Disclaimer: This list is best appreciated by those with a taste for ‘stupid’ comedic gags, sexual innuendo, and the like.
In the past ten years, cinema has been graced (and disgraced) by a collection of comedies featuring the same few recurring actors. Whether you love them or hate them, there’s always something to be giggled at in each of the movies that have come to define the Frat Pack, the 21st century’s answer to the Sinatra-Bogart alliance of the 1950s (just with some very tangible differences). Made up of the likes of Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, the Frat Pack has taken the box office by storm, cashing in on hits and flops alike.
Here’s my choice of their ten finest films, many of which went on to box office gold…
10. Tropic Thunder
A movie featuring a ‘dude disguised as a dude playing another dude,’ Tropic Thunder can be confusing at first. But with frat packers Jack Black and Ben Stiller in the line-up, you can’t go too wrong. The relationships between three actors-turned-lost-soldiers create plenty of opportunities for humor, and that is where Black and Stiller excel. Their roles almost seem natural, and their interactions with the local villagers are the strongest aspects of the film.
However, since much of the movie rests upon other actors, this movie is not as highly ranked on the Frat Pack list as it could be. Still, it’s hard to forget the performances by Tom Cruise as the Diet Coke addicted studio exec, or Matthew McConaughey as the TiVo-wielding super agent.
9. Night At The Museum
One of the more family-oriented Frat Pack films, Night At The Museum moves away from the slapstick humor of Ben Stiller’s earlier films and towards child-oriented gags and puns. That said, there’s still a lot to laugh at, although the monkey humor gets annoying after a while. Much needed comedic injections come from Owen Wilson, who together with Steve Coogan, show that cowboys and centurions have a lot to fight about. You should be warned: this movie does have a Disney-esque feel – don’t go in expecting to see Old School 2: Museum.
8. Starsky & Hutch
Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller team up again, this time in the recreation of 1970s cop show Starsky & Hutch. With Wilson as Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson, Stiller as David Starsky, and featuring Vince Vaughn as druglord Reese Feldman, this movie was a risky venture. Remakes can go on to great fame, or face great failure. Fortunately for the boys, this movie was a success. That was definitely due to the characteristic Frat Pack humor.
Wilson and Stiller’s relationship benefited the movie, as they played two very believable police detectives. And although some of the plotlines were a bit ridiculous (children throwing knives), their humor shone through, saving the movie at some points. Vaughn, on the other hand, tried a role as a more serious villain, albeit still comical. Not the best fit for him, but a satisfactory performance nonetheless.
7. Meet The Parents
Everyone dreads the day when they finally meet their future in-laws. From that came the prompt of Ben Stiller’s Meet The Parents. Starring Ben Stiller as male nurse Gaylord Focker, someone clearly not blessed by career or by name, Meet The Parents set the standard for in-law movies. The most remembered scenes were almost always Stiller’s dysfunctional interactions with the family cat, which closely mirrored his relationship with the in-laws, led by veteran actor Robert De Niro.
De Niro is the other side of the coin with Meet The Parents, a former CIA agent who uses knowledge from black-ops to interrogate Stiller. Hilarity ensues.
A movie (somewhat) centered around an important social issue, Anchorman differed from a lot of the rest in that it (might’ve) had meaning. That said, any decent movie with Will Ferrell won’t be particularly profound, but will almost certainly be enjoyable. And Anchorman lived up to that standard.
Although Will Ferrell was the only frat packer in major billing, this movie still includes Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in minor roles. Will Ferrell’s job as bumbling, scotch-loving news anchor Ron Burgundy could be the highlight of his career. However, none of that would be possible without the rest of the cast. Featuring Frat Pack movie regulars, Anchorman shows the life of a news team in a way none of us have ever seen it: the fake way. But it gets major merit points for the inter-news team battle, as well as Ferrell and Carell’s one-liners, both of which were the major strengths of the movie.
5. Talladega Nights
Talladega Nights taps into the core of the American psyche. Unfortunately for America, that psyche revolves around NASCAR. After all, as Eleanor Roosevelt put it, “America is all about speed… hot, nasty, badass speed.” Featuring Will Ferrell as the racin g driver of questionable intelligence Ricky Bobby and Sacha Baron Cohen as horsebreeding Frenchman Jean Girard, this movie has something for everyone, as long as you’re into cougars and slightly xenophobic humor.
The sure dimwittedness of Ricky Bobby is the true theatrical marvel of this film, and his one-liners go with the audience long after the movie had ended. Plus, with a father as absent as Reese Bobby (played by perennial supporting actor Gary Cole), Ricky Bobby’s adventures are bound to translate into box office gold. And that’s exactly what Ferrell had on his hands with Talladega Nights.
4. Wedding Crashers
Wedding Crashers is one of those movies where the quality follows the law of diminishing returns: you’ll want to leave about two-thirds of the way through. The beginning, featuring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as party-crashing twenty-somethings is hilarious, and you’ll be laughing throughout. How they adopt new personalities and learn a background file is almost like the CIA. If the CIA were centered around obtaining copious amounts of alcohol, that is.
Then, much like a party that’s run out of beer, reality hits you later on. Despite strong a performance from Christopher Walken, the movie fades, and almost turns into another Stranger Than Fiction. Ironically, a comedic cavalry rides in to save the day in the from of Will Ferrell as Chaz, the meatloaf-loving, funeral-crashing mentor of Wilson and Vaughn. His presence redeems the movie, and overcomes its faults to earn Wedding Crashers a spot on this list.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is an epic battle between two gymnasiums, pining for glory, fame, and money to avoid foreclosure. Featuring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, Dodgeball taught us all so much about everyone’s favorite PE game. Ben Stiller provides a continuous stream of quotable moments, my favorite being, ‘I like to break a mental sweat too.’
Not only that, but his role as idiot villain White Goodman is perfect – just the right balance between cartoonish madness and a 24 terrorist. However, the movie wouldn’t be complete without a corresponding performance from Vince Vaughn, as everyman Peter La Fleur. Vaughn and his cast of Average Joes fight the Globo-Gym machine in their own characteristic style, which includes just about everything from S&M to dodging wrenches.
Dodgeball would not be half as entertaining without the presence of the supporting cast, whose moronic commentary, personal exploration (Steve the Pirate) and wrench-throwing mania made the movie. Due to all of this, Dodgeball earns its place on this list.
Probably the epitome of the dumbed-down comedy, but for a movie about male models, this isn’t unexpected. Much of the humor is derived from Derek Zoolander’s (Stiller) inability to pronounce words (he pronounces eulogy ‘ewwwgooogooolee’) and his overall dimwittedness (gasoline fight, anyone?), but it works. The audience gets captured in the plight of Zoolander’s fall from glory, and eagerly awaits his triumphant return by the end of the movie.
This movie pioneered the walk-off, with none other than Owen Wilson as Zoolander’s rival, Hansel. Not to mention Will Ferrel as the evil villain Mugatu (set to avenge the necktie craze of the eighties), whose tyranny is only exceeded by his extravagant hairstyles. The rest of the supporting cast works fluidly, delivering a hilarious comedy, as well as a reminder of just how annoying the song Relax can be.
1. Old School
The movie that built the Frat Pack. Featuring Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell, it gave everyone another reason to love college, as the misadventures of three aging men prove that fraternities aren’t just for jocks. In fact, the camaraderie of Wilson’s fraternity shows us that age or size makes no difference. Unless of course, you’re talking about health – there are a few hilarious references to that.
Jeremy Piven does a spectacular job as the college dean, providing the perfect antagonist for the rest of the cast. But the real strength lies in the sympathetic nature of the main characters, who are essentially three guys, stuck in a middle-class rut. Add in plenty of laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching humor, and you can understand why Old School merits a place at the top of this list.
Agree with my choices? Disagree? Feel free to start the debate in the comments below!