Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Cruise-ing For A Bruising

Sorry, but Katie Holmes was what you call an annoyance in Batman Begins. A friend -- who otherwise liked the movie -- said that she was just plain awful. I wouldn't go that far. As I hinted before, she proved that there is such a thing as too much publicity -- and there is such a thing as bad publicity just being...bad.

I've liked Katie as an actress; I thought she was cute in Dawson's Creek. However, she was a constant distraction in this movie and, frankly, Tom Cruise is to blame. I've very rarely had the problem of having a celebrity's public persona intrude on a movie or musical experience. That's why I rarely care if some celebrity starts spouting off on politics. I let the film draw me in and enjoy it for what it was.

It was very difficult to do that whenever Holmes was on the screen. I found myself thinking of Cruise jumping up on Oprah's couch, the engagement announcement at the Eiffel Tower on Friday, the whole orgiastic PR campaign. You heard it hear first: I predict that War of the Worlds will turn out to be a major bomb -- a significant embarrassment for Cruise and Steven Spielberg. The thing that Cruise has always had going for him, from his earliest days in Losing It, Taps & Risky Business, through his superstar middle period of Top Gun, Cocktail & A Few Good Men to his more recent fare like Minority Report (which was, as my buddy Dan said, is a seriously underrated movie) is an audience acceptance that he's essentially a good guy -- the cliched "man who men want to be and women want to be with." Even through a couple of divorces (and the Scientology and sexuality stuff in the background), his public persona was still that of a rather stable everyday guy, who guarded his privacy.

That's not the man on display now. He is allowing his public life to become so outsized that it's crowding the image of the man on screen.

This comes at a rather precarious time in his career. Recall that his good performance in Collateral was still completely eclipsed by Jamie Foxx's. There have been other times when Cruise has played across great actors. Hey, he had to watch both Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman pick up Best Actor Oscars playing opposite him -- while he wasn't even nominated for supporting performances. But, in both of those movies, it was never the case that people forgot that he was in the film. He became almost an afterthought in Collateral.

And that was before Cruise decided that the entire world had to know all about his personal life -- or at least his version of his personal life.

Viewers may well decide that TMI is just that -- too much information. Can Spielberg save War of the Worlds? Perhaps.

But, Cruise alone may not be enough this time. His loud, ubiquitous, spring romance may well have set him up for a precipitous summer fall.

UPDATE/CORRECTION (6/23/05, 6:30 PM): As I said to my friend Tom who pointed out the mistake: "Wow!!! I did what so many other idiots have done for twenty years now -- confused Al Pacino with Dustin Hoffman!!!
Of course, it was Hoffman who won for Rain Man with Cruise opposite him! D'oh!"

Pacino, of course, won for Scent of A Woman with Chris O'Donnell as the youthful sidekick. O'Donnell, to complete the circle was Robin in the two Joel Schumacher movies.

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