Steve Carell: The Good and the Not-So-Good

Actor Steve Carell has been solid even when scripts faltered – which has not been that often.

Whether as the lead actor or as a supporting cast member, Steve Carell brings a quality to the screen that is hard to find among comedic-based actors – he brings a sincerity that defies the situation regardless of how ludicrous, ridiculous or outrageous it may be. He can certainly play a sympathetic character, drawing in audiences with a beaten puppy demeanor, but when he tackles comedy roles, his genius shines. Few actors can respond to slapstick circumstances, or deliver such entertaining lines with the straight-faced, totally aware, calm-cool-and-collected understatement that Carell can.

The next Carell film to hit the big screen, Dinner for Schmucks, has the underpinnings of a film that could be a two-hour laugh-fest, or one that quickly taps the same fountain of humor to become tedious and less funny as the minutes tick by. Based on the 1998 French film, The Dinner Game (or Le Diner de Cons) could be a shining moment for Carell, or a let-down in a lineup of movies that have seen effort but disappointment. With “Dinner” releasing on July 30, the idea came to count down some of Carell’s roles and rank them from not-so-good to some of his best big-screen appearances.

10. Bewitched – 2005 – Taking on the role of Uncle Arthur was not one of the better film choices he could have made, but Nicole Kidman was in the lead role.

9. The 40 Year Old Virgin – 2005 – One long-running sex joke, the film had a few funny moments, but generally felt like a couple of hours of redundancy.

8. Date Night – 2010 – Classic premise that might have failed miserably if not for Carell and Tina Fey’s performances. They kept the silliness somewhat real, even when delivering lines that were groan-worthy.

7. Get Smart – 2008 – Taking the role of an iconic spy-spoof character was a set-up for failure, but Carell somehow made Max a lovable loser whose intentions were good not quite the bumbling idiot of the televisions series.

6. Evan Almighty – 2007 – Politician turned Noah, the film had some clever moments, a solid cast and special effects that could have been better. But Carell took that old adage about not performing with children and animals head on and made it work.

5. Any animated film – from 2006’s Over the Hedge to 2008’s Horton Hears a Who and this year’s Despicable Me Carell has created characters with his voice that were solid parts of animated films worth a view.

4. Bruce Almighty – 2003 – Being able to shine when the spotlight was firmly on Jim Carrey takes talent and Carell proved equal to the task. He definitely made the most of the moments when he was center stage.

3. Little Miss Sunshine – 2006 – Another supporting role in an ensemble cast, but Carell delivered a great performance as Uncle Frank Ginsberg.

2. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy – 2004 – Even more over-the-top as idiot weatherman Brick Tamland to Will Ferrell’s titular character, Carell made moronic mainstream and entertaining.

1. Dan in Real Life – 2007 – A starring vehicle in which Carell played the sympathetic lead, caught in the maws of emotional circumstance and muddling his way to love and understanding. It showcased what he could do both comedically and in more serious moments.

Toss out Bewitched as forgettable and you have a list of consistently solid performances. Carell seems to understand the characters he plays and brings them to life amid the chaos induced by scripts. A quick guess that even if Dinner With Schmucks stumbles at the box office, Carell will still deliver a quality performance with the role he plays.

Michael Lafferty has spent 30 years as a journalist and editor for newspapers and Web site, tackling a wide range of subject matter that includes video games, movies and home video releases.

By Michael Lafferty
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