Will Ferrell is a very funny man. I’ve not seen the entirety of his oeuvre, but I’ve watched a few movies and seen number of his comedy sketches from SNL and other places. As humorous as Anchorman is, it’s not his best work.
Comedies can be great movies, though they’re not very often any longer. The Thin Man and It Happened One Night are a lot better as movies than a lot of comedies are today. On the other hand, you do sometimes see movies get made that have a comedic tone to them, but also deal with the serious side of things and are actually really good movies. Comic actors do their best work in these movies and can shock us when they get the chance to show the full range of their abilities.
Who would ever have though that Adam Sandler could have the range and capacity for vulnerability, darkness, and gentleness that he made so plain in Punch-Drunk Love? Jim Carrey has changed his whole life now that he’s had an existential crisis, but his range and depth were apparent when he starred in The Truman Show.
Will Ferrell has made at least two movies that have a similar tone. Everything Must Go is an independent film with a (sometimes apparent) low budget. It revolves around an alcoholic man who has been kicked out by his wife. He returns home to find all his stuff on the lawn and evades arrest by classifying it as a garage sale. He then embarks on a voyage of self-discovery while basically sitting on his lawn. It is, by turns, entertaining, poignant, sad, and hopeful. It’s not a perfect film, but it is a good one and an interesting one with human characters and largely populated by people who, though deeply flawed in different ways, are doing their level best.
My favorite Ferrell movie is, without question, Stranger Than Fiction in which Ferrell plays a lonely, unreflecting IRS agent who is jostled roughly out of his complacency and mundane life by the intrusion of a narrator that only he hears. It turns from being strictly comic when the narrator announces that he will shortly and unexpectedly die, but doesn’t inform him how. What, and who, is real is an open question for a significant part of the movie, and the resolution is one that I like, very, very much. There is a bit of a weakness in his relationship with his romantic interest, but is that a weakness of the book in which he lives, the movie itself, or something else again? It’s not a perfect film. It’s not Ozu, Kurosawa, Bergman, or Welles. Nor even Capra, Hawks, or Huston. But is a good movie, with a good cast, a good ending, and entertaining throughout. You should see it.