Hear Me Out: Johnny Depp Has Become Mike Myers
Now consider the career of another TV star turned Hollywood power player Mike Myers. From Saturday Night Live he made a successful leap to the big screen with Wayne's World. There were early signs that Myer's own belief in his unerring comedic talent could prove a problem. He notably had Penelope Spheeris blocked from directing Wayne's World 2 after the pair fought over the edit of the wildly successful first film. Notably, no one calls the sequel a classic of any sort. Later, the success of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery gave Myers a new level of fame that gave him a lot more creative freedom and bigger budgets for his next creations. He became a producer for the franchise. While the sequels grew dumber and more outlandish, they made exponentially more at the box office. Leaping from $53 million to $206 mil, then $213 million. Sure, these sequels were less welcomed from critics (Rotten Tomatoes rankings sank from 70% to 51% and 54%), but Myers was on fire! He could do whatever he wanted! So, the actor/producer made The Love Guru. It has an over-the-top sensibility, racial insensitivity, and leaves you wondering who this movie was made for. Sound familiar?
With a budget of $62 million dollars and stars like Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, and Ben Kingsley, it made $40 million worldwide. Basically, it flopped hard. A.O. Scott of The New York Times called it "downright anti-funny," and Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News predicted it would be a career-killer for Myers. It basically was. Since then, Myers has resurrected Austin Powers for music videos with Britney Spears and Madonna. But a small role in Inglourious Basterds is the only film appearance he has made, not counting his recurring voice work in the Shrek franchise. Myers overplayed his hand. He decided he could do no wrong, went too far, and made a comedy I've yet to hear anyone defend. (Though the discussion of The Love Guru on How Did This Get Made is definitely worth a listen.)
Similarly, Depp is buying into his own reputation too much. Yes, we've loved him for the odd outsider characters he could create—but that was when they felt relatable despite all their quirks. These days Depp's characters are just a jumble of facial tics and one-liners without a beating heart to draw us in. They are just cartoonish clowns. As much as it pains me to say it as a long-time admirer of Depp, it's not fun anymore. He makes me wish he'd just return to his private island and leave us moviegoers alone. If follows Myers' example, he'll do just that, resurfacing only to revive Jack Sparrow and maybe bring about Rango 2-4.
UPDATE: Discussion of the portrayals of race in The Lone Ranger and The Love Guru has been edited since this piece was published.
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