Subject: Kristen Anne Bell, 30-year old American actress
Date of Assessment: December 3, 2010
Positive Buzzwords: Cute, scrappy, “Veronica Mars”
Negative Buzzwords: Bland, romcoms, short shelf life
The Case: Until I started writing this column, it looked as though I’d embarked upon a cut-and-dried case of “this chick is so over.” That is, Kristen Bell’s been riding the forgettable rom-com train for years after coasting for quite some time upon the goodwill generated by three seasons of “Veronica Mars.” And although Bell herself has been pushing for (and has even offered to self-finance) a big-screen version of the semi-beloved cult television show, there’s an exceedingly small likelihood that — even if the film eventually happens — the result would actually be a box-office smash. This pipe dream is much like the wishful thinking of Will Arnett, and there’s just no way in hell that a studio would “put up the cash to make a movie about a show that couldn’t pull in enough passive television audience members to stay on the air.” In other words, any hope for a “Veronica Mars” movie is just that, and if Bell believes that self-financing the movie is the answer, well, she should have a few words with Casey Affleck about the general outcome of that plan of action.
Still, television has been good to Kristen Bell, who was perhaps the best (if fleeting) part of “Heroes;” and she currently enjoys a very cushy job doing the narrative voiceover for “Gossip Girl.” Even before all of this fluff, Bell twice made her mark in Broadway musicals and even managed to gain a foothold in Hollywood in spite of the fact that she suffers from Schizophrenia (Correction: That was a different Kristen Bell - AB). However, as far as a movie career is concerned, Bell has squandered the early promise that she showed in small films, including a couple of decent thrillers — Roman and Spartan — and a dramatic turn in the made-for-television Gracie’s Choice. Nowadays, Kristen Bell is well on her way to becoming a failed romcom queen.
Again, it’s not all bad news. Bell scored a hit with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which did well not only with critics but also at the box office. Then, Fanboys tanked, but Couples Retreat (for whatever reason) managed to reel in a massive audience. These two big hits, however, did not sell themselves on the star power of Kristen Bell, which was the unfortunate tactic taken by her last few romcom outings (When in Rome, You Again), within which Bell has failed to match up to the inexplicable box-office prowess of Katherine Heigl. Bell’s flailing effort to branch out with Burlesque hasn’t helped matters either, and the actress is quickly becoming what’s colloquially known in film geek circles as “box-office poison.”
For certain, Bell has made an ill-fated attempt to wear the leading lady shoes, yet she does just fine in romcom ensembles (Sarah Marshall, Couple’s Retreat) where potential success hasn’t rested upon her name on the marquee or face on the film’s poster. In other words, Kristen Bell was damn lucky to make the connections to those subsequent sucky romcom leading roles. Bell’s own mind-numbling adherence to these mindless romcoms could indicate an attempt to emulate the career pattern of Sandra Bullock, who waded through an endless stream of emotionally (and mentally) vacuous cinematic dumpsters until stumbling into career-solidifying roles in The Proposal and The Blind Side. It’s just too bad for Bell that she’s not nearly as likeable as Bullock.
The most troublesome aspect of surveying Bell’s career is that she really does possess some dramatic chops, and those that doubt this fact would do well to revisit the first season of “Deadwood,” within which Bell appeared for two episodes as a young thief named Flora Anderson. The following clip contains a particularly revealing (and ultimately spoileriffic) glimpse of talent:
Prognosis: As far as Kristen Bell’s long-term potential goes, she’s just not well-suited for the big screen. Clearly, her cinematic appeal is waning as a romcom star with the likes of Amanda Seyfried nipping at her heels. What Bell really needs to do to extend her career is to find a regular television drama gig with either HBO or Showtime. Otherwise, her days as a paid actress are severely numbered.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.