With 'Knight and Day' in theaters, it's time for ... Tom Cruise Court
Welcome to Tom Cruise Court, a proceeding that allows us to finally decide whether Tom Cruise is a dangerously judgmental man who does not deserve our attention nor our box office dollars, or a charismatic movie star whose sometimes unconventional behavior is outweighed by his charms.
On this semi-important day in Cruise history -- and by that we mean the date that "Knight and Day" opens in theaters nationwide -- your Celebritology bloggers will each make their case.
For the prosecution: Liz Kelly, who concedes that Cruise is a bankable box office star with a few decent movies ("Jerry Maguire," "Magnolia") to his credit, but is convinced his off-screen antics, including but not limited to a fanatical devotion to Scientology, his 2005 put down of Brooke Shields and dismissal of depression treatment as "pseudo-science" make it difficult to suspend disbelief and enjoy his movies without wanting to poke his eyes out.
For the defense: Jen Chaney, who acknowledges that Mr. Cruise has definitely done some weird stuff, but still harbors affection for an actor who once made quality cocktails while doing the Hippy, Hippy Shake, twirled a pool cue like it was a baton and not only dared to ride a highway, but rode it right into the danger zone.
Our jury: That would be you, the Celebritology readers. Read our arguments, then decide whether Cruise is officially done as a major movie star or whether he's still got it.
Read the back-and-forth after the jump, then vote in our poll...
Ms. Kelly: So we meet again, Chaney.
We're here today to consider one Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, a man who I intend to prove has seriously damaged his big-star credibility with his manic off-screen behavior. Sure, he's been a bit less of a kook lately, but I contend the damage was done in 2005 -- when he dismissed psychology as pseudo-science, berated Brooke Shields for getting help with post-partum depression and generally let his Scientology freak flag fly. Also, the guy isn't the world's best actor. But we'll get to that later.
Ms. Chaney: Thank you, Madame Prosecutor. Let's keep this on a formal, professional basis, shall we? After all, we are in a (blog) court of (celebrity) law (nonsense).
Ladies and gentlemen of the Celebritology jury, I think we are all aware of the circumstances Ms. Kelly speaks of. Mr. Cruise has indeed said some patently absurd things about post-partum depression (for which he later apologized) and dismissed the validity of psychology. I am not excusing that behavior.
What I intend to argue is that there is a charismatic, likable side of Cruise that some of us -- cough, Liz Kelly, cough -- have forgotten in all the TomKat drama that has dominated the past five years or so. I ask you to remember how you felt when you first saw him flash that Maverick grin in "Top Gun." To recall his intensity as he wrote his mission statement in "Jerry Maguire." To acknowledge that you kissed his photo in many issues of Teen Beat. And to consider that the guy had charisma and still does, regardless of his Scientology crusades. And speaking of the Scientology, sure, I don't agree with it. But who am I to judge? The closest thing to real religion in my life is a firm commitment to the Dharma Initiative, and frankly, that's equally weird.
Ms. Kelly: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I do want to state for the record that I intend no slight against any organized religion -- well, any one in particular, because honestly I have no use for any of 'em -- but it is a different matter when someone, Cruise in this case, attempts to impose his religiously-tinged worldview and limits on the rest of us. And in that 2005 interview in which Cruise shouted down Matt Lauer, that is exactly what he did. Any slight (and it would have been slight) teenaged affection I harbored for the guy died at precisely that moment. And while we're taking a stroll down memory lane, I'd ask the jury -- and my worthy (if misled) adversary to also consider some of Cruise's more cringeworthy moments on celluloid. Need I invoke "Cocktail?" "Far and Away?" "Eyes Wide Shut?"
I also contend that while Cruise may have a winning grin, he's never appealed to me in the way in which Ms. Chaney describes. If he had been allowed to sully a John Hughes movie, he would have been cast as a heartless jock, a bully, the kind of guy who would have stuffed Andrew McCarthy or Anthony Michael Hall into a locker without a twinge of humanity. To put this in "Karate Kid" terms (hey, why not) he is leg-sweeping Billy Zabka, not the plucky, likeable Ralph Macchio.
Ms. Chaney: Okay, now we're speaking in conjecture and hypotheticals. Let's not presume which roles Tom Cruise might have played in a John Hughes movie. Ms. Kelly is correct, Cruise has never quite played the wimpy underdog. But Celebritologists, let us at least give the man credit for some of the fine -- dare I say iconic? -- work he has done.
Ms. Kelly: OBJECTION! Ms. Chaney is implying that Ralph Macchio and Andrew McCarthy were "wimpy underdogs." I ask that be stricken from the record. Underdogs they may have been. Wimpy they were not.
Ms. Chaney: Jury, I contend that Macchio started out in "Karate Kid" as wimpy, even though he eventually transformed. But you may strike any implication about McCarthy's wimpiness -- though I am not sure I implied it -- as I very happily would have married him in 1986 if the opportunity had presented itself and it had been legal for a 13-year-old to marry a "Pretty in Pink" star.
May I continue, Madame Prosecutor?
Ms. Kelly: By all means...
Ms. Chaney: Thank you. I present you with the role of Joel Goodsen in "Risky Business," a part that launched Cruise into the stratosphere, made dancing to Bob Seger briefly cool, compelled a generation to buy Ray-Bans and made "Sometimes you just gotta say what the [bleep]?" a catch phrase for mid-80s excess. And the aforementioned Maverick in "Top Gun," a movie that simply would not have been as popular without Mr. Cruise, even with all that Kenny Loggins on the soundtrack. The list goes on and on: "Rain Man." "Born on the Fourth of July." "A Few Good Men." "The "Mission: Impossible" films. "Magnolia." "Jerry Ma-freaking-guire." Sure, he has a few "Cocktails" and (shudder) "Vanilla Skies" on his resume. But I'll tell you this, jury: I liked "Eyes Wide Shut."
Ms. Kelly: Pardon my delay. I was picking my jaw back up off the floor after Ms. Chaney's declaration that she actually liked "Eyes Wide Shut." Someone alert the press!
But back to the matter at hand: I ask, is the defense hanging too much of her argument on the relatively likeable, bankable Cruise of the last millennium? Should we not consider his more recent, downward-trending career trajectory? What of his dismissal from Paramount? The twin stinkers "Valkyrie" and "Lions for Lambs?" Their combined box office take might have been enough to fund an economy-sized pool for a studio exec. And what of the conjecture that Fox is downplaying Cruise's profile in their "Knight and Day" promotion? And how desperate was his MTV Movie Awards Les Grossman appearance? Would the dashing superstar that Ms. Chaney describes really need to resort to "Nutty Professor" Clumps-ish prosthetics to kickstart his career?
Ms. Chaney: Madame Prosecutor, you raise valid questions.
I acknowledge your points about "Lions for Lambs," but can only respond by noting that "Mission: Impossible III" was excellent and also made $397 million worldwide. And that was at the height of Cruise's couch-jumping, impose-Scientology-on-all Americans mode, a period that I agree was indeed troubling.
And regarding "Knight and Day," I will note that 63 percent of top critics on Rotten Tomatoes have given it a fresh rating, including the Post's own Michael O'Sullivan, who called the movie "utterly delightful." And none other than Kenneth Turan -- a respected film critic who not only writes for the L.A. Times, but frequently appears on NPR, which means he's IMPORTANT -- wrote this of Mr. Cruise: "If you doubt Cruise's skills in the star department, 'Knight and Day' should make you a believer. It's hardly a perfect film, not even close, but it is the most entertaining made-for-adults studio movie of the summer, and one of the reasons it works at all is the great skill and commitment Cruise brings to the starring role."
I cannot speak to the truth of said statements myself, since I went to the wrong theater and missed the press screening for "Knight and Day." (My parking ticket for the AMC Mazza Gallerie theater, which was punched out after 10 minutes, has been entered into evidence as Exhibit A.) But I respect the judgments of both Mr. Turan and Mr. O'Sullivan.
Ms. Kelly: I'm sure given time I could find some equally dismal reviews of "Knight and Day" which to my eye (granted, I'm not also a professional movie-person like my colleague here) looks like some kind of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" retread. I'll just offer this L.A. Times article into the record, which posits that the studio is muy nervous that the film will land with a giant belly-flop, partly because (aside from TC being annoying) he just doesn't resonate with young movie-goers who are more interested in next week's "Twilight" installment.
I'll also add that the New York Post's Lou Lumenick describes the "alleged action comedy" as a "big, dumb summer movie with no apparent ambition" and "an ultra-predictable plot that seems to have been cranked out by a computer screenwriting program without significant human input." Or that the Moira Macdonald, writing in the Seattle Times, called "Knight and Day" a "silly, incoherent movie" that "feels like a computer-generated assortment of random Hollywood action-movie scenes shuffled together."
But, I contend our cases have largely been made and that the jury has plenty of evidence to consider. Shall we make our brief closing arguments?
Ms. Chaney: Yes, let's. As a gentlewoman of the court, I'll let you go first.
Ms. Kelly: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm sure after considering the evidence I've laid before you above, you'll agree that Tom Cruise, who may be deserving of a spot in the museum of pop culture nostalgia, went off the rails years ago -- both in terms of his personal life and his career. And while I wish him well with his stifled wife, fractured world view and sickly career, I contend we -- as movie-goers, as celebrity fans -- no longer owe this man fealty. Tom Cruise is a falling star and I say it is time we treat him as such.
The prosecution rests.
Ms. Chaney: Jury, I want you to know that I respect our prosecutor. I even think she makes some valid points about Mr. Cruise, most notably the fact that "Knight and Day" could very well be a colossal flop.
But Tom Cruise still deserves at least some of our affection. This is a man who -- despite the insistence of some Tom Cruise deniers -- was and, arguably, is an enormously beloved movie star around the globe. He's a man with three Academy Award nominations to his credit. Even those who have mocked his personal life, including Craig Ferguson, have found themselves now in his camp. What, you're not going to agree with Craig Ferguson? He's so Scottish, and seems so nice!
But perhaps the best reason to not dismiss Tom Cruise entirely can be found in an ESPN podcast from last August, in which roaster extraordinaire Jeffrey Ross explains how Cruise not only resolved a long-standing feud between Ross and Jimmy Kimmel's cousin Sal, but also showed up at Kimmel's house to watch football with his own mother and a fresh batch of cupcakes in tow. Tom Cruise may have beliefs you don't agree with and a marriage you find odd, but jury, know this: if he comes to your house to see a Redskins game, the man will bring dessert.
The defense rests.
Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly
| June 23, 2010; 11:35 AM ET
Categories: Celebrities, Movies, TomKat | Tags: Movies, Tom Cruise
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