Total Recall: Steve Carell's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Date Night star.
The next time you feel like your career isn't going as smoothly as you'd like, or worry that your dreams may never come true, just remind yourself that, for quite awhile, the biggest credit on Steve Carell's résumé was a bit role in Curly Sue. Almost 20 years later, Carell's perseverance (and tons of talent) have paid off, making him a star of not only some of the last decade's top-grossing comedies, but one of TV's most critically beloved sitcoms. This week, Carell teams up with fellow rising comedy star -- and NBC alum -- Tina Fey for Date Night, and we decided to honor the occasion by taking a look at the critical highlights of his career so far. It's Total Recall time!
10. Evan Almighty
After the enormous success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin made Carell a bankable leading man, Universal made the Bruce Almighty sequel a priority -- a major priority, in fact, to the tune of a record-breaking $200 million budget. This put Evan Almighty in a bit of a pinch when it came time to recoup, and the largely negative reviews didn't help; ultimately, despite a heavy marketing push from the studio and a storyline that included a bearded Carell building an ark, Evan was one of the year's bigger disappointments. Still, it wasn't all bad -- David N. Butterworth was one of the critics who enjoyed the sequel, pronouncing it "Better than Bruce by at least two turtle doves and a 40-year-old virgin."
Carell's gift for unctuous smarm was already known to fans of The Daily Show, but few of them could have suspected he was capable of walking off with the funniest scenes in a Jim Carrey movie. That's just what he did with Bruce Almighty, livening up the $484 million hit with his portrayal of Evan Baxter, the newsroom rival of Carrey's temporarily omnipotent Bruce. "Yep, this is the Carrey America loves," wrote Tom Long of the Detroit News. "Off-the-wall, over-the-top, elastic, spastic and fantastic." And when Carrey declined to revisit the character, it was Carell the producers turned to for the sequel.
8. Get Smart
If anyone was going to step into Don Adams' shoe phones for a 21st century version of Get Smart, it had to be Steve Carell. Answering the question of what it would be like if The Office's Michael Scott bought a gun and became a bumbling action hero, Peter Segal's update on the 1960s TV series paired Carell with Anne Hathaway for a round of globetrotting comic espionage that included the talents of Alan Arkin, David Koechner, Bill Murray, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. While the 2008 edition of Get Smart might not have been a classic, it delivered what it was supposed to: Comedy, action, and a setup for a sequel. As Tom Maurstad of the Dallas Morning News put it, "Instead of the show's wacky, slapstick tone, Get Smart presents itself as an action-filled spy movie that just happens to be really funny. And for the most part, it succeeds."
Is life a comedy or a tragedy? That's the question asked by Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda, which finds a pair of playwrights (Wallace Shawn and Larry Pine) using the character of Melinda (Radha Mitchell) to tell a comic (Shawn) or tragic (Pine) tale. Carell reunited with his Anchorman co-star Will Ferrell here -- both of them on the comedy side, naturally -- and although Melinda and Melinda didn't earn Anchorman-sized grosses, many critics felt it was one of Allen's better late-period efforts, including Ian Freer of Empire Magazine, who wrote, "It has great performances, snappy one-liners and a likeably tricksy structure, all wrapped up in an affirmative antidote to life's daunting complexities. Welcome back, Woody."
Though frequently called upon to play overbearing buffoons, Carell is equally adept with more complex characters -- like Dan Burns, the widowed parent whose emotional rebirth forms the heart of Dan in Real Life. Dotted with the sort of painfully awkward situations Carell's so good in, Dan also highlighted his dramatic gifts by giving him a character with difficult, and easily identifiable, challenges. The reviews suffered from critical exhaustion with indie dramedies about quirky families, but most writers were able to see past the surface similarities to other releases and recognize a warm-hearted film that managed to walk the line between sweet and saccharine -- not to mention a fine performance from its star. As Time's Richard Schickel put it in his review, "Now, everybody knows that Steve Carell is lovable."