We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10. Ben Stiller's been through a lot. I'm not saying he's had a rough life, after all he's married to Christine Taylor and he's got comedy in his blood (son of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara). At first it seemed Stiller was destined to go unnoticed. Nobody watched "The Ben Stiller Show" on FOX. But then along came Reality Bites.
Now he is one of Hollywood's elite, and Tropic Thunder should only add to that. Complete with fake trailers, and two big performances from Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise, the man continues to prove he can act and direct.
When I first thought about a Top 7 list for Stiller, I imagined it would be tough, especially since I wasn't going to allow cameos to count (so there won't be an Anchorman on this list).
Hell, I thought I'd even get to add Heavy Weights and his golden performance of Tony Perkis, but don't worry, that just missed.
And as always, I need to see Tropic Thunder another time to officially add it, but just so you know, it would be on this list.
7. Meet the Parents Recap: Gaylord 'Greg' Focker has a hell of a time meeting his fiancée's parents (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner) for the first time. Everything goes wrong, and it only gets worse when Jack (De Niro) overly protects daddy's little girl. Reason: It took me an incredibly long time to warm up to this film. On first viewing, it was just pain. Constant pain. No matter what Greg did, it turned out awful. But once you get past the first viewing, you can appreciate the comic timing. Now I would say it is strong ... to quite strong.
6. Zero Effect Recap: Steve Arlo (Stiller) and Daryl Zero (Bill Pullman) are a private eye duo and their latest case finds them looking for a tycoon's missing keys. Zero is the brains, but he's also socially inept. Reason: I felt like I was the quite champion for this film. No one had seen it or heard of it. That's just not right. Sure, it's Pullman's film first and foremost, but it's a great duo and a very impressive debut from writer/director Jake Kasdan, who by the way directed Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, another very solid film. Stiller's at this best when annoyed, and Pullman gives him lots of opportunities. 5. Flirting with Disaster Recap: Now that he has just become a father, Mel Coplin (Stiller) is on a quest to find his birth parents. Social worker Tina (Téa Leoni) takes Mel and his wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette) on a cross-country trip filled with clerical errors and mistaken identities. Once Mel meets his biological parents, he questions if it was all worth it. Reason: Sure Arquette is always a little uncomfortable to watch, but this is Leoni at her best. Plus it's very difficult to pull off crazy and smart, yet this film nails it. And who knowns, perhaps the Fockers' name was inspired by the Schlictings.
4. Reality Bites Recap: Stiller's first time directing as Lelaina (Winona Ryder) camcords her friends in a documentary of life after college. Vickie (Janeane Garofalo) worries about an AIDS test, Troy (Ethan Hawke) is the essential slacker and Sammy (Steve Zahn) deals with his sexuality. Michael (Stiller) swoops in and charms her project into a full-blown MTV-style film. Reason: This film arrived at just the right time. It seemed like this was only thing out there to speak to Generation X. Sure there can be flaws spotted, but that's only because I've sat through it so many times. It's also one of the first films to focus on how into 'reality' this generation has become. Plus, most girls should be able to answer the Troy vs. Michael question.
3. Zoolander Recap: Derek Zoolander (Stiller) is the top male model, thanks to his signature look Blue Steel. But, he's on his way out now that Hansel (Owen Wilson) is so hot right now. That of course leads to a brainwashing where Derek just might assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia ... don't worry, he doesn't. Reason: It proved Will Ferrell could do anything and it's funny (though that's starting to wear off). Dance-offs are amazing, no matter what and so are super small cell phones. This was Stiller's third directorial debut and for some reason we had to wait seven years for his next.
2. The Royal Tenenubaums Recap: Former child prodigies (Stiller, Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow) reunite when their father (Gene Hackman) declares he has a terminal illness. Reason: I'm one of the few that thinks Rushmore is Anderson's best film, but Tenenubaums is a close second. This huge oddity is a great, adult fairy tale drama with an amazing ensemble cast. Stiller runs a great fire alarm drill, but more importantly, his red sweat suit can make a killer Halloween costume.
1. There's Something About Mary Recap: Ted (Stiller) has a second chance with his high school dream girl (Cameron Diaz), so this time he doesn't want to take any risks, and hires Pat (Dillon), which of course creates many more problems. Reason: It's the best, most original comedy of the last decade. Franks and beans is just one of the unforgettable lines. There's been tons of gross out comedies since, trying to mimic the success of Mary, but none have gotten close. I wonder if Dillon's line, "I work with retards," had any long term influence on Stiller's creation of the Simple Jack character.
There's the Top 7, now what should be in the Top 10?