Sunday, November 1, 2009

#61 - The Frat Pack

It was the decade when...

we all got hazed at the cineplex.

Some random musings for the members of the Frat Pack.

Ben Stiller- OK, I know you are the "acknowledged leader" of this comedic gang. You're the brains. Never shy of a cameo in your pals' movies, you have been involved either as an actor or writer/director/producer in 20 of the 35 canonical "frat pack" films. (Who decides which films count as a "frat pack" filcks? Well, we all know Wikipedia doesn't lie; it's like the oracle at Delphi.) Still, can I point out an obvious fact?: You seem about as likely to have been in a fraternity as Margaret Thatcher. Chess club, maybe. Student Government? Definitely. The Frat Pack is all about low-to-middle-brow, vaguely misogynistic, contemporary comedy...comedy with a decidedly man-tastic, testosterone rich aura. You may have some serious guns (both literal and figurative) but there is no hiding the fact you are one bagel and lox away from being as classic a nebbishy New York Jew as your daddy (who still is the funniest actor to ever appear in a Frat Pack movie) or the Woodman himself. And we all know, neurotic New York Jews don't do fraternities. Still, you're definitely one of the more tolerable and talented of the Frat's brothers, and one of the few whose artistic success could continue for years to come even outside the critic-proof cocoon of the Pack. So, if I may, a word of advice. You have to stop doing these horrible generic rom-com's, it makes you and the rest of the pack look bad. Along Came Polly, and out went my patience. Stick to movies where you can play self-absorbed fashion models or intimidatingly mustachioed athletes who specialize in obscure sports. The sillier your voice, the better.

Vince Vaughn- If Stiller is the leader and brains of the Frat Pack you Vince are it's sweaty, bloated face. Machismo to spare, slovenly in grooming, blase in tone, garrulous of speech- you Vince embody everything the Frat Pack is all about. You have been at the center of three of the most paradigmatic of all Frat Pack movies, Dodgeball, Old School and the platonic form of Frat Packery, Wedding Crashers. You also have yet to make me laugh. Ever. Unlike your fellow Packers, you almost never write the scripts to your movies. I don't think you have anything funny to write down. You're just there, this big annoying lug on screen projecting little more in affect than self-satisfaction and boredom. I'm sick of hearing about your private life in the tabloids. I'm annoyed by everyone pretending that you some kind of leading man and not a fat schlub. I'm pissed you played Norman Bates so suckily. I'm done with you.

Owen Wilson- The most eccentric of the Frat, Owen, you bring new meaning to term "smug." No longer just a manifestation of barely submerged hubris, smugness becomes an entire weltanschauung with your characters; a disposition with which one can approach life, a tactic to face the vicissitudes of fate and time, an armor against inevitable disappointment and regret. Yours is a soulful smugness. Your blond locks and blase demeanor may be the same from film to film but I'll take your perfected brand of sui generis comic timing over the more desperate flailing of lesser comic actors any day. Best of all, you were given the most delicious nickname since they called Sinatra The Chairman of the Board: The Butterscotch Stallion. That's one of the best assemblage of words I've ever heard.

Jack Black - Slightly outside the inner sanctum of the three mentioned above, the Frat Pack would nonetheless be much diminished without your spastic, adrenaline filled performances, even if the incessant showboating alludes toward a unacknowledged insecurity and off-putting need to please. Part John Belushi, part Megadeath, you turned your hybrid of Rock N' Roll and over-the-top humor into a fully realized comic persona that felt both comfortably zany and bracingly fresh. Less prone to cameo in another Frat Packer's starring vehicle, your association with the mini-genre was more tangential and it's good thing too; like the hilarious but exhausting loud drunk guy at last weekend's kegger, you're best in small doses.

Will Ferrell- An independently successful comedy mega-star, you occasionally circle into the orbit of the Frat Pack system, usually supplying a movie its comic highlight. In fact, it was your nude shout-out of "We're Going Streaking!" in the 2003 film Old School that united the disparate strands of comedic momentum into a single artistic movement. If there was one moment in which the Frat Pack officially began, that was it. Years later, your star vehicle Anchorman stood astride the shifting comedy pillars of the waning Frat Pack monopoly and the more recent dominance of the Bromantic Apatow series. The result was one of the most hilarious films of the decade.

You AUGHT to remember.


  1. I was with you until the part where you seem to think Jack Black and Will Ferrell are somehow funny. They're not. Even if ones IQ is below 80, his taste in movies excellence is below Karate Kid Part II, and his comedic taste doesn't range past Chevy Chase they're not funny. At all. Ever.

  2. Just found the site today and proceeded to read all the way back to #100. Thanks for a completely unproductive (and entertaining) day at work. Spot on!