The last month has brought us notable exceptions to what had become an increasingly valid rule. Even the toughest *NSYNC critic admitted that Justin Timberlake displayed distinct acting talent in Alpha Dog and that Dreamgirls, perhaps more amazing than Jennifer Hudson’s win at the Golden Globes, redeemed Beyonce Knowles for the atrocity that was Goldmember.
As I said before, however, these outstanding performances from pop stars are exceptions, not the rule. The rule is this: pop star du jour + awful movie script + hopeful producers = box office flop.
When did this genre become so popular? And furthermore, why are some so drawn to these films? We could easily trace the origins to the days of Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley, probably the first notable musicians to cross the industry line. But is it really fair to compare Frank Sinatra to Britney Spears or Elvis Presley to Justin Guarini? For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on the pitfalls of the last decade or so.
One Hit Wonders
Some starlets take the film plunge once and actually realize it’s not for them (or, perhaps more likely, film execs make that decision for them). Others at least retreat for years into of cinematic obscurity while the public forgets the first offense.
Take the ex-Mrs. Federline, for example. Before her highly successful and critically acclaimed stint in reality TV, Brit cleaned herself up and took the big screen, playing a young southern girl with dreams of stardom. Crossroads grossed approximately $37 million and for years was used as the bar for horrible cinema (“…the worst movie since Crossroads…). After a half-decade drought, however, the newly-single Ms. Spears is slated to appear in the 2007 film In the Pink as a cosmetics salesgirl opposite Cher, Bette Midler, and Wanda Sykes.
The early years of this decade brought us so many mock-worthy movies. The Chicago-based On the Line starring recently-out *NSYNC Alumn Lance Bass premiered with less-than-stellar ticket sales, grossing only $4,365,455 at the box office.
Also out in the early 2000s, the American Idol failed venture, From Justin to Kelly. The film starred Season One winner Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini in a modernized Frankie and Annette-style beach musical. The whimsy didn’t win over the Idol fans, however, doing only slightly better than On the Line.
As awesomely bad as these films did at the box office, there was one notable failure to top them all. A diva not to be outdone, Mariah Carey’s Glitter still stands as one of the worst movies ever committed to celluloid. Carey has followed up her big screen debut with roles in straight to DVD and limited theatrical release films.
That’s a Rap
Following the success of Eminem’s 8 Mile, other rappers have tried their hand at acting. These films, though less successful than 8 Mile, are wildly more successful than those most pop stars release. 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ made $30,985,352 at the box office and T.I.’s ATL made almost four times as much as Carey’s Glitter.
The Few, The Proud, The Talented
There are a few musicians who have successfully crossed the line between music and movies. Big screen newcomers like Timberlake and Hudson can look to these talented individuals as inspiration in their transitions.
The little brother of a New Kid on the Block, Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg has made an incredible transition from music to film. He began his career on the coattails of bubblegum pop and has since made a name for himself as a serious actor.
When speaking of surprising turns as serious actors, one name that cannot go unmentioned is Will Smith. The rapper turned sitcom star turned action hero received rave reviews this year for his performance in the touching drama The Pursuit of Happyness. Smith has proved himself to be one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood and has not completely abandoned his music career.
So why does Hollywood keep putting musicians in movies? Are they taking a chance that they’ll discover the next Will Smith or Mark Wahlberg (or Queen Latifah or whoever)? Maybe. But, more likely, it has to do with the fact that at least a fraction of their fans will flock to theatres in support. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. These bad movies give us something to talk about for years. We bond over mutual hatred of these films. So go out and see those films and support the pop stars you love to hate. I saw Crossroads, On the Line, and From Justin to Kelly in theatres. But not Glitter because Mariah Carey looks like an alien.