After posting the article questioning the star-like potential of Zach Galifianakis after his turn in The Hangover, The Rake submitted an alternative thought, dealing with the flipside of stardom, which can only be described as failure. The subject in question is Will Ferrell, who happened to headline what was supposed to be a huge tentpole film this summer, with at least a recognizable franchise name, Land of the Lost. That film went head-to-head with The Hangover two weekends ago and it got demolished, coming in third place with its box office take. Now, last weekend it ended up in fifth with only one new film (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) beating it out. After ten days in wide release, Land of the Lost now has a paltry $35 million to its name. It sure as hell won’t reach $100 million and it will be lucky if it gets to $70 million at this point. In blockbuster season, that spells B-O-M-B. Was it a flash-in-the-pan failure or is it just Will Ferrell’s latest to lay the wooden egg?
As you’re no doubt well aware, Ferrell rose through the comedy film star ranks via “Saturday Night Live” as a longtime cast member. He did a few “SNL”-related films, A Night at the Roxbury, Superstar and The Ladies Man before breaking out in Old School and headlining his first film, Elf, in 2003. Since then, it’d been Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Blades of Glory. All three were huge hits box office-wise. There were missteps along the way like Bewitched, but by and large, he appeared to be taking over for Adam Sandler.
Last year, things seemed different. He attempted to repeat the wacky sports comedy success of Talladega Nights and Blades of Glory with the 70s ABA “comedy” Semi-Pro to a massive BOOM sound. It certainly surprised me. The film was marketed all over. Ferrell had appeared in a pretty popular Bud Light commercial in his Jackie Moon character garb, as well as Old Spice ads. He appeared in a few segments on ESPN, marketing his sports film to sports fans. Everything seemed to be pointing toward another wacky sports hit, until Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser did an over/under ten laughs for the film on their show, “Pardon the Interruption.” If I remember correctly, they both said “under.” And so it grossed a measly $15 million opening weekend and went on to just double that amount after its completed run.
However, after the extreme disappointment that was Semi-Pro, Ferrell had his chance at redemption just a few months later with Step Brothers. Oddly enough, the rebound that would have been a more apt metaphor for the basketball comedy occurred with the film that at one point stared The Dark Knight in the face. It managed to somehow climb over the $100 million mark. It didn’t have a particularly strong marketing campaign, aside from perhaps the redband trailer which major theater chains had just recently allowed.
So, what then happened with Land of the Lost? Obviously any Ferrell momentum from the prior summer with Step Brothers failed to carry over. Land of the Lost had a similar marketing campaign to Semi-Pro. It debuted footage of the film during this year’s Super Bowl, was sponsored by Subway with its image everywhere and Ferrell even co-starred in an episode of Discovery’s “Man vs. Wild.” Just like Semi-Pro, you would think this would only propel the film’s exposure to a national audience and work toward attracting audiences and not repelling them.
I feel the marketing campaigns of both Semi-Pro and Land of the Lost were great and doubt they reached the dreaded level of oversaturation. While Step Brothers may not have had the same marketing force behind it, it did pair up Ferrell with John C. Reilly for the first time since the blockbuster that was Talladega Nights. I have to doubt Reilly made that much of a difference, though, as his leading-role comedy Walk Hard went flop, as well. Could it be director Adam McKay having waved his magic wand over Talladega and Step Brothers who helped achieve the heights they reached, as he had no involvement at all in Semi-Pro or Land of the Lost? Could it be the films themselves looked so unappealing, whereas Step Brothers was attractive to audiences? It could always come down to a quality issue, but Step Brothers is a decent comedy at best, while the others, including Talladega Nights are particularly unwatchable to me.
The only constant of all these films is Ferrell. As noted before, he has taken missteps in the past. Land of the Lost is really only the latest, but it came fairly recently after Semi-Pro. Ferrell’s next starring role hasn’t been announced, but he is linked to a number of projects, one of which is Anchorman 2. I know the script hasn’t even been written for the film yet, so it would seem a distant longshot that this would be his next leading man role, but it could be necessary for him to relive that past glory in order to build his name back up. I think we’re probably two films away from knowing whether Land of the Lost just happened to be another misstep for Ferrell or whether it’s his star that has faded.
Do you think Ferrell is done or was Land of the Lost just a miscalculation?