Man of the Year 2006

The Nominees

Steve Carell

2005’s man of the year started 2006 with a bang at the Golden Globes. Not only did he win the award for Best Actor in a TV Series - Comedy, his riotous acceptance speech won praise from fans and critics alike. The Office continued to win new fans in 2006, especially with a better slot on Thursday evenings. Steve’s acting chops were in fine form throughout the series, especially during the season finale episode that was also written by him. Season Three of The Office started in the fall and the ratings have never been better. Though he lost the Emmy, Steve is nominated for another Golden Globe for his role in the show.

Steve’s film projects were diverse and acclaimed. He was a hit as Hammy the Squirrel in the summer animated hit, Over the Hedge. Later in the summer, Steve’s indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine opened to rave reviews. The film had made a splash at Sundance earlier in the year and then became the summer’s sleeper hit, eventually pulling in $60 million. Steve took the tricky role as a suicidal, gay Proust scholar in the ensemble comedy. He received very good reviews for his performance and the film ended up on my critics best movies lists.

Between filming episodes of The Office, Steve found time to star in two movies coming in 2007. Early in the year, he filmed the family blockbuster Evan Almighty, a sequel to his breakthrough film role in Bruce Almighty. Late in the year, Steve spent time in New England filming Dan in Real Life, coming to theaters later in 2007. He also lined up a role in the Get Smart remake, slated to begin filming early in 2007.

Luke Wilson

For Luke Wilson, it was the best of times and the worst of times. We began the year anticipating a theatrical release of Luke’s writing/directing debut The Wendell Baker Story. Unfortunately, the film did not receive a release outside a few film festivals and DVD releases in some European markets. During the summer, Luke appeared in the indie black comedyMini’s First Time. Though the film costarred Alec Baldwin and Carrie Anne Moss, the film did not play beyond a limited release in New York and Los Angeles. Luke did a good job in a supporting role as a homicide detective and the film is now available on DVD.

There was further release drama with another long-anticipated film, Idiocracy. The satirical comedy had been set for a release in 2005 and was rescheduled for a late summer 2006 release. But as the release date approached, fans were mystified there was no movie trailer, official website, or movie poster issued. Then Fox decided to open the movie on only 130 screens in just seven cities. Despite very good reviews, the movie did poorly. The DVD is set for an early January 2007 release.

Luke’s mainstream summer comedy, My Super-Ex Girlfriend was also a mixed bag. The movie was actually released on time with a reasonable marketing budget. And the concept seemed timely, combining super-hero and romantic break-up themes that had already been popular with audiences earlier in the summer. Unfortunately, there was poor chemistry with costar Uma Thurman, a weak third act, and only so-so worldwide box office returns. However, Luke’s deft timing kept the movie’s comedic moments coming at a steady pace and he was clearly the best part of the movie.

Brother Owen joined Luke to present an award together at the Oscars this year. Luke also appeared briefly in Jackass 2 and in the kid picture Hoot, then flirted with appearing in the remake of the Dallas TV series. Fortunately, Luke left the project and is currently filming horror picture Vacancy with Kate Beckinsale. Those in the know are also looking forward to his cameo in Will Ferrell’s 2007 figure skating comedy, Blades of Glory.

Ben Stiller

The Frat Pack’s “Mr. Cameo” kept the trend going in numerous ways during 2006. He was Emmy nominated for a self-parody performance on Ricky Gervais’ Extras TV series. More notably, he had a small but hilarious role in Todd Phillips’ first feature since Starsky & HutchSchool for Scoundrels. His appearance was even proclaimed loudly and prominently in the movie’s trailers and commercials. Unfortunately, Ben’s small role was the best thing in the movie and it did poorly in theaters.

Ben was involved as a producer as well. He produced Jack Black’s breakthrough Frat Pack film, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny and also cameoed in a small but pivotal role. He is also producing Blades of Glory though at this time is not scheduled to appear in the film.

He ended the year with another blockbuster comedy, Night at the Museum. The movie combined Ben’s frantic comedic sensibilities with a family-friendly theme of a living museum. The movie featured spectacular special effects, foreshadowed by Ben’s hilarious presentation of the Best Special Effects Oscar earlier in the year. As with his previous holiday hit, Meet the Fockers, Ben again enlisted a veritable who’s who of comedic legends for the film. First and foremost, Ben found a great role and had great on-screen chemistry with his friend Owen Wilson. Ben played well with Robin Williams, who’s restrained performance warmed hearts, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Ricky Gervais. He even found a small role for Frat Pack Friend Paul Rudd.

2007 will find Ben’s reunion with the Farrelly Brothers, The Heartbreak Kid, being released in the fall. He is also producing his wife Christine Taylor’s new semi-autobiographical TV series and is expected to appear frequently as her husband.

Vince Vaughn

Two-time Man of the Year runner-up Vince Vaughn had another strong year in 2006. His anti-romantic comedy The Break-Up featured numerous friends in supporting roles and the movie costarring girlfriend Jennifer Aniston did well at the box office, grossing over $115 in North America. Vince was hilarious with friends Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, and Peter Billingsley but also reminded audiences of his dramatic range in effective scenes with Aniston and Vincent D’Onofrio. Though some were disappointed by the movie’s misleading marketing campaign, the “anti-romantic comedy” movie turned out just as Vince had intended as the films producer and cowriter.

Of course, the spotlight shined bright on Vince and Jennifer throughout the year. But the pressure seemed to take it’s toll and late in the year the two jointly announced they had ended their relationship. In 2007, Vince will appear in the holiday comedy, Fred Claus, and the drama Into the Wild. A documentary of his Wild West Comedy Show stage show will be released in theaters as well.

Though Steve, Luke, Ben and Vince had fine years, three Frat Pack members stood above the rest.

The Runners-Up

Jack Black

2006 saw the release of Jack’s long-awaited and hilarious Frat Pack film, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny. The musical farce chronicled the “true story” of Jack’s band, Tenacious D. Jack’s chemistry with bandmate and fellow comedian Kyle Gass was in great form in the movie that featured new Tenacious D songs. The movie’s soundtrack debuted in Top 10, and featured cameos from Ben Stiller, Tim Robbins, Amy Poehler, Meat Loaf, and Ronnie James Dio. While the band’s tour played to sold-out crowds, the movie tanked at the box office, bringing in less than $9 million. Still, Frat Pack fans saw this as the first successful starring role in a Frat Pack film for Jack.

Earlier in the year, Jack’s quirky summer wrestling comedy Nacho Libre did muscular business - eventually topping $80 million. This kid-friendly tale of a Mexican friar continued Jack’s appeal amongst younger audiences. Jack ended the year in the romantic comedy The Holiday that performed well at the worldwide box office. Both The Holiday and Nacho Libre featured a more mellower Jack compared to his Tenacious D or School of Rock persona.

There are several intriguing projects on Jack’s plate for 2007, including Michel Gondry’s comedy Be Kind Rewind and an untitled Noah Baumbach comedy/drama (opposite Nicole Kidman).

Owen Wilson

It’s hard to objectively describe why Owen Wilson is a runner-up this year. Following 2005’s monster hit Wedding Crashers, many felt disappointed by the content and box office of Owen’s summer comedy You, Me and Dupree. The movie made about $75 million domestically and some felt Owen’s immature schtick was getting old. But in many ways, Dupree had the best “Frat Pack Sensibility” of any film released in 2006. The familiar themes of male bonding and growing up are present, as were Frat Pack Friends Seth Rogen and Lance Armstrong. The film’s biggest flaw was stiff costar Matt Dillon, who left audiences wanting someone with better comedic chops (think: Ben Stiller or Luke Wilson). Still, let’s not feel too bad for the Butterscotch Stallion, who landed his soul’s perfect counterpoint by romancing costar Kate Hudson.

Owen anchored another summer comedy but this one was a big hit: Cars. The animated tale featured Owen as the voice of the lead character, Lightning McQueen. Owen even came up with the film’s catch phrase, “Ka-chow!” The film was warmly received by audiences and critics.

And that might have been all she wrote as it applied to Owen Wilson in 2006. But he made a big impact with a (literally) small role in Night at the Museum. His role as miniature cowboy Jedidiah received good notices and Owen provided most of the adult-friendly jokes in the family box office champ. Steve Coogan, who had worked with Owen in Around the World in 80 Days, was Owen’s main costar and the two were amongst the most popular with audiences. Nobody made me smile more than Owen Wilson in 2006.

It’s hard to say what Owen’s 2007 will look like. He’s currently filming the comedy Drillbit Taylor, from a script by Seth Rogen, and Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited. Those films are scheduled for release late in 2007.

The Frat Pack Tribute Man of the Year for 2006 is…

Will Ferrell

2006 did not start well for Will. He failed to win the Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actor (from The Producers). His supporting role in the quirky independent drama Winter Passing went largely unnoticed as the film was released in few theaters and in just a few markets. The film grossed $100,000 in total (no, that’s not a typo). Later, a false press release was issue indicating that Will had died in a paragliding accident; it was later revealed to be a hoax. Will’s bad luck continued at The Oscars. Although he and Steve Carell were hilarious in presenting the Best Make-Up award, the show misspelled his name.

Things looked up with Will’s next movie, Curious George. The animated tale based on the children’s book series featured Will as The Man in the Yellow Hat, and even gave him a name (Ted) and a love interest (voiced by Drew Barrymore). The movie performed modestly in theaters. But this was just the setup for Will’s knockout punches later in the year.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby roared into theaters in August and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. The movie opened at number one and eventually made more than $130 million and became one of the year’s biggest hits. Audiences familiar with Anchorman found similar themes and the movie was designated as the second part of a trilogy of films that Will and co-writer and director Adam McKay called the “Mediocre American Man Trilogy.” The Ricky Bobby character combined elements of Will’s George W. Bush impersonation and previous characters to create an arrogant but lovable racing hero. The film’s car race scenes were exciting, as was Will’s chemistry with new Frat Pack Friends John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen. Talladega also featured familiar faces Jane Lynch, Gary Cole, David Koechner, and Molly Shannon. The film’s improv style of filmmaking was probably best showcased by Ricky Bobby’s sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, who were fed comedy gold by McKay, Ferrell, and Reilly. The experience working with Reilly has led McKay to announce a new 2007 project where Reilly and Ferrell will play Step Brothers.

Will finished the year on a strong note with his Golden Globe nominated role in the comedy/drama Stranger Than Fiction. Playing against type as a mild-mannered tax accountant, Will’s character Harold Crick was challenged by a novelist narrating his life. But he also found love and meaning in life. The film featured a veritable who’s who of Oscar-cailber performers: Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah, and Tom Hulce. Will not only held his own in the movie, he was the steady center of the quirky fantasy. The film did modest business, the reviews were quite strong, and Will’s performance received credible Oscar buzz.

Will’s singing was on fine display as he sang to hilarious effect at The ESPYs (serenading Lance Armstrong), The Megan Mullally Show, and Late Show with David Letterman. He was also GQ’s Man of the Year. In 2007, audiences are anticipating Will’s return to sports comedy, Blades of Glory (figure skating) and Semi-Pro (1970’s ABA Basketball).

Unlike anyone else in the Frat Pack, Will Ferrell starred in both a critically acclaimed film as well as a popular Frat Pack classic. Despite his comments that the Frat Pack does not exist, we must acknowledge Will’s exemplary body of work in 2006. He is the Frat Pack Man of the Year.

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