Man of the Year 2013
By Kevin Crossman, Senior Editor
It’s been ten years since the release of Old School and when the Frat Pack really came together as observable, ongoing series of costarring roles amongst a group of talent actors. And while the group of actors and their costars have had their ups and downs over the years, it was clear that 2013 featured nostalgia not just from the fans but from the actors themselves. In other words, with few exceptions there was not new ground broken but instead and opportunity to regroup.
If we’re looking at who had a great year in 2013, we must acknowledge that the top comedy start wasn’t anyone associated with The Frat Pack or Team Apatow or Happy Madison, and wasn’t even a man. Melissa McCarthy had two monster hits with Identity Thief and The Heat, along with a memorable cameo in The Hangover Part III. Where you used to turn to Vaughn or Stiller for a reliable box office star, it must be acknowledged that right now anyway your go-to comedy star is Melissa McCarthy.
Not a Good Year
Luke Wilson appeared on the HBO series Enlightened and despite “costar” status was really MIA for most of the season except for a powerful episode focusing on the drug addition by Wilson’s character. It was by far the highlight of the series and one of Wilson’s best performances to date. Early reports indicated that Wilson would appear in the Anchorman sequel but that did not come to pass. Expect to see more of Wilson in 2014 with The Skeleton Twins with Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, and Ride with Helen Hunt.
The Hangover crew returned for a final installment that disappointed basically everyone. Does anyone even remember this film? There were few surprises and a lot of jokes that were variants from the first two films, though some of the Mr. Chow material with Ken Jeong was amusing. Director Todd Phillips continues to have good eye behind the camera but needs fresh start on the writing department. Ed Helms had a plum extended cameo in We’re The Millers, and Bradley Cooper is once again a part of the awards discussion with a powerful performance in American Hustle. Zach Gailifianakis‘ costarring role with Owen Wilson in You Are Here wasn’t well-received when it screened at festivals.
Good, but not Great Years
One of the biggest comedy hits this year was We’re the Millers, directed by Dodgeball helmer Rawson Marshall Thurber and starring Frat Pack friends Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston. The film had a Vacation vibe and some great supporting performances from Kathryn Hahn, Nick Offerman, and Will Poulter.
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn tried to bring the old Wedding Crashers magic back to the big screen with the Google-inspired The Internship. Unfortunately, audiences weren’t receptive to Wilson and Vaughn in a PG-13 context, and were distracted by “product placement” to see there was actually an interesting lesson about technology and business in the film. I enjoyed the film, but let’s face it - this wasn’t a classic. Vaughn’s attempt at a heartwarming comedy with Delivery Man won accolates by some critics but audiences weren’t interested.
Finally coming to theaters was Ben Stiller’s long planned passion project, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The film featured social commentary as well as fantastical elements and landed on Christmas with a, well, not really thud per se, but not really the rave reviews that met Stiller’s last directorial effort Tropic Thunder. Costar Kristen Wiig was featured as an object of affection in a much more effective way than in Wiig’s other holiday film, Anchorman 2. Mitty won raves by some reviewers but overall was met with mixed reviews. International box office seems to be moving the film out of “flop” territory and into “even money” status. Earlier in the year, Stiller appeared in the second season of the web series Burning Love that comes from his production company. For 2014, the gang is getting back together as Ben Stiller will be shooting Night at the Museum 3 for a holiday release.
Jason Bateman was seen on the really-small screen when Arrested Development returned as a Netflix exclusive. The critical darling was met with mixed reviews but Bateman did garner an Emmy nod. On the big-screen, Bateman’s effective pairing with Melissa McCarthy powered Identity Thief past $100 million. Bateman’s slow burn opposite the outrageous McCarthy seemed like a fresh take on the buddy roadtrip comedy. Bateman also won raves for his directorial debut Bad Words, set for release in 2014. He also has Horrible Bosses 2 and Shawn Levy’s This is Where I Leave You with Tina Fey coming up in 2014.
Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride were key players in the summer’s most outrageous ensemble comedy, This is The End. Rogen directed for the first time, with frequent writing partner Evan Goldberg, and finally seems to have shaken the desire to appeal to PG-13 audiences. The modestly-budgeted film about the end of the world allowed the actors to play exaggerated versions of themselves and to satirize their public personas. The film was a big hit and Rogen and James Franco reteamed to film The Interview for a 2014 release.
Key in delivering the concept in This is The End was Jonah Hill who was portrayed as an insincere egotist (something cemented in the minds of Rolling Stone readers after Hill’s disastrous interview). Of course, Hill did deserve award acoolates with a fearless performance as a drugged-out stockbroker in The Wolf of Wall Street. Meanwhile, Danny McBride got off one-liner after one-liner in This is The End and participated with James Franco in one of the film’s signature improvosational riffs. McBride was also seen for one last season as Kenny Powers on HBO’s Eastbound & Down. The final season was one of the series’ strongest with a killer storyline about sports media and brought on Ken Marino for a juicy role as Powers’ adversary.
The Frat Pack’s everyman Steve Carell had a strong year with three films in release. The spring release The Incredible Burt Wonderstone returned Carell to costar with Jim Carrey and Alan Arkin and featured Carell as an egotistical Vegas magician. The film didn’t make magic at the box office and clearly had story issues but I for one was a fan of the film. Next for Carell was an unexpected turn as a borderline abusive stepfather figure in the indie comedy The Way Way Back. Here Carell played against type and won raves in a supporting role about a family spending a summer in a resort town. The ensemble film featured familar faces such as Sam Rockwell, Rob Corddry, Maya Rudolph and Toni Collette. Carell also toplined the massive animated hit Despicable Me 2, which was the highest grossing animated film of the year.
Finally for Carell was an expanded supporting role in the Anchorman sequel where he returned as the mentally challenged weatherman Brick Tamland. Writers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell carved out a love story subplot featuring Tamland and a coworker played with weird gusto by Kristen Wiig. And while the film was generally well-received, Tamland’s lines were not quite a quotable as the first film and the subplot seemed unnecessary. The Office concluded it’s run in May, and Carell returned as Michael Scott for a heartwarming cameo. Carell’s meanacing turn in Foxcatcher was delayed to 2014, otherwise we very well might have had a different result for man of the year.
The Runner Up
If you’re looking for a time capsule representation of all-things 2013, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example than James Franco’s year. In fact, in September we pegged him as the odds-on favorite for this award. More than ten films featured Franco this year, including the box office hit Oz the Great and Powerful, along with series of indie films (some directed by the versatile actor) including As I Lay Dying with Danny McBride. Of course, Franco was a key player in the summer hit This is The End and Comedy Central’s James Franco Roast featured a number of friends from the film. Franco’s gonzo turn as a rapper/drug dealer in Spring Breakers won raves and unexpected but legit awards buzz. But, as far as things look here in Fratville, Franco just didn’t have enough momentum to seal the deal as our Man of the Year.
Man of the Year
There’s an obvious strategy for studios releasing films with Oscar potential, which is to release them at the end of the year so that they’ll be fresh in the minds of voters. And, we have to say, there is maybe a bit of this phenomena going here with our pick for Man of the Year, Will Ferrell. Ferrell’s 2013 will be remembered for one thing and one thing only: Anchorman 2: the Legend Continues. The long saga in getting the sequel greenlight finally came to fruition and the film was released just prior to Christmas. While few would call the sequel better than the original, overall the film was very well received. There certainly were some of the same plot beats and humorous themes, but you can’t say that Ferrell and his writing partner Adam McKay (who directed) didn’t take some risks with material that honestly was “weird.” Nursing a shark? Singing a song to the shark? Going with some edgy racial humor. Anchorman 2 most definitely didn’t play it safe while still being one of the funniest films of the year. The film grossed over $100 million in two weeks, plus another $40m+ internationally, both well ahead of the original picture.
Perhaps most importantly, Ferrell wins our vote for “getting the band back together,” returning Frat Pack favorites such as Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and Vince Vaughn for the sequel and once again was able open the rolodex for some hilarious cameos. Of course, Ferrell’s other on-screen appearance this year was in a hilarious cameo in The Internship. Ferrell’s apperance with Owen Wilson, similar to his cameo in Wedding Crashers, was another nod to nostalgia this year and certainly was a highlight of the film.
And if you’re counting apperances on TV, the internet, and other forms of media Will Ferrell might have had more screent-time than anyone not named James Franco. Ferrell’s appearances in characters as Ron Burgundy were often hilarious as such the successful series of Dodge ads. And his real-life stint anchoring the news in North Dakota or providing color commentary for Curling in Canada had a strange but effective way of reminding audiences about the character they loved. In short, Will Ferrell and/or Ron Burgundy was everyone in 2013.
My wife gave me the Ron Burgundy action figure for Christmas. Among the unintended consequences of having a talking newsdoll in the house was that my 11 year old kid laughed hysterically at the various Burgundy catch-phrases (”You are a smelly pirate hooker” being his favorite). I later caught my 15 year old watching Anchorman clips on YouTube. It seems that the Ron Bugundy plan for world domination and getting the next generation of movie fans interested in the film was a success. By returning a beloved character to the big screen and overall just seemingly having the most fun of anyone in 2013, that is why Will Ferrell is the Frat Pack Man of the Year.