By: Christopher O’Brien
If you are joining this article now, I encourage you to go back and read Part 1 first. If you’ve read Part 1, then don’t bother with the next paragraph, continue on. If you don’t want to read Part 1, well fine, but let me fill you in on what I’m doing.
I am ranking the top 10 stars heading into Anchorman 2. Eight years ago, it was a much different landscape. The 2004 Anchorman comedian rankings would probably look like this:
- Will Ferrell
- Ben Stiller
- Vince Vaughn
- Luke Wilson
- Steve Carell
Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson have both fallen out of the top ten. So let’s continue where I left off, number 5.
5. Paul Rudd
Great in the 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), great in Knocked Up (2007), and awesome in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008). Only issue here is Rudd was never the main guy.
In Role Models (2008) and I Love You Man (2009) Rudd got the chance to be part of a lead tandem. Both of these movies were great, Role Models being a little on the under-appreciated side and I Love You Man filling in as the most quotable movie since Anchorman. Slappin’ the baaaaase maan!
If you look at the five movies above, plus the original Anchorman, Rudd has had significant roles in at least five of the top 10 comedies of the last 12 years (hmmmm… I feel another list coming).
The only thing keeping Rudd from leapfrogging higher on this list is he hasn’t had HIS movie yet. He’s the king of the bromance, works really well paired with another male comedian and can thrive as the quirky boyfriend of a beautiful actress. His leading role in Our Idiot Brother, which is actually a pretty solid movie, didn’t connect the way it needed to on a large-scale to move him into the top four on this list.
Look out for Judd Apatow’s This is 40 coming out later this year. This is Paul Rudd’s big leading role. The three movies Apatow has written/directed have been landmark films for the main star involved. 40 Year Old Virgin launched Steve Carell to household name territory. Knocked Up did the same for Seth Rogen. Funny People may not have given new life to Adam Sandler, but it did hush his, “he can’t act, he always plays a moron” critics (well, at least until Jack and Jill). This is 40 could have the same effect for Paul Rudd.
4. Ben Stiller
At some point during the 2000-2004 era, Ben Stiller had a firm grip on the No. 1 ranking. In that stretch, his prime if you will, he was the star, or at least part of the leading tandem in all of the following films:
Meet the Parents, Zoolander, Starsky & Hutch, Dodgeball, Meet the Fockers.
He did his family friendly era with the Madagascar films along with the entertaining Night at the Museum (the sequel fell short).
Afraid that he would be lost in the kid’s world for the next decade, Stiller came back in a big way with the mega-hit Tropic Thunder (2008). He didn’t have anything of note for three years, but then came back with the decent Tower Heist (2011). But Tower Heist was more noted for Eddie Murphy being Eddie Murphy again than anything Stiller did.
I would say Paul Rudd has been involved in funnier movies throughout the last eight years, but Stiller’s name still carries more weight.
Look out for The Watch as Stiller’s next potential success. If this movie falls short, he could be handing the No. 4 spot over to Rudd.
3. Will Ferrell
The few episodes when Will Ferrell was on The Office represented an interesting moment in the comedic landscape.
- Would taking over a wildly popular TV show be a step up or down for Will Ferrell?
- Would The Office be more popular with Ferrell instead of Carell?
- Were these two stars at completely equal points in terms of their popularity?
So who’s bigger, Ferrell or Carell? In 2008, this wouldn’t even be a conversation. Will Ferrell exploded after Anchorman playing outrageous leading man roles in big comedies like Talladega Nights (2006), Blades of Glory (2007), Semi-Pro (2008), and Step Brothers (2008).
He had a legendary cameo in Wedding Crashers, did well in a dramatic role in Stranger Than Fiction (2006) and built up his family friendly resume with Kicking and Screaming (2005) and the animated Megamind (2010).
But now when you look back at this list of movies, it doesn’t seem as impressive. Compare it against Carell’s. I’ll take 40 Year Old Virgin over Tallaega Nights. Little Miss Sunshine over Stranger Than Fiction. Despicable Me over Megamind. The Office over anything else.
I guess I like to think of this all like a fantasy draft. Guys like Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, and maybe even still Eddie Murphy warrant first round draft status because the potential’s there for another smash hit. Steve Carell or Paul Rudd are great secure picks, but they don’t have the same high ceiling, at this point in their careers, as the guys listed above. Right now I take Carell at No. 2, but watch out for Ferrell in the next two years. Here’s his upcoming films:
The Campaign (2012) – Pairs Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis together in an election comedy.
Three Mississippi (2013) – Pairs Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler together in a football comedy.
Anchorman 2 (2013) – Will Ferrell returning to his most famous and beloved character.
Carell has the lead now, but expect Ferrell to go on a run soon.
2. Steve Carell
Steve Carell’s back to back from 2005 to 2006 with 40 Year Old Virgin then Little Miss Sunshine is as good as anybody’s best one-two punch.
40 Year Old Virgin is a first ballot Hall of Fame comedy and has to be in the discussion for funniest movie of the ’00s (Anchorman, Hangover, Superbad? Like I said earlier, this will become a blog post of its own).
In Little Miss Sunshine, Carell proved he could act in a dramatic role. He was worthy of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, but it was hard to either a) knock eventual winner Alan Arkin off the ballot or b) get two nods from the Academy in the same category. If Little Miss Sunshine came out a year earlier, it could have and should have beat Crash, but it was hard to pull the upset against Departed.
Carell was phenomenal in his role as Michael Scott on The Office and solidified himself as one of the biggest names in comedy. He’s got his animated film cred (the underrated Despicable Me) and seems to be locked into leading man roles as the everyday guy with a twist in Crazy Stupid Love, Date Night, and Dan In Real Life. His new movie Seeking A Friend For the End of the World looks more cult hit than big box office success.
But he’s not as big now as…
1. Seth Rogen
What? Seth Rogen wasn’t in Anchorman?
I didn’t realize it either until a re-watch circa 2008.
It’s not really a cameo and he doesn’t have any scene stealers. He’s just the dude holding the camera for Veronica Corningstone. This was before Seth Rogen had the following list of hits under his belt:
40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Pineapple Express
Rogen also tallied cult favorites Zach and Miri Make a Porno and Paul
He flexed his legitimate acting chops in 50/50 and Funny People and has the most recognizable laugh in Hollywood.
What I like about Seth Rogen is his ability as a writer too. He’s also branching out to direct The End of the World, which, just take a look at this cast if you are curious whether or not it will be any good. Rogen is on top of this list and, unlike many of the others, I don’t think he’s hit his peak yet.
Comedy has its eras and different stars have their limited time at the top. Right now I think we are in the middle of the Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel era. Considering Rogen is on top of the list, I find it hard to believe that he will show up in Anchorman 2 as a small character. If he does, he definitely won’t go by unnoticed.