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Hola all. Massawyrm here.
It’s rare to come across a film that is equally delightful as it is literate. A film that is sharp, smart and comical, but just warms the very cockles of your heart while watching it. Usually this is the type of thing reserved for the classics of romantic literature – like a Jayne Austin adaptation. But as it turns out, Stranger than Fiction is just such a film. To describe it you have to draw on phrases like positively wonderful, absolutely enchanting or the word I ended up choosing above, simply, delightful. Because that’s what this is. Stranger than Fiction is the single best comedy I’ve seen all year. One of those uncommon comedies that manages to transcend the genre and enter Oscar level territory (an award rarely offered to comedies) this film sets itself apart from the very beginning. There’s something about Emma Thompson’s melodic voice narrating the daily doldrums of her character’s life that takes what would normally be dull as shit and instead makes it effervescent. It gives the film the feel of reading a really great novel, which of course is the point. You feel enmeshed in a wonderful piece of literature rather than watching a strange, almost self-referential, comedy. It is a feeling almost like watching a Charlie Kaufman film, directed by Albert Brooks, if Charlie Kaufman had become addicted to uppers, fell in love and then decided to write something a bit happier than he usually does. And every moment of it works. Now long time readers will note that I share no particular love for Will Ferrell. I loved the hell out of Elf – where his man-child shtick was actually put to excellent use – and I’ve quite enjoyed a few of his supporting roles. But as a lead, his brand of comedy just doesn’t click with me. So seeing him in something like this was fantastic. This is his Man on the Moon, his Punch Drunk Love, in which he steps away from the comedy that made him and moves into a more mature style – putting himself in the hands of other comedians and properly exposing himself to a whole new audience that had long since written him off. This is the film that causes guys like me, and the scores of others out there, to stop muttering God I hate Will Farrell before shuffling into one of his movies. Yes, haters, it is that good. And while Ferrell is the driving force and heart of the film, he is backed up by an absolutely spectacular cast including the aforementioned Emma Thompson as the neurotic novelist desperately struggling with writer’s block, Queen Latifah as her liason with the publisher chomping at the bit for the next book, Dustin Hoffman as the literature professor trying to help Ferrell discover what kind of novel he’s in and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the angry baker Ferrell is forced to audit. And everyone is in top form, most notably Thompson who is positively endearing and Gyllenhaal who is probably more adorable than she’s ever been on film. You simply fall in love with every wonderful character and delight in every moment you spend with them. Marc Forster’s direction is top notch. This is a guy who seems all over the map stylistically. From his moody, Oscar nominated and winning Monster’s Ball, to his lovable Oscar nominated and Winning Finding Neverland, to his dreadfully mediocre and not even remotely nominated existential film Stay, the mans work hints at someone who refuses to stay nailed down to one type of film. Even the style of his films change from effort to effort. Here, his decision to uses what appears to be hand drawn outlines to simulate the things going on in Harold Crick’s (Ferrell) mind is possibly one of the best such devices I’ve seen used in recent film. Perfectly illustrating the things that neither the acting nor the narration could interestingly convey, it is little touches like this that make this my favorite of not only Ferrell’s body of work, but of Forster’s. And with Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland in that résumé, that’s saying an awful lot. And on a personal note, I’d like to interrupt this sloppy blowjob of a review to personally thank Mr. Forster for his film Monster’s Ball. Not for the nudity or the quality of the film, but simply for the name. You see, once upon a time I was but a lowly video store clerk, schilling out mainstream films to costumers of a large retail chain store. And when Monster’s Ball won Halle Berry best Actress, droves of middle aged women swarmed the store looking for the film. But for some reason, the middle aged female mind had an extremely hard time wrapping itself around the title of the film and always, every single god damned time, transposed the ‘S’ from one word to the other. Some of the best moments of my video store career involved answering the oft asked question “Excuse me sir, but do you have Monster Balls?”. Yes ma’am, I most certainly do. So, thank you Mr. Forster. Now back to your regularly scheduled geekboy gushing, already in progress… There isn’t a flaw in this film, not a single wasted moment, not a single wasted line. Everything about it, even on down to the bizarre casting choice of those two irritating guys that are always sitting in their car in those Sonic restaurant ads (together as Harold’s co-workers) comes out just right. I quite simply cannot recommend this film enough. Highest Recommendation. Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.
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Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 26, 2006, 7:06 a.m. CST

    Bamn you Dichael May

    by ledbetter51

    Bamn you Dichael May

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 7:07 a.m. CST


    by WizardX

    Do you think he liked it?

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 7:10 a.m. CST

    Sounds pretty damn good man.

    by Cameron1

    Admittedly the trailer made me think Kaufmann-lite but I'll give this shot, your Break-Up review made me take a chance on that flick and I was very happy indeed.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 7:27 a.m. CST

    It has a new Spoon song on the soundtrack...

    by rbatty024

    so that's a selling point. I don't particularly like Will Ferrell, but I'll take a chance.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 7:29 a.m. CST

    Funnier than Borat??

    by Igouptoeleven

    Funniest film of the year? hmmmmm not too sure bout that.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 7:33 a.m. CST

    i'da said Truman Show over Man on the Moon

    by triplefive

    this definitely seems like Ferrel's truman show...and "do you have monster balls" is very funny, indeed

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 7:41 a.m. CST


    by tile_mcgillus

    Must be because it was a positive review right...? I will definately be checking this out.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 8:04 a.m. CST

    Monster Balls

    by The Pusher

    Had to say it. Also, looking forward to this one.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 8:28 a.m. CST

    Actually, my balls are pretty normal...

    by Garbageman33

    But my cock is enormous. I just wanted to get that out there.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 8:30 a.m. CST

    My balls are not that big either

    by Kristian66

    But then again, neither is my cock

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 8:47 a.m. CST

    "Jayne" Austin...?

    by Osmosis Jones

    Damn, you, spellchecker.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 8:50 a.m. CST

    Well, color me surprised.

    by Childe Roland

    Everything from the idea for this film to the cast had me saying "pass" until I read this review. I'm also not a fan of Ferrel as anything but a supporting player (and one of the wackier ones) in an ensemble comedy. But I did enjoy Elf. So I'll take your word on this one and recommend it to the missus for our next "date night."

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 8:52 a.m. CST

    I totally agree

    by solidseaweed

    I got a chance to see the film at the London Film Festival last Sunday and I couldn't agree with Massawyrm more. It's by far the most intelligent comedy I've seen this year with is Ferrell's best performance yet.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 9:08 a.m. CST

    Funnier than Borat??

    by EnemyWithin

    I hate that prat Sacha Baron Cohen, ever since the 11'o clock show, ive never found him funny. Anyway, Stranger than... saw a trailer ages ago, and i liked the looks of it, but after some quite dull reviews i was alittle put off, but this review has got me interested again.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 9:29 a.m. CST


    by richier123

    I thought Stay was a really good movie. The way the whole thing related back to the 10 seconds of his death or whatever, pretty sweet. And I might have to see this movie now because those Sonic guys are hilarious 2/3 of the time. Man, I laugh just thinking about them...

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 9:29 a.m. CST

    I also have little use for Will Ferrel...

    by Trancer

    but I thought "Elf" was entertaining. The trailer for this looked interesting, and after reading this, I definitely plan on seeing it. Maybe Will Ferrel's finally getting past the comedy for 13-year-olds phase.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 10:13 a.m. CST

    Jayne Austin? Classic...

    by Alonzo Mosely

    I always love it when the AICN reviewers try and show us they are culture vultures, and inevitably fall flat on their oversized faces...

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 10:21 a.m. CST

    Also, I know someone who was an extra in this movie...

    by Alonzo Mosely

    And she got to dance with Hoffman, so she should be easy to spot if they didn't cut it. Of course none of you care, but I don't care about nipples on Optimus either, so fuck the lot of you...

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 10:57 a.m. CST

    It can be a better film wirthout being funnier than

    by ChorleyFM

    Borat. We all know that Borat will be hilarious, but will have little substance. This really does look like it could be as good as Truman Show or Man on the Moon, to remarkably brilliant comedies.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 11:02 a.m. CST

    I'm sorry, Massa.

    by Sasha Nein

    I just read "cockless of the heart" and now I can't take you seriously anymore.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 11:14 a.m. CST

    Definitely watching this

    by Plum

    The trailer completely sold me on this movie anyway- I'm mixed on Will Ferrell, but I adore Emma Thompson, and I love stories that mix up art and life. I'd be pretty damn shocked if this got any Oscar attention, but maybe it lives in that "zany but not TOO weird" zone the Academy can tolerate.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 11:48 a.m. CST

    Funnier than Borat??

    by Igouptoeleven

    It may well have more substance, but old Massa said its the 'funniest' film. The Truman show was good, wouldn't say it was funny in the slightest though. i'm sorry enemywithin but not only will Borat be one of the funniest films of the decade, but the man is a comedy genius. You are simply....wrong.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 11:52 a.m. CST

    TOO SOON!!!!

    by Bill Brasky

    c'mon Will, it is just TOO SOON for your career to spin down into the depths of "I need to do a movie where I can get some real acting cred" or "I always wanted an Oscar when I was a kid." Will, the common folk have spoken, and YackBacker will tell you that they all want more of Ricky Bobby, Kicking and Screaming, Bewitched, Anchorman, Starsky & Hutch, etc. This is true comedy, in the Adam Sandler "everything-after-Happy-Gilmore" vein. You know, the idea that once funny isn't funny anymore, keep doing what was funny because old farts and rednecks will still shell out ten bucks to see your two hour shit fest. Yeah!!!!

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 11:57 a.m. CST

    Good Review

    by Saluki

    Very direct and to the point. The trailer almost had me, but this article sold me. Love the premise, and the bright, yet nearly dead look of all the locations oddly makes the dry humor work even better.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 12:01 p.m. CST

    I liked the script well enough...

    by Novaman5000

    Now if I can only get into a screening! I'm looking foward to it.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 12:01 p.m. CST

    I haven't seen Delirious in years...

    by Novaman5000

    But I remember liking it. I was around 10 when I saw it though...

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 12:22 p.m. CST

    Commercials Aren't That Good

    by jimmy_009

    Think I'll wait until the DVD comes out. Punch Drunk Love was Punch Drunk Retarded. Don't even get me started on the garbage that was Monster's Ball.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 12:39 p.m. CST

    Damn, Jimmy...

    by Childe Roland're just on fire with the showing of your ass in talkbacks lately. Punch Drunk Retarded? That's fucking priceless, kid. Is the reason you don't want to get started on Monster's Ball because Massawyrm already used the most obvious lame wordplay for the title? Damn. Must suck to have you thunder so completely stolen. By the way, those urinal cakes aren't for eating. Just FYI.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 12:50 p.m. CST

    Stay was amazing. Maybe Forester's best movie.

    by JackLint

    Stay was mediocre the same way Memento was mediocre.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 1:06 p.m. CST

    I retract my opinion.

    by jimmy_009

    I realize now that I can't have one. Thanks for setting me straight Roland. And Monster Ball's is hilarious.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 1:30 p.m. CST

    Doesn't take much for Maggie G. to be...

    by El Scorcho

    more adorable here than in any other film she's been in. That's because she's an insufferable, annoying, ugly-as-fuck clown.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 1:44 p.m. CST

    This flick almost feels like it was...

    by vivavitalogy

    written by Kuafman. Imagine: There Kaufman is sitting with chains around his ankles held captive by studio execs. They want there mainstream movie with the Kaufman charm. "Screw acclaim, we want money" they yell. The crack of their whips are heard around the world. We weep.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 2:21 p.m. CST


    by Cruel_Kingdom

    Saying it almost makes it true, right?

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 2:29 p.m. CST

    Hate to beat a dead hose

    by Fabulous Freak

    but make with the avatar already

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 2:46 p.m. CST


    by Prof. Quatermass

    Screenplay by Zach Helm. Not that _that_ matters, right?

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 3:03 p.m. CST

    Stay the course!!!

    by Lamerz

    Seriously though, I can't wait to see this. Something that actually looks fresh and original without being too artsy-fartsy. Fuckin A, I finally get to see The Departed tonight. YES!!!!!!!!!

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 3:10 p.m. CST

    Oh, and the "Damn you Michael Bay" thing is...

    by Lamerz

    ... so motherfucking over-tired. Get over it, losers.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 3:12 p.m. CST

    MCMLXXVI - Learn to use punctuation, bitch.

    by Lamerz

    That's all, folks.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 3:14 p.m. CST

    Looking forward to the film

    by Ragin Bully

    This one as well:

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 3:16 p.m. CST

    I'm totally there.

    by minderbinder

    I had never even heard of this until I saw a TV ad. These days, there's not much that gets me excited, but seeing even 30 seconds worth of it made me want to go.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 5:23 p.m. CST


    by Cobbio

    The problem I have with this film is I already saw the whole thing in the trailer. I know exactly what's going to happen, who it's going to happen to, and how it's going to conclude. Maybe the extra ten minutes of stuff I didn't see in the trailer will make the film worth seeing, but I already laughed, I cried, and then wanted to bitchslap the hell out of the people who made the trailer. I'll be skipping this film.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 5:29 p.m. CST

    Man on the moon?

    by undercat84

    I think I would have to go with Eternal Sunshine as Carrey's defining role if I were to choose. This review pretty much described everything I was hoping this movie would be.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 7:03 p.m. CST

    Borat And This Seem Like A Good Time

    by The Ender

    Good times for old Ender folks

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 8:01 p.m. CST

    Unamuno did it

    by Bongalongadingdong

    ...among others. i'm not impressed by this premise.

  • Oct. 26, 2006, 11:09 p.m. CST

    hey richier= ASSHOLE.

    by foreignerbelt

    hey richier= ASSHOLE. spoilers make me angry. especially when I'm about to watch the movie

  • Oct. 27, 2006, 12:20 a.m. CST

    have to echo Quatermass

    by BadMrWonka

    Helm is a HUGE up and coming behind the scenes guy. complete with a star-packing directorial debut, a hot actress girlfriend, and tons of street cred int he theater community. I'm going to see this because of him, if not for anything else. although to be honest, all parts look great. this is going to be enjoyable, and I love to love movies that are sweet. too often sweet = suck, and when someone can do something good-natured and still interesting, I will pony the fuck up.

  • Oct. 27, 2006, 2 a.m. CST

    Glad to hear it

    by Zorak5

    Stranger Than Fiction looks great, but more importantly, it could save what has been a really boring year for movies for me. For some reason this year, I have seen drastically fewer movies than I usually do. It's been pretty dismal. And of the few that actually looked good enough to see, only one or two are actually worth seeing again. This year has lacked an "A Mighty Wind" or a "Napoleon Dynamite," a small, but highly-entertaining film that becomes a favorite. I'm hoping Stranger Than Fiction can be that film. Because with less than 3 months left in the year, it has really been a horrible year for movies.

  • Oct. 27, 2006, 5:50 a.m. CST

    I saw it yesterday

    by strangef8

    And I agree with everything he said.

  • Oct. 27, 2006, 6:51 a.m. CST


    by EnemyWithin

    I am not wrong I just have a different opinion to you. I dont find anything funny about taking something that is funny, and then using that same joke over and over again. You might like it, good for you.

  • Oct. 27, 2006, 8:14 a.m. CST


    by Igouptoeleven

    .....But your wrong.

  • Oct. 27, 2006, 9:13 a.m. CST

    Alonzo Mosely stole my cigarettes!!

    by DirkD13"

    Damn you Alonzo Mosely!

  • Oct. 27, 2006, 10:08 a.m. CST

    Damn you Michael Bay for having monster balls!

    by boba_rob

    You sexy tomboy beanpole you! Tell Grando I said hi and that I'm sorry for the bomb in his ribcage.

  • Oct. 27, 2006, 10:09 a.m. CST

    Brooke Hogan is f****** HOT as hell!

    by boba_rob

    Those boobies, geez! Totally off topic, I know.

  • Oct. 27, 2006, 3:27 p.m. CST

    ...key Vulcan Mind Meld music...

    by Bill Brasky

    My mind to your mind. My thoughts are your thoughts... Pain...truth...suffering. Love?... More Ricky Bobby? Please? PAIN!!!

  • Oct. 27, 2006, 6:06 p.m. CST


    by EnemyWithin

    Yor such a cock that you cant even accept someone else's point of view. Poor thing...

  • Oct. 28, 2006, 11:03 a.m. CST


    by Nintendo Dude

    I have been working at a video store for going on six years now. I can't tell you how many times I heard that "monster balls" comment when it was released. Some others off the top of my head: "Do you have any Hildago?" "Any Centennial?" (when asking for The Sentinel.) Two all-time favorites were when women asked for either "What Women Want" or "Snatch." Always made me grin when some cute blonde asked me for Snatch.