Shouting Match: Does Tom Hanks Still Have It?


With Angels and Demons out in theaters now, there’s been a question burning at FSR HQ hotter than Neil Miller’s hemorrhoids: Does Tom Hanks still have it? FSR sex columnist Bethany Perryman and resident Devil’s Advocate Josh Radde debate the two-time Oscar winner’s chops.

Opening Argument (Josh):

Here’s what I’ll state bold and clear before I get to the rest of my argument: I like Tom Hanks. I think he’s given us some rich characters over the years and I think some of the work he’s produced for HBO has led to some very fine miniseries. That being said, dude can’t cut it in front of the camera anymore. With the release of Angels and Demons this week, coupled with early negative reviews, it’s clear that he never should’ve been cast in the role to begin with. But more than that, look at his recent outings as an actor since the turn of the century:

(Going backwards)

Charlie Wilson’s War – Hanks was on auto-pilot for this one. He was earnest and Southern, and that was basically it. He had some good chemistry with Philip Seymour Hoffman, but it’s a largely forgettable movie.

The Da Vinci Code – Terribly mis-cast with a bad hairdo.

The Polar Express – Creepy CGI coupled with some bad voiceover work from Hanks. Was it necessary to have him play 4 roles? He can’t do anything with his voice. He’s not Jim Carrey or Robin Williams.

The Terminal – Sweet-natured movie, but what a weird film. He also had no, NO chemistry with Catherina Zeta-Jones.

The Ladykillers – Hanks tried to do the Cajun gentleman thing in this one, they even gave him creepy-fun facial hair, but he was miscast in this Coen movie as well.

Catch Me If You Can – Actually not bad. He worked well, but his character was also not the focal point of the story. One of the rare times that Hanks could be billed as a supporting actor, he was still outshined by DiCaprio and Christopher Walken.

Road To Perdition – I actually liked this movie at the time, but seeing it recently I couldn’t remember why. Hanks looks disinterested during the entire film and I’m sorry, he’s just not intimidating with a Tommy Gun. It just looked silly. He was out-acted by Paul Newman, less interesting than Jude Law, and couldn’t hold a candle to the emotional depth Daniel Craig brought to his character.

Cast Away – Probably his most engaging role since 2000 (and his last Oscar nomination). But he would have to be engaging, because for an hour he’s the only person on-screen (unless you count that damn volleyball which actually STOLE scenes from his human counterpart).

I think that Tom Hanks is likable. I would watch him do a lot of things. But I’m sorry, for the last ten years, he just hasn’t been trying. Once you get labeled as “the generation’s greatest actor” I imagine it’s hard to strive for something more. Hanks is like Michael Jordan. Jordan perceived that he had no real competition anymore, so he retired and played baseball – only instead of retiring Hanks has fumbled his way through some half-assed performances.

He’s lost the touch. He’s an actor whose time has come and gone, and now we get to spend the next 20 years watching him pull a “De Niro” or a “Pacino” and keep getting credit for the ability he no longer possesses.


Rebuttal (Bethany):

On the contrary sir, I’ve come to believe that you’ve lost the touch. Your whines about Tom Hanks sound a lot like your thirteen “you never call me anymore” voice mails that I can’t figure out how to delete. Hanks hasn’t “lost the touch,” he may just be concentrating on different areas of his life. Like producing, or sticking it to the wife on a waterbed of liquid gold. You know, now that the kids are grown.

Without even batting my eyelashes at our readers, I know that they’ll agree with me about Charlie Wilson’s War. Largely forgettable? The goddamn thing was written by Aaron “Awesome” Sorkin, about one of the most colorful characters in the American political theater. Hanks was great in that movie! (Truly no match for the actual Charlie Wilson, but let’s be honest. We Texans are a rare and fascinating breed, and Charlie’s type is rarer still.)

You’re not fooling anyone, dude. You liked The Terminal. Sitting in the back of the theater with Ho-Hos and a box of Kleenex belies your previous claims. (Yeah, we saw you. We saw you at Spice World, too.) You may be right about The Polar Express, but you seemed to have skipped his role in Cars, so we’re calling this a wash. Also, The Polar Express was totally disappointing all around—surely you can’t blame Hanks for the creepy animation and that flat ginger kid? Same goes for Ladykillers, the movie itself was just a total miss. (Note: watch it completely sloshed on Wild Turkey, and it’s actually kind of awesome.) You can’t hold an actor responsible for the story.

Also, again you’re wrong about Road to Perdition and Castaway, which is surprisingly re-watchable if you’ve got HD. And your biggest argument about Catch Me If You Can is that he wasn’t the lead?! Uh, someone’s pulling a DeNiro here, and it ain’t Hanks.

Seriously? It’s like I told you before you tried out speed dating – your hairdo is every bit as bad as the one in Da Vinci Code. Just go with it.


Closing Argument (Josh):

Hey! I’d spend my time porkin’ Rita Wilson, too! I think that’s the one part of your argument that we can both agree on.

Now, allow me to de-bunk you faster than it would take you to get undressed while jamming to the Dixie Chicks. My argument about Catch Me If You Can had nothing to do with his screen time, I said he was “outshined.” Maybe Charlie Wilson’s War is the gold standard of excellence down in Texas, but here, IN AMERICA, it was just another too-clever-for-its-own-good Aaron Sorkin outing (but, I also love/hate Aaron Sorkin, so that may have swayed me more) which was more or less killed by the presence of what used to be known as Julia Roberts and the lack of more Emily Blunt in lingerie action. Likable, yes. Earth-shattering, no. Oh, and how could I forget about Cars? The only thing worth mentioning about that is that it’s the first time Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton “appeared” in a movie together.

You do, however, make a valid point – you can’t hold an actor responsible for a bad story. Except, that never stopped Hanks in the past! Look at some of those ’90s films – You’ve Got Mail should’ve been abysmal but Hanks actually makes it work. Same thing goes for his other Meg Ryan pairings, Turner and Hooch, The ‘Burbs, and I’m sorry, Philadelphia as well. Take away Hanks and all you have is a preachy film awkwardly directed by Jonathan Demme in his “look directly into the camera” style which only worked for Silence of the Lambs. Denzel was pretty good, but only when he’s working off of Hanks. (Note: Josh was a little steamed by Bethany exposing his fetish for speed dating that he actually called Philadelphia “preachy” – but the film’s problems cannot be blanketed that easily and perhaps it’s a topic for a different discussion.)

But now? I can’t say that Hanks has it in him anymore because there’s nothing left for him to prove. Plus he’s also in an awkward stage where he’s too old to play the love interest/most leading men and too young to play the wise elder. I’d love to look at him again and quote Stan Bush who said “You got the Touch. You got the POWERRRR!” But until then, he’s Pacino-lite.

P.S. Shouldn’t “Pullin’ a De Niro” be a sexual term for someone who passes out mid-intercourse?

Final Word (Bethany):

He’s not past his prime, he’s just cashing checks. Can’t blame a guy for needing to pay the private jet fuel bill. Tom Hanks is choice, I’m pretty sure he’s the highest grossing actor of all time, and he’s well on his way to becoming a Silver Fox. Also, The ‘Burbs? That story was every bit as endearing as Forrest Gump, and you know it.

As for your question…where I come from we still call that “The Josh Radde.”

What do all of you think? Does Tom Hanks still have it, or is he past his prime?

Josh is a multi-tasker. He's been a cubicle monkey for the last few years, a veteran stage actor of over 10 years, a sometimes commercial actor, occasional writer of articles, a once-legend in the realm of podcastery, purveyor of chuckles in his homecity of Chicago as he has trained with the world renown iO (Improv Olympic) and Second City Conservatory and performed with both theaters, and can be seen doing a thing that actor's do on the website of his online sitcom, LackingDirection.com. Josh also likes to tackle the beef of his bio with one run-on sentence, because it befits his train-of-thought.

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