I kicked off a while back with my picks of the five most under-rated (yes, I hyphenate it, get over it) actors. I did so chiefly because ripping people to shreds is easy and so many people seem to make a(n) (un)healthy living doing it. This, then, is a balance piece. There are actors whom I love and those I dislike quite a bit for reasons I shall describe below. I’m not going to pick on the ‘middle of the road’ set, of which there are many – those whose career swings from wow! to whoa! in two movies, no, I’m going to clear the decks and get off my chest those five who bug me the most. I won’t include Angelina Jolie because, well, that’s a given, isn’t it?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: Good looks and an ample bosom do not a good actress make. They may help on the casting couch but that’s not a rumour I’m about to start around CZJ. Famous for her starring role in ‘The Wedding of Michael Douglas to a Woman Quite Frankly Out of His League’ and also as the feisty foil to Antonio Banderas in the The Mask of Zorro (1998), Ms Jones has all the acting talent of a roll-top desk. I can’t comment about her Oscar-winning showing in Chicago (2002) as I have (as regular readers will know) a deep loathing of musicals. I fail to see how one with CZJ in it could do much to shift my position on this. Unfailingly wooden, she creaks her way through a number of unmemorable films, capping it off with probably the most unwatchable film of 2004, The Terminal.
Hugh Grant: Hugh’s the kind of guy I’d really like to be able to like. I mean, there’s not much about his personality I don’t actually find amusing, from his ability to laugh at himself to his somewhat eclectic choice of partners for the game of ‘hide the sausage’. He is, however, a bit of a nuisance as an actor. He hit on the bumbling charmer routine pretty early in his career and – with the exception of maybe Love, Actually (2003) and Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) – has relentlessly pursued the perfection of the character ever since. Rather than list the films in which he has played his creation, I shall end this by saying I really, really hope he can redeem himself in the upcoming The Pirates! Band of Misfits, much as Eddie Murphy redeemed several years of poor choices with his Donkey shtick in the Shrek franchise.
Burt Reynolds: Yes, you read that right. As with Mr Grant above, I’m sure he’s a perfectly charming guy and a thoroughly good companion for scotch and cigars but boy, do the majority of his movies suck. Seriously – aside from his sterling performance in John Boorman’s classic Deliverance (1972) and his expert portrayal of the sleazy Jack Horner in Boogie Nights (1997) – he has had his feet on the handlebars and coasted through his career. From the Smokey and the Bandit efforts to The Cannonball Run (1981), he has stuck to playing a good ol’ boy trying to outsmart the bumbling hick cops in the American south. Hell, even Clint Eastwood made a better fist of it. From dubious appearances in the Flipper TV series to career lows like Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business (1999) I just keep thinking he looked at the pay cheque and not the scripts. A man’s got to eat but there is a limit.
Jack Black: Yeah, I’ve finished with the Brits, and I’m taking on the US now. Come get some! Black, for me, consistently fails to deliver anything other than some slightly overweight guy overacting things he’s cast in. Tropic Thunder (2008) is a superb case in point. An awful, awful, comedy – less funny than Pineapple Express (2008) even – was dragged down further by Black’s inability to do what he was paid for – to make with the funny. 2008 was not a particularly good year for comedy. Films are either written around or by him in order to exploit his frankly baffling popularity as a ‘comic actor’. Kung Fu Panda (2008) is OK.
Jennifer Aniston: Where to begin? She seemingly does everything possible to provide the complete antithesis to what an actor should be. While not being blessed with the curves of Catherine Zeta Jones (I now realize I may be giving too much of myself away here) she provides the very model of what a female actor should not do as she simpers and twitters her way through a seemingly endless production line of utterly shit movies. I’m surprised the US feminist movement isn’t at her door with pitchforks and portable gallows. Name me one film she’s been in that’s been anything more than watchable by virtue of the fact there’s nothing on the telly. Go on. See? She tried to shed her sweetness-and-light image playing a dentist sexually harassing her hygienist in the stultifying Horrible Bosses (2011) but I reckon people had stopped caring by then. I know I had.