‘Stranger’ turns out to be good ‘fiction’

Kristen Kotz

Will Ferrell is known for his slapstick comedy in movies such as Anchorman and Old School. In Stranger than Fiction, however, he steps away from this stereotype to play a more dramatic role as Harold Crick, an obsessive compulsive IRS tax agent and he does an excellent job at it.

Stranger than Fiction, directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball), has a rather unusual plot. It tells the story of Crick and how his life is affected when he starts to hear the voice of a narrator discussing specifics details in his life that happen to him, including foreshadowing his imminent death.

The narrator turns out to be author Kay Eiffel, played by Emma Thompson (Love Actually, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), who is suffering from writer’s block while she attempts to finish a novel about a man named Harold Crick.

Her publisher sends her an assistant in the form of Penny Escher, played by Queen Latifah (Bringing Down the House, Chicago), to help her “figure out how to kill Harold Crick.”

What Eiffel does not know is that Crick actually exists and everything she writes can be heard by him and happens to him.

When Crick tells friends and co-workers about the voice, they all think he is crazy. He eventually finds help in the form of literary professor Jules Hilbert, played by Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man, Meet the Fockers).

One of the films weaknesses is its beginning. It hits the audience with too many numbers, such as the number of brushstrokes Crick uses to brush his teeth and how many steps he walks to the bus stop. Although it is meant to show Crick’s obsessive compulsive disorder, it just gets overwhelming and boring.

Ferrell does a great job in his role. He doesn’t try to inject too much comedy into his character and doesn’t try to put humor or overact in the movie where it is not intended.

Thompson also does a great job in her portrayal as a mentally unstable, alcoholic, chain-smoking writer. Some of the expressions she creates on her face such as when she stares blankly into space while laying on her desk really make the audience believe she is crazy.

Perhaps where the movie reaches its highest point are its thematic elements. The ideas it presents about living life and making a difference in the world are thought-provoking.

The movie does have some trademark Will Ferrell humor, including an extremely funny scene in a locker room. But those expecting a typical Will Ferrell movie, however, will be disappointed, as this is a much darker comedy. Despite some minor flaws, its good acting and an interesting plot line make it worth seeing.

Contact ALL correspondent Kristen Kotz at [email protected].

Stranger than Fiction

Starring Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah, Dustin Hoffman

Directed by Marc Forster

Rated: PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity

Distributed by Sony Pictures

Stater rating (out of five): ??? 1/2