No one would question Justin Timberlake’s musical career. Almost everything he has touched in a music studio has turned to solid gold.
His movie career, though, has been a different story. For every The Social Network, Timberlake seems to turn in an abysmal The Love Guru, In Time or Yogi Bear, which means even his most dedicated fans are going to hesitate before grabbing ticket to see a Timberlake movie. The fact that his latest, Runner Runner, only banked an estimated $7.6 million in its opening weekend (though to be fair, most everyone was checking out Gravity… and rightfully so).
Oddly enough, the backlash began. Variety ran an opinion piece calling for Timberlake to “retire” from acting. That seems extreme. So I got together with fellow Fandango film blogger Derrick Deane to discuss JT’s future on the silver screen – if he has one, at all.
SEAN: Derrick, I don’t blame Timberlake for the failure of Runner Runner. That movie just came across as a film very few people wanted to see. I don’t mind him as an actor. Do you?
DERRICK: I don’t really mind him acting, but I’ve only seen him in his supporting role in The Social Network. Seeing his name headlining a movie doesn’t fill me with a desire to watch the film.
SEAN: But the thing is, he's so incredibly talented, I'm certainly not ready to dispose of him as a potential movie actor. Whenever he hosts SNL, he destroys it (in a good way). He's versatile, and probably a little too cocky, but I'd argue he just hasn't found the right director who knows how to use him.
DERRICK: Agreed. I was just saying how he’s an excellent comedic actor. He works well in that sort of Spinal Tap mockumentary-type atmosphere. I’m hoping that his work with the Coen brothers in Inside Llewyn Davis sparks a string of movies where he has good material to work with. Unfortunately, the JT formula thus far has been one good movie, one dud -- Alpha Dog (good), Black Snake Moan (bad), Shrek the Third (good), The Love Guru (awful), etc. He seems to continuously hijack any momentum he builds up with his good movies by starring in awful films like Love Guru, Yogi Bear and more.
SEAN: The way I view his career is that he has SO MUCH MONEY from the music industry, he truly can make choices in film because of the strangest things that strike his fancy. Who knows WHY he chose Runner Runner. In fact, who knows why Ben Affleck, coming off of an Oscar-winner like Argo, would take on a role in a movie like this. Both men just seem better than having to do genre junk.
But Timberlake doesn't seem to hurt his brand appearing in movies like this. For all we know, his radar is so out of tune, he thinks Yogi Bear will do as well, if not better, than The Social Network. By no means do I think he needs to quit acting, though. Or that studios should stop using him. He's a charismatic screen presence. And he's a funny guy. I'd be happier if he just was more selective with his film projects. Can you think of another actor whose career path you'd like to see JT follow?
DERRICK: I agree, he should keep acting, but just be a bit more selective. As far as actors whom he should emulate (for a lack of a better term) two jump out right away – Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg. I’d throw Cher, Sinatra and Streisand in there, but those are dated references.
I’ll stick with Smith since he’s seems closer to what JT could potentially become. He’s done well with the indie movies, but the blockbuster genre fare that he’s starred in has been stale. The thing with Will Smith was that when he made the transition to film, after a couple of mediocre movies (Made in America and Where the Day Takes You), he swung for the fences with Six Degrees of Separation, Bad Boys, ID4, Men in Black, etc. He sought out big-name summer blockbuster producers/directors to position him as the lead. Of course, concurrently starring on Fresh Prince definitely helped.
Working with the Coens on Llewyn Davis can be nothing but a plus for him. I’d like to see him follow this movie up with a part in a Scorsese/Tarantino/Wes Anderson/David O. Russell, etc. movie. Something that launches him into that “legit actor” category. Hearing/seeing a trailer that says “starring Justin Timberlake” and one that says, “starring Academy Award nominee/winner Justin Timberlake” would go far in banishing memories of his worst movies. That being said, I’m in no way saying he’s an Oscar caliber actor, not yet anyway. It certainly didn’t hurt Smith or Wahlberg to have that awards tag in front of their name and it would certainly help JT. There’s some serious potential there.
SEAN: But if I hear that he's teeing up The Love Guru 2, then I'm officially ready to pull his plug.