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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Worst Actors - Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf is pretending to be sorry about
ruining the 80's for everyone.
There are a few of actors that are currently working that, when I know they are involved with a film project, I avoid like the plague.  I have covered a few of these already but while I do really dislike actors like Adam Sandler and Katherine Heigl, I have seen movies that feature them that I have liked.  This is not the case with Shia LaBeouf, a former-child-star-turned-professional-douchebag who ranks high on my list (maybe even the very top) of the worst A-list performers of all time. It is really hard for me to pinpoint what it is specifically that I find so ineffective or flat out annoying about “The Beef”.  I can definitely point out what I did not like about his various performances.  It maybe his annoying behavior on screen, his voice, the fact that he is incapable of closing is freaking mouth!.. I do not know for sure what it is specifically, though. I wasn’t aware of LaBeouf as an actor until a few years into his career.  Still, I will start at the beginning with this guy, because I think it goes to the point of why he should be avoided like the plague.

Shia LaBeouf got his start in single-episode cameos in various TV shows like ER, the excellent-but-short-lived series Freaks and Geeks, and the X-Files.  He appeared in a few kids movies but none that were particularly notable (that is unless you count the re-release-dub of Studio Ghibli’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind).  His first recognized, lead role was on the Disney series Even Stevens, a show I have never seen and this I wear this fact as a badge of honor.

Shia LaBeouf is enjoying his time at a commune focused
on the worship of shawarma and the band Rusted Root.
During his three-year run on Even Stevens, LaBeouf slowly began a rise in mainstream cinema, though all of the movies he was in were bad.  It started with the family movie Holes, based on the book by Louis Sachar.  The story involves a boy named Stanley who is wrongfully-convicted of theft and as punishment, chooses a work camp over jail time  When he gets there he and the other kids are forced by a corrupt warden (Sigourney Weaver) to dig countless holes in search of buried treasure.  The movie goes deeper than this primary plot with some intrigue about a family curse, but that does not alter the fact that the acting, by everyone in-general and LaBeouf in-particular, here was bad.  The movie was praised for its story but with film, story is only part of the larger equation.  

After Holes, LaBeouf had small parts in two dreadful sequels, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.  Both films are famous for their badness, so I don’t think I’m breaking anyone’s hearts by simply calling them pieces of trash.  Still, unfortunately, LaBeouf kept on trucking.  He had a role in the by-the-numbers and mostly-ignored golf sports drama The Greatest Game Ever Played and a part in the dreadful action flick Constantine.

His next major movie was the film adaptation of Isaac Asimov's series of shorts: I, Robot.  The Hollywood adaptation of this thought-provoking examination of man creating life and his will being exacted on said life is a butchering to say the least.  Action movie cliches abound in this hot mess.  There are tons of ugly CGI explosions, Will Smith defying the laws of physics and LaBeouf, in a smaller part, shouting and screaming his lines.  I guess people really liked that screaming because that would become his default acting mode from here on out.

Disturbia, released in 2007, was a shallow, uninteresting Rear Window knock-off.  I would like to point out that some genius over at Dreamworks thought this perpetually-dumbfounded-looking, droning ass was a replacement for James Stewart.  Just.. let that sink in for a moment.  Disturbia was bad, but successful.  Somewhere along the lines the film’s success was attributed to LaBeouf and this put him over the top in the eyes of Hollywood.  However, in spite of Disturbia’s success, LaBeouf was already lined up for his worst role to date… and boy-oh-boy is it a doozie!

Shia LaBeouf's career simulator.
The idea for a live-action Transformers movie had been floating around Hollywood for a while.  There were project pitches, press releases and rumors going back as early as the mid-90’s but it seemed like every time one party was interested, they could not get a producer, writer, director, or any combination thereof, to sign on.  Well, in 2007, long-suffering fans finally got the movie they had waited roughly two decades for.  The initial buzz was huge.  Steven Spielberg was lined-up to produce, the original Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, was cast to voice the Autobot leader… and that’s pretty much where the excitement wore off for a lot of people.  A majority of the early fan-rage came out in flames when Michael Bay was announced as the director.  Bay’s distinct… style (?) … is widely regarded as one of the most horrid wastes of film imaginable.  Bay spent much of the 90’s working with blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer, but that partnership ended shortly after Bad Boys II tanked.

Michael Bay flooded Transformers with his trademark: unnecessary comic relief.  These gag “characters” became more central to the “story” than the titular Transformers.  Countless sex gags, toilet humor and stupefying slapstick dominated every scene and every time the movie started to feel grandiose and epic, something utterly idiotic would happen, completely wasting what little effort was made to give the film a mythos.  Michael Bay owns about 80% of blame for this failure.  Spielberg gets 10% for his now-commonplace hands-off, just-sit-back-and-make-money approach and the other 10% falls on the cast.  Shia LaBeouf’s character Sam is thoroughly unlikable.  He talks to everyone like they’re pieces of crap, he screams at the heroes, he shouts every line with a guttural droll that makes him sound like he just tripped over puberty and he spends scene-after-scene standing around with his mouth agape, as though there is a stage hand off-screen who is there to toss him Cheetos between takes.  LaBeouf’s Sam, being the lead in this franchise, is the character we are meant to relate most to, yet he is so badly-written and such a tremendous asshole in all three movies that there is just no way I can.  I cannot see myself cheering this guy on.  He is the only guy in the history of the world who would actually be pissed at the fact that he got a nice car from his dad that also happens to transform into a freaking giant robot.  Am I missing something here? What is worse is I think this character was actually meant to be a Michael Bay proxy! (I feel so unclean right now)

Now, as much as I hated Transformers, I had to see LaBeouf’s next movie.  The Indiana Jones franchise is easily one of  my favorite film series.  Issues I had with Temple of Doom aside, the character of Indiana Jones is an iconic, important film character.  So, I was legitimately excited about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Then I actually saw it.

I was mad about Transformers, but I did not go into the theater expecting greatness.  At the very minimum I expected to be moderately-entertained.  So, imagine my surprise when I saw this piece of ASS!  Kingdom is the worst sequel to any quality film franchise I have ever seen.  I hate it more than the Star Wars Prequels, more than Rocky V, more than Alien: Resurrection. I hate this movie more than any of them.  Indy 4 is a complete betrayal plagued by indifference from the creative team and a money-grubbing George Lucas’ talentless hands scraping all over this bastard project.  Every little moment of awfulness in this movie reminds me why I hate major Hollywood.  It is everything bad about modern films in one, ugly, unimaginative, boring mess.  

LaBeouf is just terrible in his crap.  We see him swing through trees with CGI monkeys, get hit in the groin by tree limbs, shout incoherently and then, after all of this, they have the inflated, bright-red BALLS to give him Indy’s hat!  GO TO ALL OF THE HELLS!!!  Fan rage about this movie is nothing fresh or clever, I know.  It has been documented, and repeated, and removed, and reported and perma-banned.  Yet, you will not find a sane, intelligent defender of this movie.  Still, if you do, against all odds, please make sure this person cannot procreate.  Do everything you can as the fate of humanity just may depend on a single makeshift sterilization.  

With all the rage I felt over the crushing of a childhood icon, I still found the Transformers sequels to actually be worse!  Worse than Indiana Jones 4, people!!!  The second film, Revenge of the Fallen, suffered delays due to a WGA strike, which forced Bay himself to ultimately touch up the remaining scenes in the unfinished script.  Needless to say, Bay is no Walt Whitman, and when his awful, awful additions were put to screen, it became almost unanimous that Michael Bay was a shoo-in for a Razzie.. and he got one!  In fact, Bay was nominated for a Razzie for his directorial work on all three Transformers films, but Revenge of the Fallen was the only one to win.  I’m not going to dwell too much on Revenge of the Fallen’s endless misogyny and racist “humor” as that has been well-covered in hundreds of reviews online, but Revenge of the Fallen deserves its title as the worst of three entirely awful films.

Dark of the Moon followed shortly after and was met with equal derision from fans and critics, but, like its predecessors, it made money.  Dark of the Moon was not as bad as the other two, if only due to it cutting back somewhat on the sexism and racism and the recasting of the vacant Megan Fox with the still-bland-but-slightly-better Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.  The movie held on to Revenge of the Fallen’s co-writer Ehren Kruger but without Bay’s “additions” the screenplay was a little better.  It wasn’t good!  Not by a long shot! Cut me some slack, though, as I’m trying to dig a little gold nugget out of three turds here… it is not an easy or pleasant task.  

The reception of the Transformers movies was mixed.  They were widely successful, but fans of the original series (myself included) hated them and Shia LaBeouf was right in the middle for me.  Yeah, I hate Michael Bay.  I would call him dirt, except I kind of like dirt a little more than Bay.  Still, I cannot, and will not let LaBeouf off the hook for these movies.  If I called his performances as Sam “awful”, that would be dishonest, because I really could not believe a film character could be this bad.  Johnny from the Room is Rhett Butler by comparison.  I would take Halle Berry as Jinx in Die Another Day (coming soon, by the way) acting alongside Victoria Jackson in a stadium full of drunk vuvuzela players over Sam-I-Wish-His-Herpes-had-Syphilis-Witwicky any day!  He is, at least in my book, a strong contender for the worst character in any major movie in film history, and yes, he just may rank worse than Bella Swan or.. GASP!!! Jar-Jar Binks!

Okay… Deep breaths...

I cannot really comment on any other later performances in LaBeouf’s career for two reasons:  One: he has not had many roles of note since Transformers 3, and two: After seeing the Three Films of the Darkest Depths of Cinema HELL I could not take anymore of this talentless nothing of an actor.  I have seen good actors give bad performances.  I have seen terrible actors give good performances.  However,  I have not, out of all the films I have seen spanning over a hundred years of cinema, seen a major, A-list, Hollywood actor act as bad as I have seen from LaBeouf in ANY of his roles.  He is one of the worst actors I have ever had the misfortune of witnessing perform, and I am not the only person who feels that way.  At least, so it seems, people are catching on, as studios have been passing him up on major roles since the Transformers and Indiana Jones fiascoes.

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