A look at this summer’s box office returns shows no break away blockbuster of a comedy. A look at some ticket stubs shows the reason why, there have not been any good comedies released this year. This is of course excluding the recently released Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Just why exactly have the comedy options this year been so poor? A lack of Tag Team Comedy™.
Look at some of the comedies released so far in 2006, The Break-Up, a Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston vehicle; You, Me and Dupree, featuring Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson and My Super Ex-Girlfriend staring Luke Wilson and Uma Thurman.
What is wrong with all of these movies? It is surely not the stars, as Vince Vaughn and Owen and Luke Wilson have many great comedies together. Wait, there it is, the word “together.” Maybe that is the key.
The Summer of 2003
During the summer of 2003, the comedy Old School was released as another movie in the long line of “the next Animal House.” The movie was a great success both financially and in its comedy. This had little to do with its roots in Animal House and everything to do with bringing together Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, and Luke Wilson in one comedy.
Previous to the release of Old School, each actor had experienced some degree of success. Vince Vaughn starred with much acclaim in Swingers, but was unable to land additional leading roles. Will Ferrell was a star of Saturday Night Live, but had yet to find his place in Hollywood. Luke Wilson experienced some success working with Wes Anderson and his brother Owen in less mainstream comedies such as Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums.
Old School put each of them on the map. It brought all three actors into the “A” list of comedy. However, as we saw this summer, just because Vince Vaughn or Luke Wilson make a comedy, it does not actually make the comedy good. The key is together.
In 2005, in a glorious example of Tag Team Power, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn teamed up to star in the amazingly premised, Wedding Crashers. But that’s not all, just as the movie starts to lose steam, bam! Will Ferrell shows up to cement the movie’s ending.
Whenever a comedy features two or more of Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, or a Wilson brother, then that comedy is almost assured to be a hit. These actors make up the Tag Team of Comedy. Together they have almost unlimited power of laughter, but apart they make cheesy romantic comedies with Jennifer Aniston and Michael Douglas.
The Ben Stiller Rule
Ben Stiller has been an established comedic actor before the Tag Team was revealed to the world and has many hits working solo as well as collaborating with others. However, in the Summer of 2004, Ben Stiller starred with Vince Vaughn in the standout and ultra-hilarious comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. This cemented his place as part of the Tag Team, though he is not a full member. Stiller is still able to work independently and produce quality comedies.
Looking back, it seems that Stiller may have always been part of the Tag Team. In 2001, long before Old School and Dodgeball, he starred in Zoolander alongside Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell. Even his Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, released in 2001 and 2004 respectively, gained a little Tag Team aura with Owen Wilson showing up every now and then.
Even a remake of an old television show could not entirely doom the Tag Team power. Usually these remakes are almost certain duds, see The Dukes of Hazard as an example, or rather it’s best to not see it. Yet, Ben Stiller teaming with Owen Wilson, and featuring a villainous Vince Vaughn in Starsky and Hutch produced a solid, if unspectacular effort, even if Snoop Dog did steal all of his scenes. So maybe this movie was not the greatest, but what more can you expect from a remake?
Clearly, Ben Stiller is a pre-established member of the Tag Team, able to work solo, but also kick some ass and make some laughs in collaboration with Vince Vaughn or Owen Wilson.
The Adam McKay/Will Ferrell Exemption
In 2004, Will Ferrell collaborated with Saturday Night Live writer and director Adam McKay to create Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy. Featuring the perfect name for a 70’s-era network anchorman, this hit comedy was primarily just Will Ferrell, sans Tag Team.
That is, except for one scene. As Will Ferrell, portraying Ron Burgandy, walks with his network team down a back alley, he meets a Vince Vaughn-led rival news team and prepares for a turf war. Just as the fight is about to start, another rival news team enters, anchored by Luke Wilson. The hilarity is far from over, when the Spanish Channel news team appears, under the control of Ben Stiller.
This scene featuring all but Owen Wilson from the Tag Team, is one of the most outrageous of the movie and perhaps the Tag Teams way of supporting this movie as well as future Will Ferrell and Adam McKay collaborations. Collaborations such as the recently released Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the one comedy of this summer that is worth seeing and that is sure to be a box office hit.
However, one must be warned that this is not just a Will Ferrell exemption. Only his movies with Adam McKay will fall under this rule, not all of his solo work. You still want to stay far away from 2005’s Bewitched and Kicking and Screaming. 2003’s Elf had some high points, but far from equaling Wedding Crashers or Old School.
Use this guideline when selecting movies for future considerations. You will probably want to stay away from solo works such as Vince Vaughn’s No Place Like Home or Luke Wilson’s Barry Munday, both set for release in 2007. You do not want to end up sitting through another The Break-Up or Shanghai Knights.
Future Will Ferrell movies seem to have a good premise for success with Stranger than Fiction set to be released later this year and Blades of Glory set for a 2007 release. However, using the Tag Team rule leads one to believe that they may not live up to that potential.
You know what movies to avoid at all cost, but what is now left for you to enjoy? There are two Tag Team-friendly movies in production and I am sure even more on the way. Old School 2 will reunite the original Tag Team of Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn to reprise their roles as middle-aged frat boys. In 2008, Outsourced will find Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn traveling to Mexico to reclaim their outsourced jobs. Surely, that is a comedy not to be missed.
In the mean time while you are waiting for the next Tag Team Comedy, you can always go back a watch the classics on DVD, go see Ricky Bobby again or prepare for Broken Lizard’s Beer Fest. Those are the guys who brought you Super Troopers and know that they are a Tag Team (or in normal terms, Comedy Troupe) and stick together.