Assessing Jack Black: Don't Go Away Mad, Just Go Away
Date of Assessment: May 25, 2011
Positive Buzzwords: Frat pack, voice work
Negative Buzzwords: Limited range, annoying
The Case: Not too terribly long ago, Dustin predicted that, between Year One and Gulliver's Travels, Jack Black's career would almost certainly soon be over. One can only hope this is the case, for any actor who has appeared in such classics as Bongwater, Johnny Skidmarks, and some straight-to-video movie called Laser Fart shouldn't have achieved the mainstream Hollywood success that Jack Black has somehow enjoyed until recently.
About ten years ago, Jack Black had already been puttering around Hollywood for a good decade or so, but it was High Fidelity that really brought him mainstream attention. And although High Fidelity is a film beloved by many (and has spawned many mixtapes), it inadvertently kick started Black's ascent into quasi-superstardom. Soon after, he was starring in Shallow Hal and The School of Rock, and somehow, he was suddenly a shirtless leading man in such reprehensible flicks as Nacho Libre. Fortunately, the curious charm has since worn off, for it must be stressed that all of his lead roles -- Orange County The School of Rock Nacho Libre Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny Year One Gulliver's Travels -- have grown progressively less adorable with time.
Again, it's not as if Black was destined to be a leading man, and he's actually attempted (with varying degrees of success) to diversify the resumé as a supporting player with stints in King Kong, Enemy of the State, Margot at the Wedding, and Tropic Thunder. Black's also done the ensemble player/Frat Pack thing in movies like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (as Paul McCartney); and he's tried his hand at romantic comedies like The Holiday. However, I'm not quite sure what he was aiming for in Be Kind Rewind, and Beastie Boys fans really could have done without Black's appearence in Fight for Your Right Revisited (as the future MCA alongside Will Ferrell's future King Ad-Rock). Where he does redeem himself somewhat is through his voice work in Kung Fu Panda, Ice Age, and Shark Tale.
Admittedly, I've never been a fan of Jack Black. Although he was okay in a very limited capacity in High Fidelity, he's certainly not leading man material. Further, while there have been a few particularly weak moments where I found him endearing (mostly as "Po" in Kung Fu Panda), I've never found him to be funny but merely concluded that his fat-man shtick bores the hell out of me. For fuck's sake, I fell asleep during The School of Rock, which for many of his fans forms the prototypical Jack Black movie with a wacky combination of both humor and dubious musical chops. And even though I have been made to understand that Black's rock duo, Tenacious D, was largely intended to be ironic, well, that's no excuse for repeatedly sticking the same lame joke in our faces. Maybe one has to be stoned to appreciate that sort of thing.
Unfortunately, Jack Black is going nowhere fast since his IMDb profile boasts two handfuls of titles (including The Muppets) in either post-production or in various other stages of development, but I suspect that the double gut punches of Year One and Gulliver's Travels have indeed soured audiences towards Black, and it's merely a matter of time before studios make the connection between their diminishing box-office returns and his presence. Of course, Kung Fu Panda 2 will likely be a huge financial hit and greatly slow down the process of his eventual disappearance from Hollywood. Bloody hell.
Prognosis: As much as I hate to encourage any actor to stick with voice work, Jack Black really should do that for the time being. After all, Mike Myers, Antonio Banderas, and Eddie Murphy have all made out like bandits in just that way even though their live-action careers have taken sharp nosedives. Black is actually rather talented with his voice, and if he takes his face off the big screen for awhile, people might actually miss him at some point. Or maybe not.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.