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Between 2007 and 2011, I was convinced Clark Duke would turn into a star. With a sophistication and a good sense of timing that set him apart from most other chubby comedians and a close friendship and web show with Michael Cera, he seemed poised to morph into an A-list actor. Regardless of what Kick-Ass 2’s release this weekend might tell you, however, his career is most definitely spiraling in the wrong direction, and to be honest, I can’t figure out why. From Greek to Hot Tub Time Machine, he’s been really good every time he’s been given a chance. He’s even passable in total shit like A Thousand Words, and he has a very similar, time-tested pedigree to others in almost the exact same position who have made it. And yet, he still hasn't.
Back in 2006, Jonah Hill took a small role in the Judd Apatow directed film 40-Year-Old Virgin and turned it into large parts in Accepted and Superbad. Now, he puts his own projects together (like the brilliant 21 Jump Street), toplines movies, has 7 upcoming roles listed on his imdb page and has made us all laugh in films like Cyrus and Get Him To The Greek. Oh yeah, he also got nominated for an Academy Award for Moneyball.
Back in 2007, Ken Jeong took a small role in the Judd Apatow directed film Knocked Up and turned it into larger parts in Role Models and The Hangover, as well as a co-starring slot in the cult classic Community. Now he’s the goddamn face of Coke Zero and has been in an incredible number of television shows and movies including but not limited to Despicable Me, Pain & Gain, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, The Goods, Party Down and Pineapple Express. He just released Turbo and moving forward, he’ll be featured in both Spy and Norm of the North.
Back in 2007, Clark Duke took a small role in the Judd Apatow produced film Superbad and turned that into larger roles in Sex Drive and Kick-Ass, as well as a co-starring slot on the show Greek. Later, he was able to land a lead in Hot Tub Time Machine, and this past year, he was featured regularly on the final season of The Office. Coupled with work on two yet unreleased films, his resume, from the outside, is similar to the others at various points, but there’s just no momentum there at all. There’s just the occasional sputter.
The Office sounds really great on paper, but in actuality, he was maybe the 8th lead during his run, sometimes only appearing in a few scenes each week. In addition, he’s also releasing A.C.O.D. and Kick-Ass 2 this year, but the former’s poster includes 6 names, none of which are his; best case scenario, he’s about the fifth lead in thi sweekend's Kick-Ass 2. The Croods also came out this year and is a nice enough project, but supporting voice work isn’t really an accurate reflection of true star power. Perhaps worst of all, his recent work in Identity Thief wasn’t even credited.
Duke is creative enough with his body that he can play a traditional schmuck or an idiot best friend (like he did in Sex Drive). He’s also thoughtful and enough of a mean-spirited dick that he can play a frustrating wannabe intellectual (like he did in Hot Tub Time Machine). He has talent. Perhaps more importantly, he has enough restraint that he’s not grating. He doesn’t try and suck out every ounce of potential comedy in each line like so many comedians are apt to do. He also doesn’t try to bowl over his co-stars. He just goes with the flow, which is why he would work well in a more serious ensemble too. And yet, he has one fucking project coming up on his IMDB.
I’m not saying Duke should be toplining $50 million dollar movies. I’m not saying he should even necessarily be taking the lead in indie dramas, but he should certainly be working on a regular basis. People need to start hiring him.