Top 10 Movie Stars that should be animated
10. Billy Bob Thornton
No, you can’t take the Boxmasters into the booth with you.
He’s out there, somewhere, playing his music and pretending he wasn’t an actor. And if that’s the way he wants it, so be it — every person has a right to seek his/her dream, even if it leaves us mourning the absence of a unique and commanding screen presence. But if it’s getting increasingly hard to lure Billy Bob back before the cameras (his next role appears to be “Cop” in the Dwayne Johnson vehicle, Faster), maybe we can more frequently coax him into the recording studio, where he can bring his unique take to such characters as the canny and duplicitous monk Jigo in Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. Hey, “Bud,” you don’t even have to shave!
9. Larry the Cable Guy
Either way, he cleans up real quick with a simple run through the car wash.
Ever since Jim Varney’s death, animated movies have suffered a serious deficit in affable rural goofs. And while we admit that we can find occasional laughs in Larry’s stand-up work, getting the guy into the chassis of the loveable, good-hearted tow truck Mater not only means that we can forgo the “Get them furr-ners offa my lawn” portions of his redneck shtick, but that we’ll never again have to endure another Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.
8. Nicolas Cage
Last time we saw your nephew, Mr. Coppola, he’d reached escape velocity and was pulling into orbit around Saturn.
Where ya taking the role this time, Nic? You going to be somber and serious, or are you going to bounce off the walls, ripping up sets, co-stars, and audience psyches with the sheer fury of your performance? You’re the Daffy Duck of acting, and just to be clear: We’re talking the Bob Clampett, unrepentant anarchist Daffy, not the Chuck Jones, desperate egoist Daffy. That’s good, we think — every art needs its bomb-thrower, and you embrace the job with a passion. We’re down with it, mostly, but sometimes we wonder if you’re better fitted for a ‘toon body, like Speckles, the brainy mole of G-Force.
7. Mark Hamill
Now just imagine if Obi-Wan had given him his father’s whoopee cushion.
Luke Skywalker has his partisans, Nevertheless, who’s going to argue that the kid isn’t callow and just a tad whiny? But as everybody knows, within every nascent Jedi rests the Dark Side, and for every icon of ultimate good in the universe, there apparently also exists the voice of unrepentant evil in Gotham City. Hence, Luke becomes the Joker, and Mark Hamill, in stepping up to the mike for such films as Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, manages to find the bridge between Jack Nicholson’s clowning criminal and Heath Ledger’s psychotic terrorist. Honestly, we find scary and dangerous much more compelling than pure ‘n’ good, so Mark, redeem your father if you must, but every now and then, have a good, malicious laugh on us.
6. Ellen DeGeneres
And you didn’t think fish could dance.
Oh, she’s so upbeat, so perky! Even when fending off insane suitors (male suitors, at that), Ellen DeGeneres is so sprightly and idiosyncratic that, frankly, it’s maybe a bit too much. Let’s shrink her down to a manageable handful, get her into a package that suits her energetic, darting persona, and let her cut loose as Finding Nemo’s memory-challenged Dory. Yeah, that’s better — sometimes it pays to be smaller than life.
5. Eddie Murphy
Four legs, big ears, and giant teeth. What a stud!
Time was when we relished Eddie’s appearance on the screen, when his presence meant we’d be watching the versatile comedian/actor stepping into characters both smartly observed and sharply sketched (see next week for one such example). More recently, his star turns have been more wince-inducing than laugh-provoking. At least we still have Donkey, the four-legged embodiment of Murphy’s best comic impulses. Given the choice between watching a few minutes of Shrek’s smart-ass (sorry) sidekick sweet talking a dragon and having to endure the entirety of Norbit, we’ll side with the beast every time.
4. Jon Heder
We can’t tell if he’s fully baked or extra crispy.
There may be a little bit of Napoleon Dynamite in all of us, but you’ll forgive us if we find that a pretty frightening notion. Sure, John Heder nails vacant, obliviousness cold. But sooner or later one looks at a character with no apparent there there and — as will happen when staring directly into any void — one begins to ponder the potential abyss at the heart of all humanity. Better to wrap that persona up in a creature that we already understand to be not too quick on the uptake, like Surf’s Up’s Chicken Joe. A change of species goes a long way towards preventing an audience’s existential meltdown, and at the very least makes for an easier drive home.
3. Susie Essman
When you wish upon a %[email protected]’ star…
We’ve all seen Susie do her stuff on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and most of us are heartily grateful that there’s a TV screen between us and the foul-mouthed dervish she portrays, a woman who (not without justification) uses her virtuoso command of invective to emotionally incinerate the rest of the cast. In the televised flesh, she’s a horror, but as the street-smart cat Mittens in Bolt, she can safely unleash the vitriol and, maybe, allow a glimpse into the internal ache that necessitated such defense mechanisms. You might even want to pet her, if you don’t mind risking the rabies shots.
2. Don Knotts
We just heard from Lou Reed, and, sorry, Valium won’t help your bash.
Knotts made a career out of hyperactive nervousness, braying insecurity, thoughtless braggadocio, and blind fear, very often in the same character. And as skilled a comic actor as he often was, the accumulation of flaws could get somewhat discomfiting. Somehow, though, as with the human transformed into a fish in The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Knotts leveraged the abrupt change in environment to pull all the foibles into context. The fish out of water played well, the human into water played even better.
1. Kathleen Turner
The ladies already have Ned Flanders, so it’s only fair.
Okay, we can’t argue that we had no problem watching the actual Kathleen Turner successfully battle cinema air conditioning in movies like Body Heat, working her seductive ways on William Hurt, or deep in the throes of creative coitus. The real woman is certainly hot enough. Nevertheless — and we don’t want to put too fine a point on this — HOLY CRAP, TAKE A LOOK AT JESSICA RABBIT! There’s no law against wishing that real-world sex appeal could be permanently fused to its cartoon ideal, but there probably should be.