After a glut of appalling films including Land Of The Lost, Step Brothers and Semi Pro, this weekend sees the return of Will Ferrell to the big screen with, The Other Guys. He's hoping that his schtick is worth one more trip on the comedy rollercoaster.
Regardless of whether or not you think Mr. Ferrell's brand of child-like naiveté coupled with asshole tendencies is a well of comedy gold, it's clear to see his stock is plummeting. In 2003/04 he was the Midas of the ROFLing world, making Elf one of the greatest Christmas films of this century and imbuing Anchorman with the kind of hilarity that spawned a thousand (now with hindsight) unfunny T-shirts.
But, as with all comedy kingpins before him, audiences grew tired of him, and the laughter dried up. Are there any exceptions to this immutable rule of film comedy? Is the shelf-life of a comic actor always this short? It would seem so.
A perfect case study is Mike Myers. In the late 90's everything Myers did was greeted with hoots, chortles and guffaws. A British spy with bad teeth and shit 60's catchphrases was in danger of eclipsing the long awaited Star Wars prequel. Cut to 7 years later and The Love Guru: the same man is doing the same thing to universal critical derision and worldwide audience apathy.
To Mike Myers add Chevy Chase, to Chase add Eddie Murphy, to Murphy add Steve Martin. In the comedy world, the King does not stay the King.
There is an alternative: get dramatic. This is also known as, The Bill Murray route. With Stranger Than Fiction, Ferrell laid a claim to being a 'real actor' putting in his most accomplished performance to date, but this move only emboldened the falsehood that comedy acting isn't real acting. It is, it just requires a change up. Whether or not the audience will follow, nobody can really say.
Being past your sell-by date in the movie world is nothing new (just ask any actress over the age of 50 that isn't a Dame), but with comedy in particular, audiences are merciless. One argument would be that actors are now so aware of this, they take the money and run where ever it may be, shortening their already decreasing life span (Jack Black, Gulliver's Travels and the recent Orange Adverts we're looking at you).
Does this over exposure lead to a quicker fame-death? Or is the fact that comedy itself thrives on freshness the reason these photocopy products get so wearisome?
When incredibly the only real exception to this trend is Adam Sandler (regardless of what naysayers say nayingly, the guy consistently makes movies that people want to see), the rule seems to fit. Funny is finite.