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Get lost, Will Ferrell, Ed Helms is the man now

Posted by GoreMaster Special Effects on June 3, 2009

Ed Helms

Ed Helms

By JULIE HINDS  Detroit Free Press

 

   Normally, I’d be excited about “Land of the Lost” opening Friday, just because it stars Will Ferrell.

   He is, after all, the comedian who’s always eager to abandon his dignity and bare his no-pack abs for a laugh. If I ever feel too stressed out, I can picture Ferrell as Ron Burgundy in “Anchorman,” his life in a shambles, his beard a scraggly mess, plodding along a hot sidewalk as he chugs from a carton and says, “Milk was a bad choice.”

   But the more popular a funnyman gets, the less Hollywood is able to resist sticking him in a big, bloated summer blockbuster. And that’s exactly what “Land of the Lost” seems like on the surface. Will the special effects in this update of Sid and Marty Krofft’s trippy 1970s Saturday morning series overwhelm Ferrell? Can he really compete with dinosaurs?

   What intrigues me is another movie coming out this week, “The Hangover,” just because it stars Ed Helms.

   Helms looks more like the assistant manager of a credit union than a movie star. He hasn’t had a breakout role yet, but he’s finding a niche playing ordinary guys who are pushed to the limit by life’s obstacles and yet still attempt to plaster on a confident smile. He is us, or we are him, as we cope with frightening new economic realities.

   The genial Helms honed his skills on “The Daily Show,” where his earnest inquisitiveness and deeply weird streak made him a perfect correspondent for the fake news show. But he’s really hit his stride with his co starring role on “The Office” as Andy Bernard, the ambitious, desperate-to-be-liked Cornell alumnus.

   Andy has anger management issues. His nerdy hobbies include a cappella singing (his college group was called Here Comes Treble) and playing the banjo. He had a disastrous romance with the icy control-freak Angela. He tried to strike up a bromance with Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton boss, Michael Scott, who’s probably the only other character who yearns as deeply to be accepted.

   Andy is like a modern Barney Fife, only without Sheriff Andy Taylor to guide him. The more he tries to smoothly disguise his simmering rage, the more you laugh and ache for him. And when he does drop the smiling facade, it’s always interesting. “You’re so gratuitously creepy,” he tells Creed on one of “The Office” Webisodes at NBC.com

Hit ’em where it hurts, Andy, in the vocabulary.

   If Ferrell’s pompous cluelessness fit the early 2000s like a glove, Helms and his buttoned-down anxiety are right for this very moment in time. I have no idea if “The Hangover” is going to be bleak, ridiculous, brilliant or, hopefully, all of the above, but I do want to know how the Helms character loses a tooth. And I don’t really care what Ferrell does to fight off the prehistoric beasts.

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