Will Ferrell recently signed on to star and produce “Reagan,” a political satire featuring the 40th president.
The comic conceit? Reagan is suffering from dementia during his second term. It’s up to a White House aide to keep his condition a secret by convincing Reagan he’s just an actor playing a part.
Reagan’s adult children appropriately howled at what quickly became known as an “Alzheimer’s comedy.” What could possibly be funny about Alzheimer’s disease, the chronic, fatal condition the president suffered from during his final years?
Under the headline, “Will Ferrell Won’t Be Going Dutch,” Entertainment Weekly recalled Ferrell’s brief flirtation with the project. (editor’s note: the article is in the print edition but not at ew.com)
The report handles the news in a straightforward manner. What’s missing? Any sense of outrage, the kind the magazine routinely flashes if the issue in question is about “gay panic” or Hollywood’s diversity woes.
The magazine also got its hands on the “Reagan” script, as The Hollywood Reporter did a few days earlier. Yet it, too, couldn’t find it offensive to depict a beloved, two-term president as a dementia-addled fool who doesn’t know a White House intern from an iconic film director.
“Reagan is treated sympathetically in the screenplay,” the article states, ignoring the fact that Reagan wasn’t suffering from the condition during his White House days.
The magazine also cheers on the script’s future. We’ll likely see “Reagan” at a theater near us at some point, it argues. After all, “Silver Linings Playbook” also touched on mental illness, and that movie scored big at the box office four years.
That isn’t just wishful thinking. It’s tortured logic. The fictional “Playbook” characters dealt with bipolar disorder. That offers its distinct challenges, and can be life threatening if not properly treated. It’s not a disease guaranteed to rob sufferers of everything they ever held dear, as Alzheimer’s does.
Ferrell’s lightning fast 180 is a clear signal to Hollywood the project should be put on ice. Permanently. Ferrell, one of the industry’s most prominently liberals, understood that in record time. Even if he was too insensitive to realize it a first and denied the script amounted to an Alzheimer’s comedy.
At the end of the article, the magazine lists other “mental health” comedies and their box office results.
“Lars and the Real Girl.”
“Me, Myself & Irene.”
“What About Bob?”
The attempt at moral equivalency is borderline disgusting. None of those films dealt with real people suffering from a devastating, fatal disease. Nor do they involve presidents, who deserve at least a sliver of cultural respect even though they’re always fair game for satire.
To make matters worse, the magazine refers to the Ferrell imbroglio again via The Bullseye. That’s EW’s comic roundup of the week’s entertainment news featured on the very last page.
Here’s the dementia-themed bon mot EW served up regarding the film project:
Will Ferrell no longer set to play Ronald Reagan in political film about Alzheimer’s. File under news we’ve already forgotten about.