You have to love Ben Stiller. He is one of those rare actors that makes you laugh just by looking at him. The proof is in our list of Ben’s top 10 movies. The good thing about Mr. Stiller is that he doesn’t really make much of an effort to go out of his best genre – comedy. Yes, he has dabbled in drama, especially early in his career, and in the recent Greenberg (which didn’t make the list), but he knows where his talents excel. For the most part, Stiller’s films are fun to watch and always feature some very memorable moments. A lot of people forget that Ben is an established director as well. He directed the Jim Carrey comedy The Cable Guy and the ensemble comedy hit, Tropic Thunder, the hit romantic film Reality Bites, and the oddly effective Zoolander (all of which did make the list). Here’s a look back at the best of the best – the films of Ben Stiller.
10. MYSTERY MEN – I may get a lot of shit for putting this ‘quirky’ film on Ben’s top 10 list, but I don’t care…I actually enjoyed it. A strange, but effective cast that features Stiller, Paul ‘Pee Wee Herman’ Reubens, William H. Macy, Hank Azaria, Geoffrey Rush, Greg Kinnear, and Janeane Garafolo, the best quality of this film is the way the superheroes embrace the stereotypes. The chemistry between these guys is really good. This was also the first time we get to see the lovely Claire Forlani. The film relies on its clever dialogue more than the physical comedy and that may have been why it failed miserably at the box office. However, I think it’s fun to watch. Not for everyone, but definitely for me.
9. STARSKY & HUTCH- This film, based on the popular 1970′s TV show could have been a disaster. However, the approach taken by the filmmakers to make this more of a comedy than an action film worked extremely well. Paired yet again with Owen Wilson, the duo combine to form one of the funniest buddy cop movies of all time. Joined by a great cameo by Will Ferrell, as well as nice turns by the always reliable Vince Vaughn and Snoop Dogg, the film succeeds on many levels. Director Todd Phillips (The Hangover and Old School) has a knack for bringing out the best in his actors, and S&H is more proof of that. More proof that pretty much anything Stiller and Wilson do together makes for good comedy. See other examples below.
8. FLIRTING WITH DISASTER – Stiller headlines an all star cast in this very funny film about a guy who travels cross country to find his birth parents. Ben is joined by Tea Leoni, Patricia Arquette, Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Josh Brolin, and Richard Jenkins. Stiller has always been good at playing the innocent guy in the wrong situation. This is the film that really started that trend for him. He’s great at it. Fantastic writing and superbly directed by David O. Russell (The Fighter), Flirting With Disaster is one of those films that surprises with just how funny it is.
7. REALITY BITES – Besides being possibly Ethan Hawke’s best film, this story of post grad Gen-Xers is one that a lot of college students could relate to. Stiller assembled a solid cast here and he does get the most out of them. Come to think of it, this is probably Winona Ryder’s last really good film as well. Not only is the film itself quality entertainment, but the soundtrack remains one of the best to come out over the past 20 years. Being Ben’s first directorial effort, credit must be given to the man for coming out of the gate strong. Although the film doesn’t have the same effect as it did in 1994, I try to remember how I felt upon my first viewing.
6. ZOOLANDER – Derek Zoolander. Hansel. Mugatu. Maury Ballstein. Not names you would normally see or hear on a daily basis. Sort of fits the overall feel of this film that basically makes fun of the male modeling industry. Zoolander is not a film that appeals to everyone, in fact, I know several people that loathe it. However, I appreciated the effort here and some of this material is just hilarious to me. The numerous ‘looks’ of Owen Wilson’s Hansel and Stiller’s Derek are great. The plot is incredibly silly, but because Wilson and Stiller have such great comedic chemistry…who really cares? Will Ferrell’s Mugatu is not quite as impressionable as some of his other characters, but the ‘oddness’ of it does seem to fit the overall tone of the picture. Stiller loses himself in this role and when you finish watching it, he’s not Ben anymore…he is Derek. Blue Steel forever! Zoolander 2 is due in 2012 and is rumored to have a Lady Gaga cameo.
5. DODGEBALL - Truly one of Stiller’s funniest characters. His portrayal of White Goodman is comedy at its best. You wouldn’t think a film called Dodgeball would really be all that good, but due to the cast, it excels where most comedies would just fall flat. Vince Vaughn, who is another one of my favorite comedic actors, is the perfect opposition to Stiller’s Goodman. The extremely simple plot is easy to follow and like most of Stiller’s films, is filled with really good supporting actors. Gary Cole and Jason Bateman as the announcers at the tournament are the standouts, but Justin Long, Rip Torn, and Joel Moore (Avatar) give nice performances too. The actual sequences involving dodgeball are well shot and a lot of fun to watch. Stiller’s over the top White Goodman is the most memorable in a film full of well written characters.
4. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 1 AND 2 – Yes, these films are primarily made for the kids, but there is something about the fun everyone seems to having here that puts smiles on adult faces as well. An ambitious effort creatively, both of the Museum films take history and make it extremely interesting and fun for the moviegoer. Stiller once again, fits right in as the museum night guard Larry Daley. Supporting players galore – Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson (yet again), Dick Van Dyke, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Steve Coogan, and Ricky Gervais are just a few of big names that play various historical figures in the film. Entertaining is the one word best used to describe these films. This set would also be a nice one to watch back to back. Kids get a kick out of it and adults enjoy it nearly as much…I sure did.
3. TROPIC THUNDER- This is what happens when you create a film that has so many memorable characters. Ben Stiller directed, wrote and starred in this film that featured some of Hollywood’s best actors. The list is impressive. Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte, Tom Cruise, and Danny McBride all lend their talents to this ambitious production. Downey and Cruise are the standouts, but Stiller’s Tugg Speedman is the centerpiece of the film. Black is underused, but to be honest, the other players get just the right amount of screen time. Cruise’s Les Grossman might even be getting a spinoff film soon. Tropic Thunder is the film that shows Stiller’s skills the most. Dealing with an ensemble cast, an action heavy plot, and being able to put it all together to create what may have been the funniest film of 2008 is his most impressive overall effort to date.
2. MEET THE PARENTS/MEET THE FOCKERS- Without a doubt Stiller’s most memorable character, Gaylord ‘Greg’ Focker meets a very demanding soon to be father in law, Jack Byrnes, hilariously portrayed by Robert DeNiro. The relationship between the two of them is the focus of the film, but there are many other things going in these films that bring on the laughter. Owen Wilson’s funny portrayal of the ex-boyfriend Kevin, who still has feelings for Greg’s woman, Pam Byrnes. Add a funny sequence involving the family cat, a crazy water volleyball game, and Jack’s lie detector machine and you have one of the best comedies of the last decade. The sequel, Meet the Fockers continued the hilarity and brought Bernie and Rozz Focker into the mix. Good casting gave us Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand in those roles and they couldn’t have been more different than the Byrnes. Watching these two films back to back is a good 3 hours of fun!! Unfortunately, the third film in this series pales in comparison to the first two, as Little Fockers just feels forced and it is not nearly as funny as it could have been.
1. THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY- The Farrelly Brothers were responsible for giving us one of the best comedies of the 1990′s with Dumb and Dumber. Four years later, they released their next big comedy that featured a whole bunch of great characters and memorable scenes. There’s Something About Mary debuted in 1998 to critical praise and word spread quickly as to just how funny it really was. Stiller was perfectly cast as the guy who had the girl, screwed it up, and longed to get her back. Cameron Diaz, as Mary, seemed to be having the most fun with her role, and even Matt Dillon proved to have comedic flair as Private Investigator Healy. What worked so well in this film is the consistency of the laughs. It really never stops from the opening to the last frame and that’s a true testament to all involved. The material is witty, funny, and heartfelt, all at the same time. Ben’s portrayal of Ted sets the tone for the movie and this film remains one of the best comedies of all time. If you haven’t seen it in awhile, I recommend sitting down for another viewing. You will remember what you liked about it so much the first time around.
**HONORABLE MENTIONS- MADAGASCAR 1 AND 2, ZERO EFFECT, AND PERMANENT MIDNIGHT
Stiller is one of the most consistently working actors in Hollywood and he has a few projects in the works. Little Fockers, the third installment in the Meet the Parents series, is releasing this week. He just voiced the character Bernard in this fall’s big animated hit Megamind. Currently filming is the new comedy heist film Tower Heist, which stars Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Eddie Murphy, and Casey Affleck. This film is scheduled for a November 2011 release. Also in pre-production is The Hardy Men, which re-teams Stiller with his Tropic Thunder co-star and real life pal Tom Cruise. I always look forward to a Ben Stiller film and he never truly lets me down. For the most part, his films are easily watchable and entertaining. Below is the trailer for his latest comedy Little Fockers, which also stars Robert DeNiro, Teri Polo, Jessica Alba and Barbara Streisand.
Here is my review of Little Fockers.
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