Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Wrap on Reynolds

I have nothing but good things to say about Ryan Reynolds.  I've enjoyed him...or rather, I've enjoyed his work ever since Two Guys, A Girl, and A Pizza Place.   How I loved that show.  Why do I tend to like shows few people watch?  Well, I digress.

The curious thing about Reynolds is that, like Taylor Lautner, he has been objectified to where it is his body, his physique, that is the selling point as opposed to his body of work.  Is that a good thing?  Well, it's a double-edged sword.  Since the beginning of film men and women have used what God's given them to make a success in pictures.  Some (like Lautner) have nothing but their body going for them (let's be honest, Taylor Lautner is not an actor). Other, like Reynolds, have actual acting talent to back up their careers with.

Therefore, why is Ryan Reynolds involved in a lot of unpopular/bad movies?  In this last year alone, he has had not one but two flops: The Change-Up (24% positive at Rotten Tomatoes) and Green Lantern (surprisingly higher, at 27%).  I think a big part of the problem with Reynolds can be boiled down to these two films.  The Change-Up is built on the dominant Ryan Reynolds screen persona: a dim himbo who has no goals apart from schtupping beautiful women.  With his ready smirk and smooth built he can get any woman he wants, at least on screen.  This persona has haunted Reynolds since Van Wilder, perhaps even to Two Guys, A Girl, and A Pizza Place.  Looking at some of his previous work (Just Friends, Waiting..., even X-Men Origins: Wolverine) isn't he really playing the same part?  Isn't he tired of always being the overly confident sexaholic who is quick with the quips? 

Now, going to Green Lantern--well, it was a sorry disappointment to me.  I maintain that it wasn't a disaster, but it was a mess (seeing how there will be a Green Lantern 2 only makes me despair for the state of Hollywood, a place that apparently rewards failure).  One would think Reynolds would be perfect for this comic book vehicle: he's got the build, he's got the actual talent to carry the project.  It could have been like Robert Downey, Jr. with Iron-Man

Unfortunately, while Downey, Jr. and the makers of Iron-Man knew that Tony Stark could have an evolution of character without losing his cocky personality, Reynolds and the makers of Green Lantern didn't or couldn't balance the cockiness of Hal Jordan with a growth to his worldview or a sense of responsibility.  The former kept a better focus on the story, the latter just overwhelmed you with the visuals.  The former took its time to build the story (Iron-Man instills the origin aspects of the character with a strong section in Afghanistan), the latter rushed through everything it wanted to tell (Hal's training in the Green Lantern Corp, to quote Morrissey, 'it was over before (he) even began).  

Perhaps this is not Reynolds' fault alone: I doubt anyone could have done much with the lousy material.  However, when he first takes flight as a member of the G.L.C., wouldn't Hal have some emotion?  He could be excited (a pilot that could use his own body to fly), he could be terrified (how do I control this thing), he could be amazed (can this truly be real).  Instead, Reynolds as Jordan doesn't show any emotion whatsoever.  Here he is, flying, literally, flying through space itself, the look of it, it's nothing special.  It was a thoroughly wasted opportunity.

Looking over his career, I see that Ryan Reynolds has had some strong performances.  For better or worse, he was the best thing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  I am perhaps one of the few defenders of Smokin' Aces, but amid all the mayhem going on, I found Reynolds' performance as the younger FBI agent to be strong, centered, emotional.  I also go to a little-seen film: Buried.  Here, Reynolds did something few actors are able to do: hold your attention and interest by himself.  It's the cinematic equivalent of a one-man show, and he did one of his best acting jobs in Buried, and it shows that with good material, Ryan Reynolds can deliver the goods. 

It is both unfortunate that both Buried was buried at the box office and that Reynolds isn't getting more roles like the ones avant-garde actor Ryan Gosling gets.  (Side note: I once offered that both Ryans look alike--even shirtless--and I stand by that, but I digress).  I think Reynolds is just as competent an actor as avant-garde actor Gosling (and I figure more fun-loving than the uber-serious, almost moody and morose avant-garde actor Gosling appears to be, Crazy Stupid Love notwithstanding).   I figure with films like Buried and Definitely, Maybe, Reynolds is attempting to stretch as an actor and shift away from his Van Wilder persona.  However, it appears the public prefers him as the goofy, smooth-talking quick witted guy that other guys could hang out with and women could sleep with than as a more serious performer.  In short, more The Proposal and less Buried

That to my mind would be a terrible shame.  Ryan Reynolds has the talent to make more serious films (along with the charm to make goofy comedies).  What he does not need is to be built up to be the big movie star with lousy vehicles like Green Lantern.  In short, he needs to be an actor, not a star.  If he wants to be an actor, he can expect to make some films that will please crowds but not be afraid of small box office returns.  He should do supporting roles in ensemble projects (like in Adventureland, even Smokin' Aces) so as to allow his talent to stand out from others, with some films where he is the center.  However, he should not take on films where he is expected to carry the whole film.  In doing that, he will aim to be a star.  If he wants to be a star, it will be the death of his career.  

With that, I wish a Happy 35th Birthday to Ryan Reynolds.  In honor of his birthday, and in order to make some people happy...

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