I don’t know about you, but I had just managed to line up a babysitter and get a group of my 20 closest friends together to see Freelancers — the long-awaited re-teaming of Righteous Kill stars 50 Cent and Robert DeNiro — and wouldn’t you know it, poof, it’s gone from theaters. But have no fear, dear friends: it arrives on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, a full week and a half after its theatrical release.
Yes, Fiddy is at it again, and he’s not the only celebrity who insists that his talent in music (or athletics, or comedy, or whatever) means that the natural next stop is movie stardom. Though there are countless examples to the contrary — Madonna, Mariah Carey, Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan, Vanilla Ice, etc. — they keep trying to cross over, usually without success. After the jump, nine celebs from the world of music, comedy, and sports who have got to give up the movies… and one more who shouldn’t.
There is some room for interpretation and opinion in some of our later artists, folks whose failure on the big screen has perhaps been a mix of limited skills and poor opportunities, but there’s no getting around this one: 50 Cent cannot act. He’s had plenty of opportunities to prove otherwise; he made his debut in Get Rich or Die Tryin’ under the direction of multiple Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan (who guided Daniel Day-Lewis to his first Oscar), and has appeared with the likes of Robert De Niro (twice now!), Al Pacino, Samuel L. Jackson, Val Kilmer, Forest Whitaker, and Kiefer Sutherland. Nothing has rubbed off — he’s a stunningly unaccomplished actor, his comically wooden line readings barely audible thanks to his mush-mouthed diction, his face and eyes a dead, dull void. But he keeps cranking his (mostly straight-to-video) projects out, producing most of them himself via his G-Unit Films moniker — and even, yes, writing his own vehicles (All Things Fall Apart, the astonishingly terrible-looking cancer drama trailered above, flowed from Fiddy’s own pen). He has, according to IMDb, five more acting projects in the pipeline. His fall 2012 album, meanwhile, is his first in three years.
Jon Bon Jovi
Mr. Bon Jovi was far from the worst thing in last winter’s soul-crushingly awful New Year’s Eve, but he sure wasn’t the saving grace, either. His turn as “Jensen” stood out for its pedestrian waxiness, and that’s no mean feat in a picture boasting a Hiegl-Kutcher reunion — and what’s worse, his character is a super-successful singer/songwriter, meaning Jon Bon Jovi can’t even play a rock star convincingly. (He’s not helped in the credibility department by doing a cover of “I Can’t Turn You Loose” whose vanilla blandness would make Pat Boone wince.)
Sure, Cyrus started out as an actor, sort of; her big break came playing Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel (and in real life!). But her attempts to break away from that character and its accordant pop-star trappings have proven, er, less than successful. Her big dramatic debut was in The Last Song (from, blech, a Nicolas Sparks novel), and critics weren’t kind: “Cyrus is ghastly in The Last Song,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle ’s Mick LaSalle, “bad not just in one or two ways, but in all kinds of ways. It was a disservice to the audience, to the material and to Cyrus herself that she was put in this position.” But audiences showed up, and the film brought in an impressive $62 million. Her follow-up feature wasn’t so lucky; LOL was barely released, and grossed a miserable $440 per screen in its opening weekend. Reviews weren’t any better: Variety ’s Joe Leydon wrote that Cyrus’s “charisma-free performance may in turn serve as a cautionary example for teen pop phenoms seeking to break out into ‘mature’ screen roles.” Ouch.
So there was this weird moment in the late ‘90s when somehow, for some reason, several people became convinced that Shaquille O’Neal was going to be a giant movie star. He fronted a family movie (the immortal Kazaam); he was placed in an action vehicle (Steel), as if he were the next Schwarzenegger or something. Trouble was, he was just awful on screen. “He hams it up big time,” wrote James Berardinelli, “exhibiting a lot of energy, but not nearly as much talent.” That one-two punch mostly put the kibosh on Shaq the actor, but he still pops up occasionally, doing bit roles in films like The Wash, Scary Movie 3, and the upcoming (uh oh) Grown-Ups 2. That’s right: Sandler and O’Neal, together at last!
There are plenty of reasons to be disgusted by Dane Cook’s controversial post-Aurora “joke,” but here’s one that’s less obvious: its premise is predicated on the idea that The Dark Knight Rises is “pretty much a piece of crap,” which is a mighty hard bit of film criticism to swallow when it comes from the star of Good Luck Chuck, Employee of the Month, and My Best Friend’s Girl. For reasons beyond your film editor, Dane Cook is one of the most financially successful stand-up comics of all time, but try as he might, he’s been unable to translate that mojo into a career as a comedic leading man — primarily because those vehicles are centered, in one way or another, on furthering his smug, well-fed, self-satisfied persona of the fuck machine who’s irresistible to the ladies but is also a genuine romantic, underneath! This often leads to dreadful third acts of dramatic revelation and confession, and trust us, the only thing on this earth worse than watching Dane Cook trying to be funny is watching Dane Cook trying to emote earnestly.
Larry the Cable Guy
That said, we’d re-watch the entire Cook oeuvre once a week before subjecting ourselves to any further cinematic miscarriages by Daniel Whitney, aka “Larry the Cable Guy.” The horrifyingly unfunny (and anti-intellectual and xenophobic and homophobic) catchphrase-spewing comic made, like Cook, three starring vehicles that had critics and discerning audiences reaching for their vomit bags: Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector (so wait, is he a cable guy or a health inspector?), Delta Farce, and Witless Protection. All three tanked, not even earning back their meager budgets, and that might’ve been the end of Mr. Cable Guy’s film career had Pixar not tapped him for a voice role in the Cars franchise, aka The Only Pixar Movies That Nobody Likes. So now he’s back to supplementing his stand-up with film work, albeit on a smaller scale: earlier this year, he starred in the direct-to-video sequel to the lesser Rock vehicle The Tooth Fairy. Git-R-Done!
Janet (Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty) was known as an actress before a pop star, courtesy of her semi-regular role as Penny on Good Times. But she’d become a phenomenon when John Singleton cast her in his 1993 Boyz N The Hood follow-up Poetic Justice. Between her acting experience and Singleton’s heat, it seemed like a can’t-lose situation, but both fumbled: he with a flaccid, meandering script, her with a sullen, one-note performance. Response to the film — and her work in it — was negative enough to keep Jackson off the silver screen for a good long while (save an undemanding and likable turn in The Nutty Professor II), and it could’ve just been a blip. And then came Perry. Tyler Perry somehow got it in his head that a tremendous actor was going to waste and cast her in the Why Did I Get Married films, as well as his ill-fated For Colored Girls adaptation. “About the Kabuki theatrics of Janet Jackson,” wrote Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “the less said the better.”
As much as we love his tracks, DMX is not the most emotional or expressive rapper — his music seems mostly comprised of barks and growls — so who knows why someone decided, back in the late ‘90s, that he’d be a magnetic, charismatic onscreen performer. To be charitable, he is not. His work in films like Belly, Romeo Must Die, Never Die Alone, Cradle 2 the Grave, and Exit Wounds has been, well, less than distinguished: “D is profoundly uncharismatic,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle ’s Wesley Morris of Exit Wounds, while USA Today’s Mike Clark wrote, in his review of Never Die Alone, that “DMX isn’t up to the acting needed to play an epic anti-hero.” That film was his last theatrical feature of note; like 50 Cent, his movies mostly go straight-to-DVD these days.
Beyoncé does so many things well — sings, dances, brands, marries Jay-Z — that there’s bound to be something she’s not great at, and it looks like film acting may be it. It’s not that she’s terrible (okay, she’s pretty terrible in Obssessed), but her performances in film like Austin Powers in Goldmember, Dreamgirls, and that awful Pink Panther remake are simply listless and uninspired; she’s a perfectly agreeable screen presence, full of charisma and likability, but you keep waiting for her to do something interesting, and she never really does. The laughable fury-of-a-woman-scorned thriller Obssessed was her last big-screen outing, so she might’ve gotten wise; her only upcoming role, according to IMDb, is a voice-only part in the animated film Epic. Maybe she’ll get to sing? She’s really good at that.
Remember when we promised you one celeb who should, in fact, quit his day job and focus on movie stardom? Here ya go. Combs (or Puffy, or P Diddy, or Diddy, or P, or whatever the hell he’s decided to call himself this week) hasn’t made much of anything worth listening to in (let’s face it) a good decade or so, as a performer or producer. But in that time, he’s also turned in a series of terrific and versatile film roles: as a menacing gangster in Made, as a sad and resigned death-row inmate in Monster’s Ball, as a hilariously crazy record exec in Get Him to the Greek. As an actor, he’s a natural, credible and fascinating, and with real chops (you don’t do a run on Broadway opposite Phylicia Rashad if you’re a lightweight). Puffy, we implore you: Enough with the music — nobody cares anymore. Quit the day job. More movies, stat.
Those are just a few possible picks, so add your own: who would you prefer did what they did and stayed out of the movies?