Steve Carell, suprise candidate for “Silver Fox of the year”, turned a very handsome 55 last week. In his honor, I’ve been rewatching The Office on Netflix (I mean, I’m always rewatching The Office but this week it felt special.) and thinking about all Carell’s other work. Even before he was the boss everyone loves to hate, Carell had a career in comedy. From his bit role in Bruce Almighty to his loving depiction of The 40 Year Old Virgin, his talent showed every time he was on screen. Here are five performances proving Steve Carell really can do it all.
Early on, it seemed Carell was stuck behind a news desk. His aforementioned appearance in Bruce Almighty was followed just one year later by his role as Brick Tamland in Anchorman. At this point, much of his appeal was in physical comedy and inappropriate yelling. And in case you’ve forgotten (who could forget??) it’s Brick that brought us the now meme-worthy “I love lamp”. Soon after Anchorman, Carell became a more nuanced actor, and began showing his range.
4. Crazy Stupid Love
Imagine if you will: a sex symbol, America’s latest sweetheart, and a middle-aged man who once waxed a clown’s face into his chest hair for a punchline. Which of these three would you imagine the runaway star, should they all appear on screen together? Unless you guessed the hairiest man alive, you would be wrong.
Crazy Stupid Love is one on Steve Carell’s best dramatic performances. He plays Cal Weaver, average American white guy, as he navigates life after his wife leaves him. Ryan Gosling’s reaction to a velcro wallet? Iconic. But Carell carries the movie while keeping his character from toppling into a repeat of any number of other hapless husbands he’s played before.
3. Despicable Me (and 2 and 3)
The Minions. Depending on who you ask, they’re either a scourge on the world, or the best thing since sliced bread. Personally, their appeal waivers on me about every six months or so. What never changes, however, is how much I love Despicable Me. All three of these movies have trailers that made me laugh so hard I cried, and that’s largely the fault of Steve Carell.
Alright, to be fair, it’s got a lot to do with the animators, since much of the trailers are silent or lack dialogue. I’m digressing. The point I’m trying to make here is that while the Minions wax and wane in and out of my good graces, Gru is always a delight. Once again, Carell brings a complexity to a character who could have become a hyperbole. His voice work shows that he’s come a long way from the slapstick performance in Bruce, considering he can no longer pull faces or lay on the floor for a laugh. Gru is the best part of the Despicable Me empire.
2. Little Miss Sunshine
One of Carell’s most serious roles came out of the early 2000’s obsession with indie movies. Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Into The Wild, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Adventureland… all movies that focus more on character development than plot, and all with acoustic guitar playlists to keep you appropriately gloomy until you’re offered a glimmer of hope at the end.
Carell plays Frank Ginsburg, a man who has failed at killing himself. He’s released from the hospital into the (overly?) concerned hands of his family, and then joins them on an old-fashioned, pile-in-the-van road trip. While he has performed dramatic roles since Sunshine, it’s easily his darkest project. Ginsburg is nearly the polar opposite of Michael Scott: no smiles, no self-esteem, and no love for those around him. It’s a fascinating study into Carell’s full range.
1. The Definition of “Aging Gracefully”
No matter what, Steve Carell has always been a goofball, and he looks the part. Even in tuxedos and on red carpets, Carell has a consistent air of “friendly uncle” to him that he’s never been able to shake. Recently, however, Carell seems to have undergone some full-body transformation that took him from “yeah okay” to “holy crap WHAT?”. Does he deserve to be appreciated for more than his looks? Yes, all humans do. But does he also deserve to catch up on a lifetime of being ogled? I think yes also. Steve Carell is the ultimate Silver Fox because NO ONE SAW IT COMING, and his magical silver hair seems to truly have powers no mortal can understand.
That’s literally what she said. Happy belated birthday, Steve Carell, from all of us here at Monkeys Fighting Robots. All of us, but especially me.