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Is Dramatic Acting Will’s Forte?

January 24, 2014

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Will Forte is far from the first Saturday Night Live veteran to take a stab at dramatic acting: The path was paved by Bill Murray (who should’ve won an Oscar for Lost in Translation and should’ve gotten nominations for RushmoreGet Low, and Hyde Park on Hudson) as well as Dan Aykroyd (Oscar-nominated for Driving Miss Daisy) and Eddie Murphy (a sore Oscar loser for Dreamgirls), among others. Usually, though, the skit-comics have achieved success on the big screen before taking darker turns, like when Murray followed up Ghostbusters with The Razor’s Edge and Will Ferrell went from Elf and Old School to Winter Passing and Everything Must Go.

Forte’s cinematic resumé, on the other hand, consists of a string of comedic bombs (most notably MacGruber and The Brothers Solomon, but you can throw Around the World in 80 Days, Beerfest, Rock of Ages, The Watch, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy and That’s My Boy in there, too), followed by his acclaimed work in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, which earned him Best Supporting Actor honors from the National Board of Review as well as an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Now he’s playing it straight again as a doctor who moves in with an Irish family to study the stroke-victim father in Run and Jump, which hits theaters and VOD today.

Forte has claimed in interviews that it wasn’t a self-conscious choice to do back-to-back dramas; these roles came along, and he took them. He’ll be back to funny business soon enough as the voice of Abraham Lincoln in the upcoming LEGO Movie. That may be for the best. As much as I loved Nebraska (especially the deservedly Oscar-nominated performances of Bruce Dern and June Squibb, Bob Nelson’s wry screenplay and Payne’s perfectly deadpan direction) , I felt Forte was the weak link in the ensemble. I kept wishing Bob Odenkirk, who brilliantly plays a smaller role as Forte’s brother, had switched parts with him. Forte’s naturally sing-songy voice just lends itself better to over-the-top characters like his classic SNL impression of hotheaded Sen. Zell Miller.

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Forte’s more effective in Run and Jump, giving a quietly watchful performance as a scientist who finds himself attracted to his patient’s wife (the lovely Maxine Peake). He’s got roles in a couple of other intriguing projects lined up, including the Elmore Leonard adaptation Life of Crime (with John Hawke and Jennifer Aniston) and Peter Bogdanovich’s comeback vehicle Squirrel to the Nuts (also with Aniston, as well as The Last Picture Show‘s Cybill Shepherd and Paper Moon‘s Tatum O’Neal!). It remains to be seen if comedy or drama will prove to be Forte’s strong suit, but you know what they say: Where there’s a Will, there’s a way.

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One Comment
  1. I was pleasantly surprised with his performance in Nebraska but I agree that he was a weak link in a stellar cast.

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