Without question, Anna Faris is the most successful actress to get her start in a self-referential comedic spoof of a self-referential horror franchise. But ever since Scary Movie, the film industry has struggled to find projects that can bring Faris to the next level of stardom. A discussion broke out in Cinema Blend headquarters regarding Faris and her career, with Sean O’Connell believing the actress had hit her ceiling and Pop Culture Editor Mack Rawden promising that she had the talent to do far more than she's been given the chance for so far. We wanted to take their debate public. So, should Anna Faris ever be a star?
SEAN: Define “star.” Are we talking “the next Julia Roberts?” Because if that were going to happen, it would have happened already.
A TV spot for the new Faris “joint,” What’s Your Number?, turned my head, and not for its clumsy punchlines or the shamelessly predictable use of Pink’s party anthem “Raise Your Glass.” No, it was the soothing baritone of Mr. Movie Announcer describing Faris as the star of Scary Movie. Really? You’re going back to 2000 to remind people who she is? Is that how long Hollywood has been trying to make Faris a star? Isn’t it about time they stopped?
This isn’t meant as a slam toward Faris, who is the consummate supporting comedian. In the past, I have been impressed by her bold career decisions, whether its playing along with the mean-spirited but undeniably hilarious humor of Observe & Report or embracing the Cameron Diaz comparisons being mentioned behind her back by spoofing the A-lister in Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation. Let’s just stop trying to pretend that Faris is the next Diaz, Reese Witherspoon or Sandra Bullock … a funny beauty capable of opening – then carrying – a comedy on her own. That ship sailed when The House Bunny stalled at $48 million.
Faris is capable of having a long career as a versatile member in endless comedy ensembles. She could be the next Parker Posey. And she’s far too talented to be languishing in dreck like Yogi Bear or the Alvin and the Chipmunks sequels. I’m just saying Hollywood doesn’t need to keep building watered-down comedies around Faris, because the public’s not buying in. Like Mean Girl Regina ordered Gretchen about the word “fetch,” stop trying to make Anna Faris happen.
MACK: Seriously, you’re going to try to use Mean Girls quotes in a debate against me? I doubt Minka Kelly ever brought up Lou Gehrig in an argument with Derek Jeter. Act accordingly. And for the record, “fetch” did happen, is still happening and will continue to happen. I’d argue this out with you all night, but I’m only allowed to keep you here til four so we need to stay on topic.
Like most other comedians, Anna Faris started out her career overselling silly and stupid material. Why? Because that’s how the boys have done it. With a reckless, overbearing energy, numerous funnymen like Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler carved out a cult following early in their careers, but the truth is it’s a lot easier for a male protagonist to be both likeable and idiotic. We tend to prefer Lloyd Christmas stupid to House Bunny stupid. Faris learned that double standard through box office bombs and off-putting turns, but still, in nearly every one of those films, she’s had a few scenes in which everything came together.
Like it or not, there aren’t hundreds of Emma Stones out there. Women like Jane Lynch and Catherine O’Hara have proven over the years that ladies can be laugh out loud scene stealers, but when it comes to female leads, we’re often made to tolerate mildly funny actresses like Jennifer Aniston doing their best to fight for laughs in rom-coms. Anna Faris is funny, she’s just not funny when she tries to be Jim Carrey. In the underseen Take Me Home Tonight, she proved she can find the right balance between humorous and relatable. The timing is there, the mannerisms are there, she just needs the right script. Personally, I’d rather watch her struggle to find it than other women who have long proven they’re passable at best.
SEAN: If watching her “struggle” means sitting through Yogi Bear, then I have to disagree with you, Mack. Though your argument seems to prove that you agree with me, thereby ending our debate.
You are correct. Faris is the next Jane Lynch. The next Catherine O’Hara. With luck, she’ll find her Christopher Guest – and soon – because that comedic director understood how to use female comedians in smart comedies. Because few have figured out how best to use Faris’ gifts. Again, I refer you back to Yogi Bear.
I just don’t think Faris is going to be the lead actress Hollywood wants her to be. To be fair, I think the industry tried. The House Bunny received a serious push. Countless articles were written by intelligent film journalists asking, “Why isn’t Anna Faris a big star?” The answer, proven at the box office, is that mainstream audiences just don’t embrace her the way that they do a Reese Witherspoon or a Sandra Bullock, and it’s time that Hollywood started using her differently. That way, we’d avoid the uncomfortable rom-coms (like this weekend’s What’s Your Number?) or the painful Yogi Bear flops, and Faris could find her niche in smartly written, funny comedies. You know, like a real comedian should.
MACK: Every comedic actress in the world would benefit from being around Christopher Guest. Hell, I’m sure Waffle House waitresses benefit from being around Christopher Guest, but all Anna Faris needs to benefit from is a decent script. You think Yogi Bear would have worked out better if Gilda Radner had risen from the grave and taken that role? You think The House Bunny would have won Oscars if a prime Lauren Bacall had played the lead? If Anna Faris screws up what could have been a good movie, I’ll back down, but until that happens, I’ll keep waiting for the day she becomes a star.