I'm not much of an economics professor, and no, I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I think I've devised a pretty nifty plan for teaching future generations of college students The Law of Diminishing Returns: I call it "Will Ferrell's movie career."

Perhaps you already know what I'm talking about. If you saw Ferrell play the smarmy, dim-witted Ron Burgundy in "Anchorman," then churn out numbingly similar characters for "Talladega Nights," "Blades of Glory" and, now, "Semi-Pro," you understand how a perfectly entertaining idea can grow slightly less satisfying with each successive resurrection.
Which makes Ferrell the ideal cover boy for the February/March issue of Marc Ecko's Complex, a magazine I thought was absolutely brilliant when it was called Maxim.

Ah, Maxim. You never forget your first time, do you? I was 24 years old, working in a bar on Long Island. One of the owners came across a copy, and brought it in for the staff to marvel at. "Star Wars" jokes and half-naked actresses all in the same magazine. Genius! No wonder it spawned more rip offs than a Fendi bag on Canal Street.

Of course, that was then. A decade later, we've cycled through FHM, Stuff and Blender, not to mention the Maxim-ization of Details, Playboy, GQ -- you get the idea. Even Dennis has gotten out of the business. So why is Mark Ecko, a self-professed "edgy guy," represented in the print world by such a blatant retread?

The obvious answer is that Complex is more of a brand extension than an actual magazine, that publishing a quality read is the furthest thing from Ecko's mind. But the obvious answer isn't always the right one. To wit, Complex is a perfectly entertaining magazine, perhaps as entertaining as any of the lad mags were in their day.

It's true. Much like "Blades of Glory" or, perhaps, "Semi-Pro," had Complex come first (i.e, before Maxim), I'd probably be talking about how brilliant it is. Once you get past the fact that you've read this all before, it's actually quite entertaining. And the magazine's central conceit, while not exactly enough to revive the genre, is kinda clever: There is no "back" to Complex; rather, it has two covers. If you start reading from one side, it's all about products and fashion and stuff you can buy. Flip it over and read from the other side, and it's culture and sports and movies and whatnot.

Cute. Not brilliant. But cute.

I won't bother running through the issue's contents, because what does it matter? Would you bother asking someone for his peanut butter and jelly recipe? The interview/pictorials with budding young starlets are drool-worthy. The "Sneaker Guide" is hip and colorful. The Q&A with Ferrell and Andre 3000 (his "Semi-Pro" co-star) is funny. None of which makes up for ranking "Zoolander" and "Heathers" higher than "The Jerk" in the "Top 50 Comedies of All Time" feature. But lists are made to piss us off, aren't they? I'll say it again: Content is not the point here.

So go ahead and pick up a copy of Complex. It will remind you of a simpler time: when Pearl Jam was on the radio and a Clinton was in the White House. When "The Simpsons" was still funny and the Iraq War was short. When 911 was still just a phone number and idiots weren't yet looking for ways to insert the line "I drink your milkshake" into every #!$@ conversation. Hell, that alone is enough to make me a subscriber. 


Published by: Complex Media, LLC
Frequency: Bi-monthly
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