The Kennedy Center recently announced that Will Ferrell is this year’s winner of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The comedian began his career on Saturday Night Live with memorable impressions of George W. Bush, Alex Trebek, Neil Diamond and even an overenthusiastic cheerleader. After seven years at SNL, Ferrell struck out on his own and his comedic career continued to skyrocket .
In light of the award, we thought we’d chime in on our all-time favorite Ferrell flicks. Revisit the critics’ reactions in the links below to see what they had to say when the films first came out.
- “Zoolander” (2001) Ferrell made a memorable splash in Ben Stiller’s comedy about a high-fashion model struggling to find meaning in his world. Mugatu, Ferrell’s crazy-haired fashion lord is charged with brainwashing Zoolander into assassinating the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
- “Old School” (2003) This comedy about arrested development showed another side of Ferrell -- his bare derriere as he jogged, drunk and au natural, down the middle of the road. He also taught a few important lessons in his memorable role as Frank the Tank: A tranquilizer gun is not a toy, Andy Dick is stronger than he looks and an itinerary of Bed Bath & Beyond plus Home Depot equals a nice little Saturday.
- “Elf” (2003) If it takes a real man to feel comfortable in yellow tights, then Ferrell proved his immense masculinity as Buddy, an inept helper in Santa's North Pole workshop who heads to the Big Apple in search of his biological father. More importantly, Ferrell's wide-eyed portrayal of an irrepressibly happy fish out of water could make even a cold-hearted Grinch want to spend some time in the Candy Cane forest and the sea of swirly twirly gum drops.
- “Anchorman” (2004) Ferrell kept it classy and mustachioed as the sexist litterbug, scotchy scotch scotch fan and kind of big deal newscaster Ron Burgundy. Sure, he was nearly upstaged by Steve Carell's love for lamp and toasted mayonnaise, but -- by the beard of Zeus -- those were some mad jazz fluting skills.
- “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (2006) Ferrell plays NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby, who, after surviving “the worst crash in NASCAR history,” is sure he’s paralyzed (hint: he isn’t). His trip through despair to redemption takes frequent pit stops to poke fun at the, er, racing culture.
- “Stranger Than Fiction” (2006) It’s not the over-the-top Ferrell we’re used to, but the actor manages to be both doofy and sweet (and yes, very funny) in this 2006 dramedy. Co-starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as a flaky bakery owner whose business is being audited by Ferrell’s straight-laced IRS agent, the film takes a sharply surreal left turn out of rom-com territory when Ferrell’s character discovers that his entire life is a novel being written by an unseen author (Emma Thompson), whose ongoing narration only he can hear.
Ferrell continues to push the envelope, though his most recent work explores the realm of straight-faced drama. His latest film, “Everything Must Go,” takes the seriousness of “Stranger Than Fiction” to a whole new level as he plays an alcoholic who loses everything and is forced to start over.
Have a favorite Will Ferrell movie that we didn’t include here? Leave your picks for us in the comments section, and let the debates begin.
With that, we say, MORE COWBELL!