The Billion-Dollar Cro-Magnon Man?
Date of Assessment: January 22, 2010
Positive Buzzwords: Amiable, deadpan, cartoonish
Negative Buzzwords: Hairplugs, hairplugs, Crash
The Case: Ever since Brendan Fraser checked out the fresh nugs and wheezed the juice as Linkovich Chomofsky in 1992's Encino Man, my opinion of the fellow hasn't changed all that much. Over the years, Fraser's been in a lot of horribly craptastic movies and, for each and every one of them, he deserves to be kicked mercilessly in the balls a few hundred times. Even worse, rumor has it that Paul Haggis, the director of that notorious Oscar-winning atrocity otherwise referred to as "Crash," was only able to secure financing after Fraser signed onto the project, so it can be said that, without Fraser, there may very well have been no Crash. At this point, one cannot be blamed for wanting to time-travel back to the pre-Crash era to reach down Fraser's throat and pull his balls upwards through his mouth before kicking them mercilessly. Let's face it -- at one point or another, we've all wondered why Brendan Fraser is still kicking around in Hollywood. Well, there's one simple explanation: many of this guy's movies enter blockbuster territory by making a crapload of money. And yes, that's something that deserves at least a little bit of respect.
Now, this is gonna be painful, but let's look at he the cold, hard data, folks... Fraser's films have grossed a collective $1.2 billion domestically and $2.5 billion worldwide. (Source: The Numbers). Specifically, here are the worldwide grosses for a few of his individual movies: George of the Jungle, $174 million; The Mummy, $416 million; The Mummy Returns, $433 million; The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emporer, $398 million; Journey to the Center of the Earth, $241 million; G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, $301 million. Of course, he's had a few obligatory clunkers that haven't been so lucrative: Airheads, Dudley Do-Right, and Looney Tunes: Back In Action; but he's also done some real acting in dramatic films: School Ties, Gods and Monsters, and The Quiet American. However, we now realize that such small (and relatively critically acclaimed) dramas are not the typical projects that Fraser chooses.
Nowadays, Fraser has found his niche, and these movies of his -- Encino Man, George of the Jungle, and The Mummy -- are essentially live-action cartoons and can be seen as larger-scale, bigger-budget B-flicks. In fact, Brendan Fraser has nearly become a parody of himself in a larger-than-life, cartoonish sort of way as a floppy-haired (hairpiece alert!) hero; a self-deprecating halfwit, who is willing to wear only a loincloth and is powered by an ironic, tongue-in-cheek bravura. As such, it's almost impossible to hate this guy, for Fraser's affable charisma is the rare type that results when an actor does the following: (1) Doesn't take himself that seriously; (2) Appears quite often in stupid adventure films but isn't nearly as annoying as Nicholas Cage; (3) Remains scandal-free and, thus, family-friendly and able to pull off well-meaning hero types.
Fraser is also undeniably adept at reacting to CGI effects in front of a green screen. Hell, it's virtually a spectator sport to watch him defeat prehistoric sabre-toothed fish, gigantic man-eating plants, and the occasional Tyrannosaurus Rex. Quite simply, Fraser gives good popcorn movies that don't pretend to be anything else. These movies may be short on comprehensible dialogue and utterly predictable, but it's hard to deny that, to a lot of people, these escapades are sheer fun at the theater. Fraser knows that these are the types of films within which audiences will pay to see him, and where there's box-office success, there's money in the bank for daddy. Finally, he doesn't resent his place in Hollywood and moan about wanting to be a serious actor. Nope, Fraser knows the game, he's willing to play it, and he doesn't pretend not to do so. Quite simply, he's a commodity but no more so than Vince Vaughn, Tom Cruise, or Jennifer Aniston. Overall, Brendan Fraser generally comes off as an amiable fellow with pretty decent comic timing, and he's not a bad-looking bloke at all, so he's become the go-to-guy for inserting some easygoing humor and subtle goofy physicality to what would otherwise be entirely ridiculous films. Can you imagine Nic Cage fighting gigantic piranhas and swinging from vines without being utterly serious about it all?
Now for a few drawbacks... Frasier shouts a lot in his roles, and he could stand to cut this shit out, but, admittedly, it is sort of funny when he goes from The Mummy to something like Journey to the Center of the Earth, where real-life actors are on the receiving end of said shouting. Also, we also must accept that, in all of Fraser's movies, the dude's gonna pretend to have great hair, but he will invariably attend all press conferences and photocalls looking like astroturf personified. Such is Hollywood life.
Prognosis: Extraordinary Measures looks depressing as hell and, as a January release, must not have earned too much studio-based confidence. With Furry Vengeance in his future, not even Fraser's persona may not be able to escape obnoxiousness, but he can also easily recover with the planned Journey to the Center of the Earth sequel. Further, his proven ability (such as it is) to react to special effects may very well lend Fraser a future in the next Roland Emmerich film. If all else fails, he could always launch another career as spokesperson for the Hair Club for Men.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.