Friday, April 4, 2008

Comedic Actors Who Turned To Drama

Will Ferrell
Comedies: Anchorman, Old School, Blades of Glory
Drama: Stranger Than Fiction

I wanted to see this in theaters, but never made time for it. I watched it yesterday and ended up liking it a lot. Will Ferrell was surprisingly good as a dramatic actor; so much so that I hope he goes for another role like this sometime soon. We've all seen how stupid/funny he can be in [Insert Sports-Themed Decade Movie Here], but it takes some real skill to pull off legitimate acting that doesn't involve him taking his shirt off and guzzling beer. He was quiet, normal, and reserved: a huge change for him. His performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor, so hopefully that will lead him to consider other projects besides Semi-Pro 2: Half Pro.

Robin Williams
Comedies: Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, License to Wed
Drama: What Dreams May Come

I remember thinking this was a really good movie when I was 13. It was one of the first dramas that I remember actually enjoying in a theater. I'll have to go back and watch it again since I'm operating on almost 10-year-old memories here, but I'm pretty sure Robin Williams was really awesome in it. He dies and is taken through an Odyssey-like adventure through heaven/the underworld/limbo to find his wife, who committed suicide after his death. [Note - The special effects were outstanding at the time.] The cool thing is that Williams has really stepped up his game in the last decade, taking on a slew of dramatic roles in films like Insomnia, Good Will Hunting, and One Hour Photo. I didn't care for him in Bicentennial Man, but that's probably just because that movie was terrible. Aside from that, I've liked him in just about every drama I've seen him in. His performance in Dead Poet's Society was especially moving for me.

Jim Carrey
Comedies: The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Drama: The Number 23

I don't care what people say, I kind of liked this movie. Sure it was predictable, and sure it was a little ridiculous (the numbers are out to get me!), but I thought Carrey was really good in it. His acting hearkened back to his Truman Show days, which was a far better film but one in which Carrey was equally as effective. We all know he can be rubber-faced and outlandish, and his catch-phrases are universally known, but these two movies prove that he can hack it as a dramatic actor. Lately he's been trying out some more of those types of roles in movies like The Majestic and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so I'm glad that people have recognized and embraced his ability to operate outside of the box we all so easily throw him in.

Bill Murray
Comedies: Ghostbusters, Stripes, Groundhog's Day
Drama: Lost in Translation

This one is a no-brainer. After dropping off the face of the comedic earth for a while, Bill Murray resurfaced with a quiet poise that adds a whole different level to this capable actors' repertoire. He had a similar resurgence in Rushmore, a comedy that played off his subtlety instead of laugh-out-loud humor, but his seriousness and full acting talents are on display opposite Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation. I haven't seen Broken Flowers, but I understand he delivers the same type of nuanced performance in that movie as well. I'm glad that Murray has expanded his arsenal with age. I'm sure we can only expect more brilliant things to come from this talented actor.

Jack Black
Comedies: School of Rock, High Fidelity, Orange County
Drama: King Kong

One of my favorite films of 2005, King Kong would not have been the same without Jack Black in his first serious dramatic role. Instead of watching him dance around with his arms flailing wildly, we were treated to an almost-somber display of restraint and ambition. Many people couldn't suspend their disbelief enough to accept Black in this kind of role, but I bought it: hook, line, and sinker. I totally believed it, and I think he did a great job. I'm honestly surprised he wasn't nominated for any awards: yes, I thought he was THAT good. I really hope that we get to see more of this from Jack Black in between his ridiculous comedies he's sure to keep pumping out.

Honorable Mentions (aka - Films I Haven't Seen): Steve Zahn in Rescue Dawn, Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, Will Smith in Ali. Until next time...


Ben Pearson said...

Update: Zahn and Smith were fantastic in Rescue Dawn and Ali respectively. I don't think those performances alone are enough to catapult them onto this list, but they're taking steps in the right direction.

Rachel said...

Have you ever seen Shopgirl? It has Steve Martin in a serious role, and is actually my favorite movie of all time. It is technically a "chick flick", and yes, I am a woman, but it is done beautifully and the acting is incredible. It is much more intelligent than most chick flicks. If you enjoyed the emotional depth of movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Closer, you should like this movie. Claire Danes will break you heart.

Ben Pearson said...

No, I haven't had a chance to check that one out yet, Rachel. Thanks for the heads up. I've heard good things about it from multiple people, so I'm adding it to my queue right now.

Rachel said...

Great! I just found your site last night, and I must say I have really enjoyed reading your reviews. I found it when I was trying to figure out a movie to watch, but just ended up reading several of your reviews. They are all very good, and I have agreed with almost all of your opinions. I will definitely keep reading!

Ben Pearson said...

Cool! Thanks for reading!