Whose career would be your ideal for the comically gifted? (Do you think it’s any easier for guys like Paul Rudd, and now Bradley Cooper, who are closer to what audiences perceive as the traditional romantic leading man? Even if they’re able to avoid the self-franchise syndrome, they could still have to deal with romcom clichés?)