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Almost a decade ago, the three Rage Against The Machine members not funneling money to Mexican guerillas enlisted former Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell to form a supergroup. They dubbed themselves Audioslave, and despite the name, produced three totally listenable rock albums. Unfortunately, that really wasn't good enough for most people. Both Rage Against The Machine and Soundgarden were these brilliant, transcendent embodiments of the moment, and Audioslave always felt like a contrived next step response to the disintegration of the two bands. In music, this sort of thing is uncommon. The legendary bands typically stick it out. When they don't, the exiled members normally start new groups that allow themselves more control.
Movies are different. They're frequently about creating temporary supergroups, and as supergroups go, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp should be the year's most anticipated. That's not the case. The Tourist likely will do big business this weekend, but it's failed to create any sort of street buzz. In fact, 2010 has been a year of exciting partnerships. Sadly, most of them went nowhere. Here's a look at some of the more publicized movie supergroups along with a write-up on how they went.
Partnership Grade: A+
Reasoning: Action movie fans the world over were amped about this combination for months leading up to the Expendables' release. Those crazy bastards were not disappointed. Early on, there's a scene in which Stallone and Statham narrowly escape via private plane. Almost as if the pair sensed exactly what we all wanted, Sly turned the plane around, dropped gasoline on the villains and then Statham blew at least two dozen of them to hell. Then he fist pumped like a champ, and I knew I was in for another hour of limb-severing brilliance.
Should They Team Up Again: Are there bad guys still left to be murdered? Yes. Yes there are.
Partnership Grade: A+
Reasoning: They rather convincingly portrayed a realistic, same-sex couple. In fact they're so good at it that it almost seems like you're doing them a disservice by saying they portrayed a same-sex couple. They just felt like a couple, a normal, married couple with all the problems and kids and family issues everyone has. That's significant really when you consider that the entire plot of the film results directly from the fact that they've had kids together in a lesbian relationship. It really works in a way you might not expect. Along the way critics and audiences have eaten it up, and there's a good chance that at least one of them, Moore or Bening, will get nominated for an Oscar. Teamwork!
Should They Team Up Again?: It's not really the sort of thing that lends itself to future partnerships. It was a special, one time only circumstance. A series of movies in which Bening and Moore play different types of random couples just doesn't make sense. It was perfect… once.
Partnership Grade: A-
Reasoning: Date Night may not have been the greatest comedy I've ever seen, but goddamnit if Steve Carell and Tina Fey weren't perfect as a married couple. Everything, from the way they joked around to their body language, screamed been in love for years. When's the last time you saw two people in a Hollywood movie that could easily live down the street from you? Now and again, we get treated to a fat, balding Homer Simpson type, but his wife is almost always a throwaway beauty queen he couldn't have snagged in a million years. No offense to Tina Fey, but she looks like the sexiest chick you'd see filling out paper work at a doctor's office or DMV. No offense to Steve Carell, but he looks like that same chick's well-intentioned husband that moseys up to the counter every now and again to ask how long it's going to be. The fact that they're both hilarious is honestly just a bonus.
Should They Team Up Again?: Probably, but Date Night really wasn't good enough for a sequel. I'd watch it on Starz between the hours of 1 and 4 A.M., but for them to play a married couple again, there would need to be a different premise. That being said, Mila Kunis and James Franco would own in a sitcom, playing the wheel-chair stealing, pothead couple that memorably stole the movie's best scene.
Partnership Grade: B-
Reasoning: With an exotic scenescape and a narrative involving rogue spies and beautiful women, Knight And Day should have crushed at the box office, but mediocre reviews and waning starpower ultimately doomed it to mediocrity. Some have blamed the failure on backlash from Cruise's bizarre personal life, but Knight And Day would have been awful without him. No offense to Cameron Diaz, but Tom Cruise is still the best event film star in the world, regardless of whether people like to snicker about Thetans. In the end, there's just no overcoming a lousy script, a director seemingly more interested in the locations he filmed in and a lack of chemistry-building scenes.
Should They Team Up Again?: Maybe, but they would need a better premise and probably would work better in a larger group rather than love interests.
Partnership Grade: B-
Reasoning: Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal spend at least 50% of Love and Other Drugs in bed together, completely naked. And we're not talking Hollywood naked where the girl always seems to have the sheet pulled up over her breasts and we know that secretly she's probably wearing shorts and a tube top underneath. We're talking real life naked and the fact that these two were able to pull that off fairly convincingly has to mean something. Except, well, Hathaway's a little more convincing than Gyllenhaal who seems sort of confused by all the emotional complexity he's supposed to handle when he and Hathaway aren't just humping. Anne's brilliant but she really carries the movie while Jake looks confused.
Should They Team Up Again?: While I'm in favor of just about anything that gets Anne Hathaway naked, apparently no one else is. Love and Other Drugs is headed towards box office flop territory and critics haven't exactly been all over it either. This partnership is going nowhere.
Partnership Grade: C+
Reasoning: Burlesque is pretty awful, but the idea wasn't half bad. The tagline read “It takes a legend to make a star”, and that's really not very far off. Christina may not be an Oscar-level actress like Cher, but her voice certainly commands the room. As pop stars go, she's not half bad, and given a new set of songs and a script less reliant on dumb clichés, this film could have carved out a place amongst cult classics. Instead, it'll go down merely as a pop culture footnote. Remember that musical Cher and Christina did together? Vaguely.
Should They Team Up Again?: Yes, but it will never happen. Cher doesn't work enough to retry a formula that failed once, regardless of whether there's potential.
Partnership Grade: C+
Reasoning: The Other Guys made a lot of money and contains some of the year's funniest moments. Both Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are in most of those moments together, but guess which one of them does all the heavy comedic lifting? The thing is, Wahlberg just isn't that funny. Luckily Will Ferrell is and so the movie is, but you get the sense that most of the scenes he's in with Wahlberg would have been just as funny if someone had drawn a furrowed brow and a bunch of muscles on a block of wood. Did their partnership work? Sure. I'm just not sure how much credit for that should actually go to Wahlberg.
Should They Team Up Again?: No thanks. Will Ferrell can be just as funny with someone else and Wahlberg's talented enough that it seems like a waste to keep forcing him into comedies, when he could be doing something he's actually good at.
Partnership Grade: C
Reasoning: With fanboy god Kevin Smith attached to direct, the combination of Bruce Willis intensity and Tracy Morgan goofiness seemed like a formula rife with promise, but the result was a largely disorganized mess that ignored everyone's strengths. Willis tried to be funny, Smith for the first time directed someone else's words and Morgan played an off-putting dual clown/ straight man. Who knew so many people could be misinformed about their own talents?
Should They Team Up Again?: Yes. With a more invested Kevin Smith supplying the words, Bruce Willis murdering people in cold blood, Tracy Morgan belting out ludicrous non sequiturs over the corpses and a hard r-rating, this same premise could have crushed. Still, it's highly doubtful anyone involved will want to relive this. If that means Smith will keep churning out raunchy brilliance, Willis will fire his gun at random terrorists and Morgan will stay put on 30 Rock, I can definitely live with this partnership never happening again.
Partnership Grade: C-
Reasoning: Not the worst on screen couple we saw in the last year, but not exactly a budding Roberts and Gere either. The lack of script coherence certainly didn't help here, but the ugly truth is these two really just don't suit each other very well. He's too freewheeling, and she's too conservative. The same principal was applied to much success in Knocked Up, but Katherine Heigl has always worked better fussing over lack of motivation than serious breaches of etiquette like murder.
Should They Team Up Again?: No, but these two seem destined to collide on a middle of the road Romantic Comedy at some point in the future.
Partnership Grade: D
Reasoning: Jennifer Aniston may have been in at least half the shitty movies made in the last decade, but that doesn't mean I won't keep finding excuses for her. She's just too goddamn loveable, and when she flicked off her boss in Office Space, she won my heart, or at least made me think about showing her my O-face. O. O. You know what I'm talking about. O. But with Gerard Butler, not so much. The two just never really make a believable pair. He's all brutish and crass; she's all sophisticated and upper class. Now and again, opposites do attract, but the majority of men and women just aren't interested in showing their O faces to each other. In real life, these two would probably never meet. If they did, he would take a lazy run at her, she'd role her eyes and then smile to herself about it later.
Should They Team Up Again?: No. Unless it's in a movie about a brother and sister adopted by different families. She could be a chipper dental hygenist, and he could be a SWAT team member. Then they could fall in love with other people and go on awkward double dates.
As you may have noticed, the majority of pairings we analyzed received mediocre ratings, at best. The reason is simple. Most partnerships don't click. For every Hepburn and Bogart, there's a hundred Vince Vaughn and Malin Akerman's. Those two were perfectly adequate in Couples Retreat, but within twenty minutes, it was obvious Vince didn't bounce off her as well as his old buddy Jon Favreau. But that's okay.
That's the great thing about movies. A-list actors end up playing opposite dozens at one point or another, all with varying degrees of success. You take the ones that work, see Statham and Stallone, and you fire the gun a few more times; you take the ones that sucked, see Aniston and Butler, and you move on. Fast. When it's all said and done, it doesn't matter whether Nicholas Cage made a movie with Sean Young. It matters that he made one with Holly Hunter.