Any honest assessment of Will Ferrell comedies would have to say they are uneven. The first Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby are classics; Get Hard, Step Brothers, and Blades of Glory, not so much. The best you can say about the next Ferrell vehicle announced yesterday, in which he will portray an Alzheimer-impaired President Reagan being manipulated by his staff, is that the Hollywood left has capitulated to the fact that since they can’t assail Reagan’s record directly, they’ll have to settle for extreme comic distortion.
There they go again. Since the Hollywood left can no longer directly attack Reagan’s record in office, they have to resort to making up a disability to try to turn him into a comic figure. Anyone who has ever read the transcripts of Reagan in his one-on-one meetings with Gorbachev will know that the premise of this film is absurd.
Reagan’s daughter Patti has weighed in today with a scathing “open letter” to Ferrell:
Dear Mr. Ferrell:
I saw the news bulletin — as did everyone — that you intend to portray my father in the throes of Alzheimer’s for a comedy that you are also producing. Perhaps you have managed to retain some ignorance about Alzheimer’s and other versions of dementia. Perhaps if you knew more, you would not find the subject humorous.
Alzheimer’s doesn’t care if you are President of the United States or a dockworker. It steals what is most precious to a human being — memories, connections, the familiar landmarks of a lifetime that we all come to rely on to hold our place secure in this world and keep us linked to those we have come to know and love. I watched as fear invaded my father’s eyes — this man who was never afraid of anything. I heard his voice tremble as he stood in the living room and said, “I don’t know where I am.” I watched helplessly as he reached for memories, for words, that were suddenly out of reach and moving farther away. For ten long years he drifted — past the memories that marked his life, past all that was familiar…and mercifully, finally past the fear.
There was laughter in those years, but there was never humor.
There’s more, but it closes with this hammer:
Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have — I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either. Perhaps you would like to explain to them how this disease is suitable material for a comedy.
If the movie gets made, I predict it will bomb.
UPDATE: Today (Friday), Ferrell has announced that he is dropping out of the project. I’ll amend my prediction: this film will not get made.