How do people really feel about Jay Roach? Despite being responsible for the Focker‘s franchise and as much or more bad Austin Powers films than there are good ones, I haven’t noticed him become an object of scorn like other comedy directors that have pandered to the LCD or driven franchises into the ground. In Roach’s defense he’s definitely a competent filmmaker, and more than anything Recount –the HBO movie about the 2000 election he directed– make me think his new pitch for a campaign-trail comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis could possibly turn out well. Deadline has the story, with Roach auctioning off the package that Warner Brothers ultimately won.
The other bright spot of this idea is the duo of writers Roach has writing the comedy- Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell. The former is responsible for writing the generally well-received The Other Guys, even if that doesn’t seem to be a comedy that has stuck to anyone’s ribs, so to speak. Henchy also wrote Land of the Lost, but more interestingly he’s had some success producing a number of the great shorts that have gone viral in the past few years including Drunk History, Prop 8: The Musical, and Wax On, Fuck Off. Harwell is best known as the writer of Eastbound & Down (in conjunction with McBride and Jody Hill of course). These two are obviously capable of writing solid comedy, and Roach is capable of solid directing, but Roach and Henchy seem to have the capability to aim much lower at times- one would hope they bring their A-Game to this one.
The plan is to release the film right in the middle of the election heat in 2012, which could be perfect, or it could backfire horrendously. In fact, I would ultimately guess the latter is more likely. 2012’s election promises to be as depressing and hateful as an election has ever been, and while that might seem to be an invitation for humor, a mainstream comedy starring Bush’s most public imitator and the weird bearded guy might not really be what the doctor ordered. Not to mention, after another year and a half of a shitty economy and increased tension over all of the rest of the issues grinding people’s asses these days, how tone-deaf is a comedy written almost two years ago going to be? Stewart and Colbert live and die by the immediacy of their satire, so that model doesn’t translate. Plus, who knows what unpredictable event will happen or what stupid little issue will be raised in profile so much that a comedy conceived in 2010 will be missing the point?
To be fair, there is plenty of universal political comedy to mine, and if the tone is well-judged and the comedy strong regardless of the political environment in which it’s released, then there might be a chance of success. Hell, with some of the possible candidates, this might be our most inherently farcical and objectively funny election yet. It’s a long shot though, so I hope Roach, Ferrell, ‘Nakis, and Warner Brothers know what the hell they’re doing.