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Screen Grabs: Freaks and Weirdoes

The end of the line for New Line Cinema, Will Ferrell's airball, the madness of Uwe Boll, casting for the inbred look, and much more.
Pink FlamingosWith the Academy Awards in the rearview mirror and Oscar's most luminous newcomer, Marion Cotillard, outed as a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, we arrive at the annual parade of freaks and weirdoes that is March moviegoing. In the week's biggest industry news, the venerable Time Warner-owned studio New Line, owner of two current films about those aforementioned freaks and weirdoes—Michel Gondry's quirky ode to DIY filmmaking, Be Kind Rewind, and Will Ferrell's latest wacky sports comedy, Semi-Pro—will be folded into Warner Brothers and cease to exist as an independent entity. While one critic rushed to eulogize the studio as an "oddity and an anomaly" which went "highbrow and low" (from The Lord of the Rings to A Nightmare on Elm Street, Magnolia to Pink Flamingos), another more dispassionate observer who has followed the developing situation closely called the move "logical, necessary, and ballsy" from the perspective of Time Warner.


Semi-Pro Another observer suggested that New Line's poor marketing and positioning of Semi-Pro showed that the company's fate was merited. The film topped the box office last weekend, but it won by default, earning far less than expected. Critics were also unimpressed. One slammed Ferrell for playing his "default autopilot character—the clueless boob," while another mused that this effort could mark the end of the frat-pack comedy. This seems unlikely as long as Judd Apatow remains a frat-packager, but it does seem plausible that audiences are growing weary of Ferrell's portrayals of brainlessly narcissistic freaks and weirdoes, as several commentators have wondered. Ferrell's probably not looking for career advice, but one writer is offering it, saying he should consider a Christopher Guest comedy, a Mike Myers-type film where he can play multiple roles, or a significant supporting role. We'll wait and see.


Larry Thomas as the Soup Nazi Ferrell's new flick aside, there were plenty of others out there mining the freaks-and-weirdoes schtick. The brilliantly awful German director Uwe Boll (subject of countless articles with headlines like "World's Worst Director") will release his latest video game-inspired schlockfest, Postal, on May 23, the same weekend the new Indiana Jones movie comes out; in an email last week, Boll declared that his film, which features Larry Thomas (the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld) as Osama Bin Laden trying to steal a truckload of dolls from an amusement park, would be the winner at the box office. (Again, we'll wait and see.) Meanwhile, Jason Bateman, star of the cult TV series Arrested Development, said that plans were moving ahead on a film adaptation (no word on whether Thomas, who also portrayed a Saddam Hussein impersonator on the show, might reprise his role in the movie). Meanwhile, another long-awaited film from a cult comedy franchise, The Onion Movie, is finally headed for DVD, three years after being shelved; those who've seen it have consistently called it awful, and seem to like comparing it unfavorably to Kentucky Fried Movie—to which, coincidentally, Boll's latest opus has also been compared.


Seth GreenAnyway, audiences have always had an appetite for freaks and weirdoes, from Buster Keaton to Peter Sellers to Andy Kaufman, and they always will. Issues most often arise when the freakishness, geekiness, or weirdness is the result of a stereotype or a slur. Seth Green's upcoming turn in a film called Sex Drive as a debaucherous Amish adolescent pushes the boundaries of good taste, but it certainly won't be the first Amish comedy (see Kingpin). Taking things one step further was the casting director for Shelter, an upcoming Julianne Moore/Jonathan Rhys Meyers thriller, who was fired after putting out a call for actors with an "inbred look" to play West Virginia hillbillies. West Virginians weren't amused—because freaks and weirdoes stop being funny when you realize you're the one being laughed at.


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