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Will Ferrell used to be a sure-fire comedy guarantee: There was a stretch when it seemed he could do no wrong.

Alas, that stretch is long behind him now, and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga continues his recent streak of lousy-to-mediocre films. This one falls somewhere in the realm of mediocre.

On the eve of the infamous Eurovision contest—the song competition that birthed the career of ABBA in real life—Lars (Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), lifelong friends and members of the rock-duo Fire Saga, are taking one last bid at fame. However, they are terrible, and are hated by most of the people in their Icelandic hometown, including Lars’ father (Pierce Brosnan). A tragic boating accident thrusts them into the competition in which they represent their country—and many unfunny musical sequences ensue.

Ferrell’s wigged schtick grows tired early on—and since the film is two-plus hours long, we are talking a lot of unwanted shtick. McAdams, who can lip-sync with the best of them, is actually quite good here, and nearly saves the film with a warm, funny, earnest performance. Her character’s obsession with magical elves is a potential funny subplot that isn’t adequately explored. Directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers), this movie would’ve benefited from a shorter running time.

It’s hard watching Ferrell founder in stuff like this; his career is in need of some major adjustments. He’s too funny to be goofing around with subpar material.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

A film starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly used to be an event. Alas, things have changed … and I found myself—like much of the rest of the world—waiting to see Holmes and Watson on home video, because I wanted to put off what looked like a supreme letdown.

Well, it’s out on home video now … and it’s indeed an extreme letdown.

Ferrell is painfully unfunny as Sherlock Holmes, while Reilly fares a little better as his sidekick, Watson. Ferrell adapts a vocal affectation that more or less guarantees this period-piece comedy will be a total drag; in fact, it’s almost completely devoid of laughter. There are a couple of good jokes involving not-yet-illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin, and a gag involving a poorly placed nest of killer bees got a chortle out of me—but that’s it.

Ferrell can’t get a good movie to save his life right now, and that’s depressing. Green-light that Step Brothers sequel, and get him out of this terrible slump. But, please, for the love of Pete, don’t make a sequel to this one.

Holmes and Watson is available via online sources including iTunes and, as well as DVD and Blu-ray.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

A bad film sticks in the craw more when it’s made by somebody capable of genius.

Ben Stiller is one of the great modern-day comedic actors. He started, more or less, with The Ben Stiller Show, a project that basically gave birth to Mr. Show and Tenacious D. The man is directly or indirectly responsible for about 78 percent of the laughter that has come out of my face over the last 24 years. As a director, he started with a clunker (Reality Bites), but followed it up with an underrated gem, The Cable Guy. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is much better than it gets credit for, and Tropic Thunder is a bad-taste masterpiece.

Of all the comic creations Stiller has come up with and directed, Zoolander is the most bothersome. It’s a skit that wasn’t funny in the first place—stretched into a feature that feels flat and in-jokey. Well, Stiller has returned for another shot of unneeded male-model parody with Zoolander 2—and it’s far and away the worst thing he’s ever done. It’s so bad that it’s a formidable if early contender for 2016’s worst film. It represents Stiller at his most lost and foundering.

It’s 15 years after the events of the 2001 original, and Derek Zoolander is living a hermit’s life in remote New Jersey, mourning the loss of his wife (Christine Taylor) after the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too collapsed and crushed her to death.

Note to Stiller: Zoolander came out just a couple of weeks after Sept. 11, and will be forever associated with that event in the minds of many, because the Twin Towers had to be digitally removed from the film. Is it really a funny idea to have your wife’s character killed in a New York City building collapse that takes place in 2001? I didn’t laugh, so I’ve answered my own question.

Meanwhile, Hansel (Owen Wilson) is living a secluded life in the “deserts of Malibu” with his orgy family (including a very sensitive Kiefer Sutherland). He’s visited by a message-delivering Billy Zane and goes on a quest to find Derek. Unfortunately, he succeeds in finding him, and a boring comic duo gets another chapter.

A search for Derek’s son and some other nonsense leads them to Rome and an eventual showdown with fashion bad guy, Mugatu (Will Ferrell). The Mugatu subplot feels tacked on, as if they only had Ferrell for a week. Ferrell is given close to nothing to work with, forcing him to mug for his paycheck.

At times, the film feels like a total rip-off of Austin Powers, with Zoolander and Hansel becoming spies; Penélope Cruz stepping in as the tightly clad female sidekick; and a daddy-issues subplot involving Zoolander’s long-lost son. Mugatu is something of a sad riff on Dr. Evil.

The first half-hour of the movie is actually less than terrible. Benedict Cumberbatch shows up as a hauntingly androgynous model called All who has married himself, and Derek’s comeback when somebody calls him a narcissist is the best line in the movie. So … I laughed twice.

There are too many cameos to count, many of them by fashion icons most of us could not care less about. When a big moment in your movie hinges upon the dramatic talents of Tommy Hilfiger, you’ve got a problem. Did I mention the great Kristen Wiig is in the movie, too? No, I didn’t—because her bizarre character is something that needs to be forgotten.

Stiller got lazy and perhaps a little distracted with Zoolander 2. He needs to get his edge back after this tremendous miscue.

Zoolander 2 is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The second pairing of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg isn’t as funny as The Other Guys, but Daddy’s Home is still funny enough to warrant a look.

Ferrell is in bumbling mode as Brad, the husband of Sarah (Linda Cardellini) and the stepfather to a couple of kids who hate him. Just when the kids are starting to hate him less, Sarah’s ex-husband, Dusty (Wahlberg), comes back into the picture in a boorish bid to win back his ex’s love, reclaim his children and get Brad out of the house. This provides a setup that sees Brad subjected to various forms of humiliation and injury, including a calamitous trek through his house on a motorcycle, and a rendezvous with electrical wires after getting some impressive air off a half-pipe.

Ferrell and Wahlberg are funny together, and the movie does a decent job of making them both likable idiots. Thomas Haden Church steals scenes as Brad’s obnoxious boss at the smooth-jazz radio station, as does Hannibal Buress as a handyman who winds up crashing on Brad’s couch.

The film is nasty, but it’s neutered a bit by its PG-13 rating. It’s clear this is being marketed at families—but that’s a mistake right there. I’m sure there’s a nastier cut of this movie, and this movie suffers because it doesn’t go all the way with its sinister message. It pulls some punches, keeping it from being the dark comedy it deserves to be, and making it more of a feel-good film with some sinister undertones.

Still, I laughed enough, and the film is recommended to fans of Ferrell and Wahlberg.

Daddy’s Home is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

For me, a new Will Ferrell movie is usually a cause for celebration. Hey, I even liked Land of the Lost, a film that was unjustly dismissed by the masses.

Alas, even the great comedic masters misfire from time to time, and Get Hard goes on the dung heap with his Kicking and Screaming and Bewitched.

Ferrell plays a finance guru who gets convicted for crimes he allegedly didn’t commit, and is sentenced to hard time at San Quentin. In an attempt to not get raped when he goes to jail, he hires his car-washer (Kevin Hart) to train him in prison ways—you see, he immediately assumes the man did time because he is black. In other words, we are supposed to feel sorry for the Ferrell character, even though he is a racist ignoramus—and that just doesn’t happen.

Ferrell and Hart labor for laughs in a sea of dick and ass-rape jokes, and it’s all quite ugly and mostly unfunny. There are some highlights, including a simulated prison riot in a wine cellar that inexplicably includes the appearance of an angry baboon; however, the jokes are mostly duds.

You know you are in trouble when your plot is mostly identical to a failed Rob Schneider movie (the equally offensive Big Stan).

Get Hard is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The 11th Annual Desert Smash delivered a day full of expected humor and generosity—as well as some unexpected last-minute program changes—on Tuesday, March 10.

World No. 1 ATP pro Novak Djokovic, who has contributed to the hilarity and star power in previous years, was a no-show. Instead, No. 20-ranked John Isner stepped into the program, joining No. 31-ranked Fernando Verdasco in the final match of the day. Earlier No. 43-ranked Sam Querrey, a repeat volunteer himself, partnered with pro Mardy Fish to deliver the most entertaining real tennis of the day, as they took on the No. 1-ranked doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan.

On the women’s side, WTA No. 7 Genie Bouchard was unexpectedly joined by No. 47-ranked Daniela Hantuchova in the opening singles match, which offered the most purely competitive tennis display.

In the middle two matches, comedy moved to center court at the La Quinta Resort as host Will Ferrell (who suffered a muscle strain in the morning’s VIP Pro-Am competition—the tape job for which he proudly displayed) moved into the role of chair umpire to supervise a surprise treat of a match featuring Justin Bieber, actor/comedian Kevin Hart and talk-show host Billy Bush.

Throughout the afternoon, spectators enjoyed themselves as cocktails and champagne contributed to high spirits and generous support of multiple impromptu donation challenges directed toward Cancer for College’s fundraising for the college educations of cancer survivors.

See pictures from the event, at the La Quinta Resort, below.

Published in Snapshot

After nearly a decade away from movie screens, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), the world’s greatest newscaster, has returned. This time, it’s the 1980s, and a new media craze called “24-hour news” has Ron and the boys (Paul Rudd’s Brian Fantana, Steve Carell’s Brick Tamland and David Koechner’s Champ Kind) working the late-night shift in New York.

The plot is just a place-setter for weird, random humor involving bats, sharks, shadows, scorpions in RVs and hair. Ferrell and crew manage to sell the dumbest of things, and they make so much of it funny. Even the stuff that’s simply strange has its own humorous appeal.

Carell goes super-dopey with Brick as he finds a love interest (Kristen Wiig); Champ still loves Ron in a dangerous way; and Brian has a new condom cabinet. I laughed my face off; this is a sequel that continues the comedic legacy of the brilliant original, and even ups the ante when it comes to anchor-on-anchor battles in the park. The battle scene in this one is one for the ages, and involves fighter jets.

Director Adam McKay has stated that this is the end for Ron Burgundy. I say nuts to that. I want 10 more films.

Special Features: McKay shot a lot of footage for this film, as he did with the original Anchorman, and he had enough left over for not only an extended, R-rated version of the film with more than 700 more jokes, but for an extended unrated version, too.

The unrated version just has a few more dirty jokes, while the R-rated version is basically a different movie. The plot is mostly the same, but it’s fueled by enough alternate scenes to change the viewing experience drastically. If there’s one regret in the R-rated version, it is that it has less of Ron’s pet shark; otherwise, it’s pretty damned funny on its own.

In addition to the bountiful alternate versions, you get a killer commentary with director and cast, behind-the scenes footage, outtakes galore and a gag reel. This is a great package.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

A good time for a good cause was the goal at the Will Powered Golf Classic, held Monday, March 3, at Palm Desert’s Bighorn Golf Club, and the Desert Smash tennis tournament, held Tuesday, March 4, at the La Quinta Resort.

The events were hosted by actor/comedian Will Ferrell and cancer survivor Craig Pollard, the founder of Cancer for College.

Players competed in a “shamble” format in the annual golfing fundraiser, which has been funding scholarships for cancer survivors since 1994. The golf tournament kicked off Cancer for College’s 2014 Desert Showdown, which continued on Tuesday, March 4, with the Desert Smash tennis tournament, as well as a concert featuring Nelly and Boyz II Men at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.

Ferrell and Pollard were joined this year by Kevin Spacey, the two-time Academy Award-winning actor and star of the hit Netflix series House of Cards. Since 1994, Cancer for College has granted more than $2 million in college scholarships to more than 1,000 cancer survivors.

At an impromptu press conference on his way to tee-off on Monday, Ferrell touted all of the charity-centric activities included in this year’s expanded Desert Showdown. In particular, he expressed excitement about the concert at The Show, modestly called Will Ferrell’s Epically Awesome Desert Showdown Concert Extravaganza.

“I don’t think that Coachella music fest will be able to compare! And that’s a scoop, by the way,” he said.

Regarding the serious cause underlying the fun and games, Ferrell explained the perspective he and Pollard share.

“We use humor to kind of talk about cancer,” said Ferrell. “You know, it’s such a taboo subject, because people don’t want to talk about having gone through the disease, but we kind of mix it up. One of the best parts is hearing the recent scholarship recipients’ speeches, where they talk about everything they’ve gone through, and how motivated they are to make a difference.”

Moments later, just after the celebrity groupings were announced on the first tee, the crowd was told that Will Ferrell would face the No. 2-ranked tennis player in the world, Novak Djokovic, at the Desert Smash tourney on the next day.

“I’m going to be playing with my driver,” deadpanned Ferrell as he waved his golf club in the air.

On Tuesday, March 4, however, that driver was nowhere to be seen, as fans of tennis and celebrity star-gazing flocked to the La Quinta Resort’s tennis club. Desert Showdown Day 2 got under way with celebs and amateurs filling many of the back courts for short doubles matches. Comedian/actor Jon Lovitz, singer Redfoo, actor Joel McHale of Community and actor Timothy Olyphant of Justified were among the stars who participated.

In the afternoon, fans ringed the stadium to watch the featured matches. Ferrell decided serenade the crowd during his opening remarks with a flawed rendition of the Canadian national anthem. No. 2-ranked tennis pro Novak Djokovic, who was teamed with Ferrell in one of the most entertaining doubles matches, played while wearing a wig as an homage to Will Ferrell’s character Jackie Moon from the film Semi-Pro.

Also competing were Bridesmaids actress Rebel Wilson, two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey, 2014 Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka, the top-ranked doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan, and former BNP Paribas Open winners Ana Ivanovic and Daniela Hantuchova, among others.

As play was about to begin, Will Ferrell told the crowd, “I’ve been practicing for this moment my entire life! Make sure you hydrate. I’m doing that by drinking a lot of tequila and vodka.”

The contests were frequently interrupted by impromptu fundraising auction events, the proceeds of which all went to Cancer for College. One highly successful auction was inspired by valley resident and WBO world welterweight boxing champion Timothy Bradley, who provided two ringside tickets to his upcoming bout with Manny Pacquiao. As bidding escalated rapidly, Kevin Spacey taunted his doubles opponent Ferrell to bid higher, saying, “Come on, Will! Anchorman did better than that.”

Ferrell responded by urging Spacey to pony up some of his earnings from his Netflix series House of Cards.

“Netflix only pays us in DVDs,” quipped Spacey.

It’s fair to say that a good time was had by all.

Scroll down to view a photo gallery.

Original version published at 10:45 a.m., Tuesday, March 4; updated version published at 10:15 a.m., Wednesday, March 5.

Published in Snapshot

The Lego Movie is a most welcome surprise. Fast-paced, frequently hilarious and visually fun, this is the sort of movie we’ve come to expect from Pixar—one that appeals to both kids and adults on many levels.

However, this isn’t a Pixar film; instead, it’s a product of the formidable but inconsistent Warner Bros. animation wing.

Sure, it’s a big commercial for Lego toys, but the product placement is more of a sly wink than a hammer over the head. I’m more offended by, say, frequently placed Subway sandwiches in an Adam Sandler movie than the constant presence of Legos in this one. Lego has developed its own universe over the years, especially with its video games, so I never felt like I was watching a commercial.

Instead, we get a movie that hurls jokes at breakneck speed, to go along with its super-kinetic visuals. The voice talent is a who’s-who of subversive humor, including Will Ferrell, Chris Pratt, Will Forte, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Jonah Hill and Charlie Day. It also has Morgan Freeman as a God-like character—and he is given some of the movie’s greatest lines. It’s co-written and directed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, the guys who did Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the decidedly non-kid-friendly 21 Jump Street.

The plot follows Emmet (Pratt), a “generic” builder who goes about his homogenized life, building structures under strict deadlines and listening to the same song (Tegan and Sara’s terrific “Everything Is Awesome”) every minute of the day, while following the rules of the omnipotent President Business (Ferrell). President Business demands conformity in a decidedly socialistic way—but he keeps everybody at bay by promising Taco Tuesdays.

Things change instantly when Emmet meets Wyldstyle (Banks), who reveals to Emmet that there’s the possibility for real life beyond the walls of his pre-programmed world. (There are echoes of The Matrix and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.) Emmet joins forces with Wyldstyle and her extremely cool boyfriend, Batman (Arnett), to take down the establishment and restore freewill.

I confess to being totally blindsided by the ending, which warmed my heart in a way that is on par with the wonderful endings of Pixar’s Up and Toy Story. It is, without giving anything away, brilliant, ingenious and wholly satisfying. It also manages to tie the whole movie together in a way that is beautifully mindboggling.

There are terrific cameos along the way, including members of the Star Wars universe, other heroes from the Justice League, Gandalf and others. Liam Neeson is killer funny as Bad Cop/Good Cop—and even his father, Pa Cop, who is constantly breaking and kicking things. (He’s this movie’s Darth Vader.)

The film relishes random humor. At one point, a cowboy in a saloon asks quite earnestly, “Are zeppelins a good investment?” (I laughed out loud to an extent that was a little embarrassing.) Arnett’s Batman is arguably on par with those played by Christian Bale and Michael Keaton. Stick around for the credits, and Arnett’s Batman theme, “Untitled Self Portrait,” which repeatedly touches upon Batman’s dead parents and penchant for dark things.

The Lego Movie is a bit exhausting at times, but the constant stream of activity is super-intelligent. It’s a cliché, but I’ll say it: “Fun for the whole family!” Sorry to be so cookie-cutter here, but it’s the truth. 

The Lego Movie is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

After nearly a decade away from movie screens, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), the world’s greatest newscaster, has returned for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

This time, it’s the 1980s, and a new media craze called 24-hour news cable networks has Ron and the boys (Paul Rudd’s Brian Fantana, Steve Carell’s Brick Tamland and David Koechner’s Champ Kind) working the late-night shift in New York. The plot is basically just a place-setter for weird, random humor involving bats, sharks, shadows, hair and scorpions in RVs. Ferrell and the crew manage to sell even the dumbest of things—and make so much of it funny. Even the stuff that’s simply strange has its own appeal.

Carell goes super-dopey with Brick as he finds a love interest (Kristen Wiig); Champ still loves Ron in a dangerous way; and Brian has a new condom cabinet. I laughed my face off; this sequel continues the comedic legacy of the brilliant original, and even ups the ante when it comes to anchor-on-anchor battles in the park. (The battle scene here is one for the ages; it even involves fighter jets.)

With the first Anchorman, filmmakers had enough stuff left on the cutting-room floor to release an entire other movie. I hope that happens here as well; I don’t want to wait 10 years for more.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews