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With the release of Harold Ramis’ Year One, Jack Black continues his stay as Hollywood’s version of “Jack Black.” In light of that, FSR’s resident Fat Guy at the Movies Kevin Carr and Resident Devil’s Advocate Josh Radde ponder just how far they’re willing to let Jack Black go before enough is enough.

Opening Statement (Kevin)

As an avid fan of puns and plays on words, I am proud to recognize that one word in the English language is integral as to why Jack Black must be stopped from making more films.

The word, my friends, is SCAT.

Definition #1: “Jazz singing, with nonsense syllables.” [Ref.: Merriam-Webster]

In virtually every movie this guy is in, he scats. It doesn’t matter if he’s playing a rocker, a Spanish monk, a caveman or a frickin’ fat panda. For some reason, Jack Black always manages to work in a scene with his skiddily-diddily-doing it. It’s more annoying than Will Smith throwing down “Awwww, hell naaahhh!” in all of his blockbusters.

I know he first came to prominence with Tenacious D, and he has a certain high-energy charm, but enough is enough! He needs to quit the scatting! It just ain’t funny any more. (And when he does lose the scatting, he swaps it for lumpy male nudity, as seen in films like Tropic Thunder and Margot at the Wedding, and I’m not a big fan of that, either.)

Definition #2: “An animal fecal dropping.”

That’s right. Poop. Jack Black is poop. Yeah, I went there.

I hate to stoop to toilet humor… Aw, who am I kidding? I love to stoop to toilet humor! And why not? Jack Black has been batting closer to 300 than a thousand in the good movie department. After films like Envy, Shark Tale, Shallow Hal, Nacho Libre, Be Kind Rewind and now Year One, he’s picked some pretty sucky films. For every School of Rock, there’s at least two Saving Silverman. And let’s not forget his early career junk like The Neverending Story III and Waterworld.

I’m all for an actor getting as much work as he can, but how did this guy ever become an A-lister? He’s never really carried anything effectively, unless you count Kung Fu Panda… and that was an animated movie that allowed his performance to be tightly edited in post.

Yeah, Jack Black can be funny at times, but too many of his films retread his old shtick he’s been doing for years. His character of Jeff Portnoy may have been a parody of Eddie Murphy, but now he’s threatening to reduce himself to Eddie Murphy status with his own career choices.

So, when it comes to Jack Black in more movies, singing or dancing or otherwise, I simply say, “Scat!”

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Counter Argument (Josh)

Kevin Carr! Such hostility towards a relatively unthreatening comedian! Sure, Jack Black may have overstayed his welcome in the comedic zeitgeist, but to compare him to a lone turd seems a bit extreme.

Here’s the thing about comedy: You can’t really tell when something is going to succeed or fail. You say that Mr. Black is hovering more around .300 than 1.000, and you know what, that’s about average when you look at comedians working today – and inadvertently, you make a good comparison – Comedy is like Baseball, and batting a .300 would still qualify Black for the all-star game (along with Jason Segel and Paul Rudd, comedy MVPs).

Jack Black is still relevant as a comedic actor. He’s funnier and less mainstream than Ben Stiller, he’s more marketable than Seth Rogen, he makes lower-budgeted films than Will Ferrell, knows what he can-and-cannot-do as far as his abilities go (unlike Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler) and hasn’t completely alienated his fanbase like Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy. Plus, he’s still willing to poke fun at himself. Jeff Portnoy was a knock on Murphy, but it was also a sly grin aimed back at Jack Black himself.

It’s true, Jack Black has been playing the “Jables” character for far too long. Tenacious D was a revelation at the time, and Black’s work in High Fidelity and School of Rock still holds up well to this day. And when director’s have tried to make him play outside his wheel house, he’s looked a little foolish. So we can knock him for not expanding his comedic horizons a little more, but he’s given us pretty much what we’ve wanted from him over the years. However, I still applaud him for trying to do challenging stuff like Margot at the Wedding and playing it straight in King Kong. Both movies were bad despite reasonable outings from JB.

But, please Kevin, let’s place blame where blame is to be placed. You put the onus of Waterworld on Jack Black’s shoulders? Is it his fault I Still Know What You Did Last Summer or The Jackal were train wrecks? Dude’s been in like 50 movies, many of them with memorable small roles, so I fail to see what is so objectionable about him. Would I like to see Jack Black branch out a little more? Sure. You need to put things into perspective: aren’t there bigger fish to fry out there?

The only thing that reeks of “scat” here is your argument.

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Rebuttal (Kevin)

Radde, you ignorant slut. There is nothing extreme about calling an actor a turd, especially when it comes to Jack Black.

All Star Game or not, Jack Black’s .300 average is equivalent to an MLB player always striking out with the bases loaded and then bunting to first and getting picked off when the next batter hits. He may have a good record, but his victories are hollow and his failures really suck. Case in point, King Kong. You mention it as if he did a fine acting job, but he slathered on the cheese struggling to play it straight.

You can knock Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell all you want, but those guys have serious dramatic chops. Have you seen Man on the Moon? Or what about Stranger Than Fiction? Those are great films. And Jack Black has . . . Margot at the Wedding? Be Kind Rewind? The Holiday? His record speaks for itself. (I will concede that Adam Sandler doesn’t have what it takes for dramatic work, so I suppose we do agree there.)

But don’t just look at the parade of bad films with one-note performances in them. Let’s dissect your own argument and make you look like the fool. More mainstream than Ben Stiller? Are you telling me that Kung Fu Panda wasn’t mainstream? Or King Kong? Or this feeble attempt at Year One? Or last year’s Tropic Thunder, in which they both were above-the-title stars? Jack Black hosted the frickin’ Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards last year. You don’t get much more mainstream than that.

More marketable than Seth Rogen? Are we talking about the same Seth Rogen? You mean the other fat, bearded guy who makes as many movies and can’t act outside of his own one-note character? I suppose they both have some strange appeal when plastered on a movie poster.

Lower-budgeted films? You mean like those student animation projects known as Shark Tale and Kung Fu Panda? Or how about that microbudget indie film called King Kong?

Yes, the guy can be funny when playing a stock character. But it’s the same thing again and again with no range whatsoever. There was a time when Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers – who both had their own serious films with Dreamgirls and 54 – both ruled the box office for doing the same thing. But people got tired of them.

He hasn’t expanded his comedic horizons because they’re operating on a flat-Earth lack of potential. The guy has very little dramatic talent, and when he tries to push his comedy shtick past his horizon, he falls into the abyss.

Jack Black may not have alienated his fan base like Murphy or Myers, but I’d suggest adding the adverb “yet” to that statement.

Closing Argument (Josh)

I never said he succeeded in dramatic roles, I said I give him props for attempting to branch out. It hasn’t happened, this much we know. He’s not my favorite comedic actor and I’d never say he’s in the top 20, I just don’t think his shortcomings have as much to do with his talent as it has to do with, like you said, the projects he chooses. If anyone should be stopped, it’s his agent.

And if you doubt his talent, just watch this clip from “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” Real drama!

I rest my somewhat flawed case.

What do you think?


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