Quite surprisingly, pop stars weren’t always the box-office poison they are today. Beginning with the advent of the talkies, America’s hottest singers (Elvis Presley, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, etc.) hit the big screen and wooed audiences with cinematic cocktails of voice, charisma, and sex appeal. But something went wrong along the way, and these days, we usually only get one of the big three: Sex appeal. Actually, these days, you don’t even get that — you get Jessica Simpson’s ass hanging out of some Daisy Dukes or Madonna letting some nutjob pour wax on her rack. (I don’t think that’s how they do it in Brazil.)
Consequently, there have been some monumentally abysmal films made during the past two decades, starring a gaggle of “talent” that makes one ache to redefine what that word should really mean. With Simpson’s Employee of the Month set to premiere this week, it seems as good a time as any to prove this thesis by addressing the worst of the worst.
From Justin to Kelly (2003) – You might remember that Chicago won the Best Picture Oscar in 2002; that made a lot of folks think the musical was back. Little did anyone know that executive producer Simon Fuller must hate movie musicals even more than he hates his super-sweet arch-nemesis Kelly Clarkson. I’m guessing that’s why he had From Justin to Kelly produced — a beach-party musical romantic comedy — to kill both the musical and Clarkson’s career in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, he failed.
Glitter (2001) – This is the film that made Mariah Carey go insane, probably because it was the first time she saw moving images of herself talking and not singing. She stars as Billie Frank, a young diva torn between love for her producer and the love she has for her growing celebrity. Come to think of it, this is pretty much Carey’s life story — except record producer Tommy Mottola isn’t some slimy, weasely-looking father figure here, but rather a studly DJ, played by Brit Max Beesley. It might be interesting to note that Beesley’s career has gone nowhere since Glitter either, which is probably why Carey doesn’t get Christmas cards from him anymore.
Spice World (1997) – This gag-fest is pretty much a riff on A Hard Day’s Night, with Posh, Scary, and the rest of the gals trying to put on a concert while being hunted by fans and paparazzi. Celebrity cameos abound — from Alan Cumming to Stephen Fry, Elvis Costello to Hugh Laurie, Meatloaf to Elton John — proving that not a single one of these people have, despite what you might have heard or surmised, the merest shred of artistic integrity.
Crossroads (2002) – Three just-graduated teenage girls (not one of them unattractive, of course) have reached — you guessed it — a “crossroads” in their lives, and decide to deal with it by traveling cross-country with some guy they just met. The high point is an early big-screen appearance for Justin Long. The low point? I’m not being a hater, but, really, Britney Spears is even less convincing an actress here than when she was on The Mickey Mouse Club. Still, there’s a certain nostalgia to it, since the only photos you see of Momma Spears today feature her spawn grabbing at the perpetually milk-swollen boobs that she refuses to cover up.
Cool as Ice (1991) – This Vanilla Ice-vehicle helped to kill a career not even Suge Knight could end by tossing Ice off a balcony. If Knight had got the job done, though, we would’ve been saved the trouble of sitting through this groaner, which aspired to be a rap-centric take on Rebel Without a Cause.
On the Line (2001) – Someone, somewhere, during the height of N’Sync’s popularity thought: “Hey, let’s make a movie starring Justin Timberlake as a romantic lead.” Well, at least you assume that was their first inclination. JT must have been busy looking for Sexy, because the producers of On the Line hired Lance Bass to play the romantic lead instead. Despite how awful the film is, though, Bass isn’t all that bad. (His co-star Joey Fatone, however, is.)
And last, but not least, almost everything Madonna has ever appeared in:
Shanghai Surprise (1986), Who’s That Girl? (1987), Body of Evidence (1993), The Next Best Thing (2000), and Swept Away (2002) – Madonna’s acting is generally so very, very bad that it can be argued that one-time husband Sean Penn actually ditched her because of Shanghai Surprise and the threat she posed to his career. The Next Best Thing to being a movie star? How about you just be happy being the greatest female pop-star of all time? It’s not like that ain’t a big deal or anything.
Hear that Jessica? Nothing wrong with being just a pop star. Chew on it a while. (Please.)