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Will Ferrell: Love Him or Hate Him?

POSTED:

Are you ready for a Will Ferrell argument? No, not the one about whether he'll bare his flabby ass. I'm talking about the debate that's bound to rage when Ferrell's latest sports comedy Semi-Pro opens this weekend and lands smack on top of the box-office charts. Ferrell haters will argue that he's just doing the same thing over and over again (go rent Stranger Than Fiction and Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda to kick that argument in the teeth). His fans will counter that Ferrell is mad funny even when his movies suck. I tend to side with the last group, though Kicking and Screaming, Bewitched and The Producers are difficult to defend on any level. My theory about most movie comedies, whether or not they star Ferrell, is that few of them reach perfection. What we remember are comic moments, laugh-out-loud scenes that we can return to on DVD for a hoot. The laughs in Semi-Pro, which focuses on Ferrell as the owner, coach and star player of a ragtag ABA basketball team in the disco, afro, love-me-sexy 1970's, are hit and miss, mostly miss. But it's hard to supress a hoot watching Ferrell do the alley oop, rollerskate over eight spread-eagled "ball" girls, and even wrestle a bear to drum up business.

Semi-Pro got me thinking of other Ferrell moments I'd take to a desert island like a comedy mix tape. Here's a few of my favorites. Name your own or argue me down, if you can.

Old School

The scene of Ferrell as Frank "The Tank" Ricard reliving his drunken frat days by streaking through the streets and getting caught by his wife, is one for the comedy time capsule.

Zoolander

Ferrell's Mugatu is the fashionista villain who turns male models into assassins and designs a new fashion line, Derelicte, based on the clothing of the homeless. My favorite moment comes when Mugatu crushes Derek (Ben Stiller) and his model-of-the-year dreams by fawning over surfer-dude newcomer Hansel (Owen Wilson) and saying in an indecipherable accent, "Hansel is so hot right now."

Elf

Even when he can't use naughty words or get naked, Ferrell gets laughs as Buddy, a human raised by elves. Don't think I'll ever forget Buddy's outrage when he confronts a departmant store Santa: "You sit on a throne of lies!" It's Ferrell's biggest box-office hit.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Ferrell is sleazy fun as the blow-dried, polyester prince of the Channel 4 news team in San Diego. "Your heinie is breathtaking," he tells one babe. "I want to be friends with it." But what I remember most, besides Ferrell doing "the no-pants dance" with Christina Applegate's female anchor, is Ron 's hilariously unapt sign-off on the news: "Stay classy."

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

As indelibly stupid NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby, Ferrell won a Best Kiss MTV Movie Awatd for going wet and deep with Sacha Baron Cohen as a gay French Formula Un driver. But he hits comic paydirt when Ricky says grace at a family dinner and states his preference for the baby Jesus over grownup Jesus, bearded Jesus and the Jesus who opened as a frontman for Lynard Skynyrd. With scenes like this, it's hard to hate on Ferrell even when his movies don't cut it.

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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