Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bad Child Actor Alert!

Over the past three days, I've watched some cable, seen some DVDs and even gone to a movie. Exciting, I agree. But what ruined all these experiences for me? The fact that I'm frittering away my free time? No, I've already accepted that. Bad child actors messed up everything I saw. That's not even fair. Some of them aren't necessarily bad actors. But they've all been forced into giving horrible performances that achieve the exact opposite of what was intended.

In 'The Day The Earth Stood Still", Jaden Smith's incessant whining was supposed to bring out the humanity inside Keanu Reeves' alien and persuade him to give the planet a last-minute reprieve. Didn't work. Just increased the desire to see the earth perish and Wee Willie with it.

Before she did "Atonement" and "The Lovely Bones", the grave little Irish actress Saoirse Ronan was the child lead in "I Could Never Be Your Woman". This unreleasable romantic disaster from Amy Hecklerling, director of `Clueless', sat on the shelf for almost four years and has only now oozed it's way on to cable. All the pop culture jokes are wildly out of date ( I feel your pain there, Amy. See previous entry).The movie was shot in the UK and is filled with British comics struggling with American accents. Paul Rudd, who is never no fun to watch, is completely out to sea here. But nothing, in a movie filled with things that are hard to sit through, is harder to sit through than Saoirse Ronan as Michelle Pfeiffer's spunky, wisecracking, embarrassingly candid little firecracker of a daughter.

Abigail Breslin isn't quite as horrifying as Ronan in the also-debuting-on-cable "Definitely Maybe" but her wise-beyond-her-years character is increasingly unappealing. Again, this is less a gripe about her skills than the continuing enthusiasm of writers and directors to hear the word `penis' come out of the mouths of either the very old or the very young.

Finally, Dakota Fanning in `Push'. This confusing, sluggish superhero movie was directed by a fellow Glaswegian, Paul McGuigan. Paul directed me once. A doomed pilot for British TV featuring me showing viewers around New York and interviewing a fascinating mix of celebs and locals. To say I wasn't comfortable with the camera is less an understatement and more of a compliment. And, do you know, I'm not sure I did a worse job than Dakota Fanning does as a smart, cynical psychic in `Push'.

Listen, times are hard for everyone. I don't begrudge child actors the chance to make a buck if they get the break. But when they all gang up to ruin my weekend's viewing, I've got to put my foot down.

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