Adam McKay to Make Another Comedy That Tackles Sociopolitical Ills — Remember When He Just, Like, Made ‘Anchorman’?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – Adam McKay is making a comedy about how the elites abuse their power at the expense of the rest of the world.
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The Don’t Look Up and Big Short writer and director’s newest project, Average Height, Average Build, is part-serial killer thriller, part-satire that is currently searching for a studio. The star-studded cast includes the likes of Amy Adams, Robert Downey Jr., Forest Whitaker and Robert Pattinson, the lattermost of which sticks out as an interesting addition as the film’s plot summary sounds sort of like the opposite of The Batman. The Hollywood Reporter describes Average Height, Average Build as the story of a well-connected serial killer who pays political lobbyists to pass laws that make it easier for him to murder.
As Average Height, Average Build searches for a buyer, I have one question that I’d like to ask its lauded writer/director McKay: Is this comedy actually going to make us, like, laugh?
Adam McKay of 2023 is clearly not the same artist who co-founded Funny or Die, or co-wrote Anchorman with Will Ferrell, or served as head writer for Saturday Night Live when the show put on sketches like “NPR’s Delicious Dish: Schweddy Balls.” And that’s to be expected — after spending nearly 30 years at the top of American comedy, McKay is an unmistakably more mature writer and comedian than he was when he was freewheeling through 30 Rockefeller Plaza in his 20s.
However, as possibly the last great American comedy film writer and director, McKay’s recent comedies have been such a startling departure from his early work that it feels as if he’s abandoned important aspects of his filmmaking that first made him a Hollywood star. While Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers certainly didn’t have the biting satire of Don’t Look Up or Vice, they did have things like “jokes” and “levity” that made audiences “laugh.”
In the last decade, McKay has taken it upon himself to use humor in order to speak truth to power, just as every politically minded comedian has aspired to do since the court jesters of yore. But effective satire has more key ingredients than just a clear political bent, and those fools didn’t earn the right to mock the king by eschewing the pointy hats and pratfalls in favor of bullet-pointed speeches on income inequality.
McKay is certainly talented enough to merge his politics and his humor in a way that honors both equally — in fact, he’s already done it. Two years after Bernie Madoff was caught running the largest Ponzi scheme in history, McKay masterfully wove sharp criticisms of the mega-wealthy and their many financial crimes throughout the greatest spoof of the buddy cop action comedy genre ever made with The Other Guys. This film was as endlessly quotable as any early McKay project with a significantly more subtle approach to politics than his recent fare — and yet, its greatest achievement was actually making Mark Wahlberg likable.
At any given point, McKay could very well return to form and deliver a film that is both poignantly political and enduringly entertaining. Despite its on-the-nose description, perhaps Average Height, Average Build will be that movie. Or maybe we’ll get a dozen jokes from 2019 Twitter shoehorned in between monologues about Citizens United.