10 August 2012

The Road to a Blockbuster: The Galifianakis Legacy

It's Friday once again folks and welcome to The Road to a Blockbuster - Norwegian Morning Wood's Summerlong look at the potential of every major new movie release. We're not content with just what it can do at the Box Office, though - we want to examine the possible critical and cultural impact these flicks can have. This week our biggest adventures are The Campaign (2012) and The Bourne Legacy (2012), both of which ought to do okay if not spectacular.

Let's start with The Campaign. It's almost a surprising pairing of two of the funniest comic actors from the past decade - Will Ferrell and Zach Galifanakis. Norwegian Morning Wood has profile both of these dudes in the past (Read Will's here and Zach's here). Who will come out on top? It seems as if Ferrell is playing the more villainous, conniving incumbent candidate here and Zach is the rising, bushy eyed up-and-comer, which is not unlike their own respective stardom.

In a risky career move, Galifianakis grew a moustache.
I will always tout that I've been a Galifianakis fan since his days hosting subversive talk shows that came on at 3 am on vH1 and haven't gotten tired of his schtick yet. Like I said, his mix with Will isn't common, though their humour styles sometimes align. They both tend to play man-children teetering on the brink of innocence and depravity. Compare Galifianakis' Alan in The Hangover (2009) and Ferrell's Brennan in Step Brothers (2008) and you'll find two people obsessed with bizarre things like Long John Silvers and Bonnie Raitt. Where they differ, though, is in subtle things that steer them in very different directions. Take Alan's creepy knowledge of the Jonas Brothers vs. Brennan's love of Cops and Chewbacca. The difference is that Ferrell is immature but still way more mainstream - his obsessions are funny because they're the same that a little boy would have. Galifianakis is on an entirely different level of insanity because his obsessions are the same that a little girl would have.

Galifianakis has always been this underground comic. While Ferrell was hitting it huge 15 years ago on SNL, Galifianakis was parading with The Comedians of Comedy and seemed like he wanted everything in the world except stardom. They're both very subversive acts, though, and part of Ferrell's freshness has come from his retreat from awful things like Bewitched (2005) and a simultaneous focus on playing his character trope seriously (Everything Must Go [2011] - Ryan Reynolds did the same thing to wondrous effect in Adventureland [2009]) and going all out for the absolutely wacky (The Other Guys [2010]). It's not like mixing people who have a lot of history such as Vince, Ben, and Jonah in The Watch (2012) a few weeks ago. Based on how well that did, that's probably a good thing.

Zach and Will have done some things together like a Between Two Ferns episode that struggled to identify who was playing whom. It is actually weirdly rare, though, how often legends from different comedy schools team up. The only recent example I can think of is Adam Sandler joining up with Seth Rogen and the Apatow crew for Funny People (2009), though granted he has history with Apatow (a weird episode of Undeclared where this chick sleeps with Loughran for some reason. Also they were college roommates). That was one of the best films of 2009, though it didn't do shit at the Box Office. Still, it's tough to compare the two outside of the interesting pairing.

In an election year this film couldn't be better timed before things get serious come the fall. It remains to be seen whether or not this stakes a political stance beyond the simple idea that "campaigning is stupid," which is true. Still, it ought to be a nice R-rated jaunt, which is great. We are truly in the debt of The Hangover, which proved that everyone can make a ton of money with raunchy comedies.

Actually doesn't this look like the most generic action film ever?
The other big film this weekend is The Bourne Legacy, which stars Hawkeye as Jason Bourne. I would go see it on only that premise, to be honest. But no, this is Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, a sort-of Bourne alternate who seems to be in the same Bourne world but without any of the intrigue that drived the character. The thing about The Bourne Identity (2002) that made it so successful was that it didn't focus on this large conspiracy or organization. It was a spy movie about a dude who didn't know he was a spy. As the series progressed, Matt Damon's character grew and grew until he learned his name was David or something in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and ended up shot in the back in a body of water and soon to bang Julia Stiles (which was actually exactly how he started the series, which was pretty cool).

The thing was though, that Ultimatum and the massive conspiracy and bureaucracy behind it wouldn't work as a stand alone film, it would just be lost in the shuffle of tons of espionage films. Identity was simple in structure and thoroughly established both Bourne as a character and Damon as an actor. Jeremy Renner lately has been a dude to kind of show up everywhere and take over everyone else's franchise (see also: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol [2011]). Still, his roles in The Hurt Locker (2009) and The Town (2010) were enough for him to steal our hearts. And our wallets.

What will happen with this movie? Who cares. That really seems to be the underlying sentiment. Both these films have been advertised well, but I give the edge to The Campaign for having an original premise and to get a nation together that's been starving for a good comedy. The Bourne Legacy is cool but can anyone tell you what the hell it's actually about? Hawkeye shoots something in the snow, bangs Rachel Weisz (who still looks hot, good for her [and her career in Hollywood]), and is another dude who is working for the same people Bourne is but without any of the amnesia. That's like making another Total Recall movie and not setting it on Mars! Wait, they what?!

Who says Superman isn't Black? And Jamaican.
I don't know, maybe this will succeed. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is still casting a long shadow, though, and since it's actually been slower than The Dark Knight (2008), more people still haven't seen it, meaning it can keep pumping out those numbers for a while. You've got to hand it to them - that release date ahead of the Summer Olympics was vital, in addition to its prime Summer Launch date. With the final weekend of the Olympic Games and a flurry of Gold Medal matches in highly contested, globally popular sports like Handball, Synchronized Swimming, and Men's Field Hockey, who has time to go to the movies anyway? What's that? LeBron will get his Gold Medal at 11 am Sunday? Okay, maybe we can squeeze in a trip to the movies before then.

The point is, though, that there are too many distractions for any film this weekend to have a great cultural impact. The Bourne Ultimatum is somehow still the highest-grossing August release of all time, and Will has had a great track record in August - but again, no one cares. The biggest topic of national conversation is Usain Bolt, the Flying Squirrel, and which non-fictional politian is screwing up his campaign more - Romney or Obama (I'll give you a hint...it's Romney). A year ago everyone was buzzing about how awesome Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). That turned it into a decent cultural event. That won't happen with either of these films.

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