Man of the Year 2014
It’s been a strange year here in Fratville. We were coming off the high of the Anchorman 2 release last Christmas, but overall the Frat Pack as a cultural touchstone has been, to paraphrase Mugatu, “Not so hot right now.” Which meant that as “real work” increased for the Frat Pack Tribute editors that we quietly and without notice put the site on hiatus. This resulted in the cancellation of this year’s Frat Pack Earmuff Awards as well.
Nonetheless, we are back at least for one more post in order to crown our Frat Pack Tribute Man of the Year 2014.
-Kevin Crossman, Site Founder and Senior Editor
Overall, it was a very quiet year for the Pack.
The only notable accomplishment for Vince Vaughn was the announcement that he’ll star in Season 2 of True Detective. Vaughn will play Ray Velcoro, “a compromised detective whose allegiances are torn between his masters in a corrupt police department and the mobster who owns him.” Rachel McAdams and Colin Ferrell also star.
Owen Wilson had a small parts in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, along with another winning turn as Jedediah in the latest Night at the Museum film. Wilson’s anticipated turn in You Are Here Are You Here opposite Zach Galifianakis came and went in theaters and scathing reviews.
Luke Wilson was seen in the indie dramedy The Skeleton Twins, featured as the third lead opposite Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Wilson received good notices in a film that critics loved but didn’t seem to resonate with moviegoers.
Jack Black was seen onscreen in an uncredited cameo in Sex Tape. The film bombed and Black’s cameo was nothing memorable (and painfully attempted to paint porn producers as benevolent, ungreedy saints). Black’s band Tenacious D toured and released “The Last in Line” as part of the Ronnie James Dio tribute album Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life. The song was nominated for a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance.
There was lots of news and drama related to Paul Rudd in 2014, mostly due to creative clashes with Marvel’s Ant-Man where Rudd was tapped to star. Out was Edgar Wright (Paul) and in was Peyton Reed (The Break-Up), with a script polish from Adam McKay (Anchorman). Ant-Man will have a huge release in 2015, just about the opposite of Rudd’s 2014 film, They Came Together. This was the third starring role for Rudd in a David Wain film, though “diminishing returns” seems to be the trend after Role Models and Wanderlust. The RomCom parody costarring Amy Poehler, Ellie Kemper, and Cobie Smulders had only a very limited theatrical release and simultaneous Video-on-Demand availability, though reviews were kinder.
2014 saw the release of the Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third film in the series starring Ben Stiller and funny friends. Reviews were on par with the second installment (translation: middling), and box office was a bit below expectations. The film is notable as one of the last to feature Robin Williams. Stiller took on a second role in the film, playing Laa the Neanderthal.
Receiving accolades for his dramatic turn in the crime drama based on real events, Steve Carell’s anticipated turn in Foxcatcher did not disappoint. Golden Globe and SAG nominations are pending and the film is a critics darling. The film showed that Carell is an effective dramatic actor and his performance as John DuPont featured none of the signature yelling and screaming for which we’ve grown accustomed. And speaking of yelling and screaming, Carell was also seen doing much of that in the family hit Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Lastly in our rundown of the principal Frat Pack actors, Will Ferrell was the most recognizable face in the mostly-animated The Lego Movie, which was a huge critical and financial hit in the spring. Ferrell also lent his voice to the animated sequences as the main villain. The live-action section of the film, featuring Ferrell, tied together many aspects of the film and brought a truly special adult message to the film that was expected to be mindless entertainment for kids.
And that was it for our Frat Pack actors in 2014. Not really a breakout or big year for any of these actors and none are in consideration for Man of the Year.
2012 Frat Pack Man of the Year Jonah Hill accomplished something very rare in 2014. He returned for a comedy sequel that earned both earned good reviews and a big increase in the worldwide box office. As with the first film, 22 Jump Street’s dialogue featured knowing and winking statements by the main characters and included a hilarious end-credits sequence intended to kill the franchise forever. Instead, there’s talk of spinning off Hill and Channing Tatum’s characters into a 21 Jump Street/Men in Black sequel/reboot. Hill and Tatum had small parts in The Lego Movie as well, playing Green Lantern and Superman. Tatum, it should be noted, did well opposite Steve Carell in Foxcatcher as well. Finally, Hill returned to voice Snotlout in the How to Train Your Dragon sequel and filmed the Coen Brothers comedy Hail, Caesar opposite Tatum and some obscure actors named George Clooney, Ralph Fiennnes, Frances McDormand and Josh Brolin.
The anticipated sequel Horrible Bosses 2 didn’t really do much for the careers of Jason Sedeikis, Charlie Day, or Jason Bateman either (though it’s still clear Jennifer Aniston is having a great time playing the sexual antagonist). Bateman’s directorial debut, Bad Words, had some buzz out of Sundance but didn’t connect with audiences. The ensemble film This is Where I Leave You was only a mild hit despite stars such as Bateman, Tina Fey, and Jane Fonda.
So, you might say that nobody in Fratville had a very good. But, if you did, you would be wrong because there was one man who had a great year and created a film that will have an impact for many years to come.
Frat Pack Tribute Man of the Year - Seth Rogen
Seth Rogen’s early summer comedy Neighbors positioned Rogen as a family man who was at war with the fraternity next door. There were plenty of familiar faces including Rose Byrne as Rogen’s wife and supporting frat boys Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. But we were quite surprised to see Zac Efron truly hold his own amongst the more established comic stars. Rogen was a key player behind the scenes of the film as well, serving as Executive Producer and bringing on fellow Apatow disciple Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) to direct. The film updated some of the antics well established from raunchy frat comedies of the past, but updated the story to message that resonated with adults as well.
Neighbors was one of the few breakout comedy hits in 2014, grossing $150m domestically. The international grosses (for “Bad Neighbors”) was an impressive $118m which is higher than the combined international grosses from Superbad, Observe and Report, Funny People, Guilt Trip, Pineapple Express, and This is The End combined. It seems that Rogen’s 2012 realization that PG-13 was not the sort of film that worked for his comic persona seemed to be paying off.
Which brings us to Rogen’s high-profile Christmas comedy, The Interview. Rogen and frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg were credited as producers, writers, and directors in the film that reteamed Rogen with James Franco. Again R-Rated, the film’s plot regarding the assassination of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un seemed a little edgy but there’s been a long history of American comedies playing fun with dictators (Team America: World Police, Naked Gun), and besides it’s Rogen and Franco. Who would expect anything but a juvenile comedy?
And this is where our story takes a strange turn. The North Korean government expressed scorn, but more meaningfully Sony’s computer systems were hacked in an apparent attempt to shame the studio and stop the release of The Interview. Embarrassing emails and other content was exposed and Rogen and Franco had a good laugh about it on SNL. But the next week there were threats of “911-style” attacks at theaters on Christmas day, causing all major theater chains to pull the film. It appeared that the film might never be seen, and the shutdown of the film caused industry insiders including Judd Apatow and Ben Stiller to proclaim that this series of events could have an extreme chilling effect on future projects. A North Korean themed film starring Steve Carell was immediately shelved.
But, amazingly, a Christmas miracle did come true for well-known Jew Seth Rogen. The film was released in 300 independent theaters on Christmas day and the film became available for rent/purchase on video on demand services on Christmas Eve. The White House was in discussions with Sony about the terrorist threats and President Obama personally lobbied for the release of the film. The release of The Interview came just hours after North Korea suffered a massive internet outage, potentially meaning that this was the first time in history that the United States of America performed an act of war so that Americans could be permitted to watch genitalia jokes.
So far, the film has done okay in it’s theatrical run (higher per-screen average than most of the Top 10) and Sony announced it had made $15m in VOD sales (this was before Apple made the film available on iTunes so the numbers are likely to run even higher). Additional theaters are being added after New Year’s. Will The Interview be the future of film releases with VOD? Too soon to tell, but the film’s release is clearly a watershed moment.
It’s true many flocked to The Interview as a patriotic or political statement. And the film they saw was not a serious expose on the government or culture of North Korea. But, the film didn’t pull any punches either and eventually did demonstrate how terrible conditions are in that country. It’s fair to say more people learned about North Korea from The Interview than they ever did from serious media outlets.
And, of course, The Interview was funny. Really, really funny. Rogen and Franco’s chemistry is well-known and continued here. Supporting players including Randall Park as Kim Jong-un and newcomer Diana Bang as a North Korean propaganda minister (and love interest for Rogen’s character) proved to be great foils for Franco and Rogen. There were a number of outrageous set-pieces, and an early scene where Eminem outs himself as gay was hilarious. We really liked The Interview. Rogen and Franco’s frequent appearances satirizing pop culture moments (such as Naked and Afraid and “Bound 3“) throughout the year were also a highlight.
Rogen’s on-screen persona is slowly maturing, with both 2014 films placing him in age-appropriate situations. Family man. Established professional who wants more out of life. And Rogen’s most notable off-screen event is also evident of the actor’s well-rounded and increasingly mature personality. In February, the actor testified before a Senate hearing on Alzheimer’s Research. The actor told the story of his wife Lauren Miller’s parents struggle with the disease and how he helped found Hilarity for Charity that raises money for Alzheimer’s research. Rogen got big laughs with his testimony, “The situation is so dire that it caused he, a lazy, self involved, generally self-medicated man-child to start an entire charity organization” but Rogen’s poignant testimony was well received and generated so much publicity that the testimony became the number one most viewed clip on C-Span in 2014.
2014 was without question Seth Rogen’s year. Hearty congratulations to a real mench.