There was once a time when comedies were defined by the comedy actors that led them. Once you saw the trailer showcasing the lead in the film with his or her bumbling sidekick you knew that movie somewhere down the road was going to be fun and exciting. These days a great comedy is a dime a dozen, often with well-balanced actors juggling both dramatic and comedic roles. While the success of several stars like Steve Carrel and Jonah Hill were founded in laughter, others have not fared so well.
No more than four years ago a film put forgotten action heroes on the same screen and soon enough names like Stallone, Lundgren, and Li were common again. In short they were given a second chance to bask in the limelight. Here is my nostalgic list of comedic actors that desperately need to shine again.
This actor was on top of his game in the 90s. With cult hits like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison under his belt it’s hard to watch him stay afloat in this new decade. Before the dawn of the millennium Sandler gave us The Water Boy, The Wedding Singer, and the adorable Big Daddy. But along the 2000s he divided us all with Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds. Sure he made Anger Management and the critically acclaimed Punch-Drunk Love, but then he went too far off the deep end. Soon came Zohan, Grown Ups, Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy, Grown Ups 2…as Abed says about Nicholas Cage, “It’s like he’s begging us to stop watching.”
But if you look past all the silly voices, unnecessary props (prosthetic nose, Boys on the Block tattoos), and relentless attempts to establish himself as the main charismatic lead, then we have a dedicated and inspired actor attempting, and failing, to maintain his older and aging with his younger and growing audiences. All we need from Sandler is to compose a simple screenplay not intended for a specific demographic but rather one that befits him, a maturing and reflective comedy about parenthood or adulthood creeping towards mid-life.
With so many favorite roles in the past it’s hard to see where he went wrong. Even when crossing into serious films like Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show Carey struck the right chords delivering memorable characters while still maintaining that personal pizzazz we’re all familiar with. But what could possibly had dealt Sandler’s hand in box office death could be Carey’s as well. Both have had their fair share of family oriented films that have segregated most of their audiences and have made overcompensating attempts to win them back like Kick Ass 2, or That’s My Boy in Sandler’s case.
But as we wait for an old favorite of Carey’s, Dumb and Dumber To, what does his future foresee in terms of films? While he can’t go on making sequels to classic hits, though Ace Ventura would be welcomed, Carey does have a bright future in dramatic comedies. If he’s attached to a well suited director that can use that sharp personality and trim the excess of exuberance, perhaps someone like David O. Russell, then Carey can be catapulted back to a box office favorite.
Again, like Carey and Sandler, it was the family affair that drove Eddie Murphy’s career off the cliff. Sure, there was success in the Shrek franchise and even in 2006 Dream Girls was a hit. But what became more famous was Murphy’s voice and not Murphy himself. He tried banking on his ecstatic voice with characters in fat suits but with Norbit he had drowned himself deep with insipid gimmicks in which no one could take him or his work seriously.
A look at his past will show that Eddie Murphy is strongest when he can be funny and active. With the Lethal Weapon franchise about to go into a fourth installment, Murphy can rise to the top yet again with additional action comedies. Hopefully we can see him alongside Kevin Hart or Andy Sandberg in a future buddy cop flick or opposite a strong female lead like Sandra Bullock in a, dare I say, rom-com.
Much like Eddie Murphy, it was sill gimmicks that sent Mike Myers into cinematic oblivion. The unfortunate draw in Myers case is that now he’s defined by his past roles. You cannot think of another character Myers has played other than Shrek, Austin Powers, Wayne, and of course, the cursed Love Guru. While those two roles have been Myers bread and butter over the last decade, and with prospects of an additional Austin Powers installment in the works, his past contribution to Saturday Night Live and other films are continuously undermined.
Though Myers had a small cameo in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, his cinematic future is very uncertain. What he could benefit from now is laying low and consider indie comedies or possibly period works. Myers works well with impersonations or fitting to an obscure setting, so it’ll be great to see him in parodies reflecting history or even fantasies.
If there was anything that Hollywood could erase from cinematic history, it’s the fat suit. Again proving that the old joke is tired and lame, Martin Lawrence saw his career dwindle shortly after his second run as an undercover cop garbed as the neighborhood grandma. Please take a moment to pause and soak in the premise. Now take another moment to realize that there was three of them. Lawrence has since then a few decent hits targeting the family unit, but what truly defines him thus far is the work he’s done with Michael Bay.
Like each actor on this list Martin Lawrence is set to make a franchise comeback reprising his role as Marcus for Bad Boys III. But again, like each actor on this list, what’s the status of his cinematic fate once the Bay trilogy has gone dry? Lawrence has had more success on television than at the box office, so moving to a primetime drama or comedy on a cable channel would best be suited for his charisma. We’ve seen many actors take this leap from Chevy Chase to Don Cheadle and yield great results while simultaneously juggling a few important roles on the big screen.
If, for some miraculous reason, Hollywood does decide to do an Expendables spoof with struggling comedic actors of the 90s these 5 gentlemen would be on my list. It would be titled something corny and meta like The Acceptables and would involve a gathering of snide misfits for the sake of something important. Who would you like to see in a comedic ensemble, or who would you like to see make a well deserved comeback?