Say, remember that box-office smash and all-time classic movie Get Him To The Greek? Do you remember seeing it and thinking, "Ah yes, Russell Brand and Jonah Hill. Now there's a comedy team for the ages"? Or do you, more likely, remember seeing the ads for it and thinking, "Yeah, maybe I'll catch up with it on cable or something"?
Get Him To The Greek wasn't a flop, but it didn't exactly set the world on fire, either. And considering that it cost way more than necessary to produce, and a whole lot more to market, you might think that Hollywood studios would be in no hurry to offer ridiculous deals to its two stars. You would, obviously, be wrong--why else would I be writing this thing?
Thus, the portly, non-photogenic Hill is currently shooting 21 Jump Street, a presumably comedic updating of the painfully earnest Johnny Depp TV series from the late eighties. This project has been in development forever it seems, and at no time has anyone connected to it bothered asking why the fuck they're bothering with a movie version of a TV show that nobody really remembers. More to the point, no studio execs have ever bothered asking why they're funneling obscene sums of money into Hill's production company in the first place. (He's not just bringing his unique brand of anti-charisma to 21 Jump Street as an actor--he's writing and producing the damned thing as well.)
Nothing against Hill, who was reasonably funny in Superbad, but that's just it--his entire career seems to be based on the success of that one movie. On the basis of that, I can understand giving the guy some gigs as a character actor. But starring roles? And his own production company? Nobody ever gave anything like that to the guys from Porky's, and that movie made a lot more money than Superbad. But then, that was made when studio execs had some sense of perspective. (When the sweaty, coked-out mindset of eighties Hollywood seems like model of common sense, things have deteriorated beyond salvation.)
Even more baffling than the ascent of Hill is the treatment given to his one-time co-star, Russell Brand. When Get Him To The Greek opened, we were deluged with articles treating Brand as a star. Not as someone on the brink of stardom, but a full-fledged movie star, despite the fact that he hadn't really done anything. (Yeah, he was a big deal back in England, but so was the guy who played Selwyn Froggitt, and nobody ever put him on the cover of Rolling Stone.) And sure enough, Brand was soon given the lead in the remake of Arthur, a movie even more deeply unnecessary than a redo of 21 Jump Street. When that movie was released two weeks ago, Warner Bros. made a half-hearted attempt to inflate the weekend grosses, but to no avail: it's a flop.
Rather than admitting their mistake, or at least pretending the whole thing never happened, Warners is reacting to Brand's lack of success by offering him a production deal of his own, as well as the lead in a comedy in which he'll play an arrogant soccer star who, through tiresome plot mechanics, has to--wait, you've never heard this one before--coach a team of rag-tag youths.
It's perhaps unfair to single out Hill and Brand as examples of everything wrong with movies today. The problem isn't with them as performers so much as the mindset of the studio functionaries who keep greenlighting this shit. There's virtually no way any of the announced vehicles for these two gentlemen could possibly be any good, and audiences have consistently shown indifference to their presences, yet here they are, or others like them, taking up space at the multiplexes with movies nobody wants to see.
Ticket prices keep going up, ticket sales keep going down. Can't anybody in Hollywood read a graph?