A Defense of Nicolas Cage, or Why It’s Okay to Like Stuff
This is something that’s been kicking around in my head for a while, and some recent articles I’ve read have brought it to mind again.
Pixar recently released Cars 2, a sequel to their 2006 film Cars, about the adventures of a group of anthropomorphic automobiles voiced by Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy, among others. Now, I haven’t seen Cars 2, although I probably will eventually. I found the first one to be a bit stock and uninspired, plotwise, although there were some genuinely clever puns and sight gags using the car theme. But I’ve already been reading review after review slamming Cars 2 for being a sellout, crappy Larry the Cable Guy vehicle (no pun intended) which “threatened to break Pixar’s quality streak” and “feels like a betrayal.” The thing is, I’ve been seeing these same thoughts for months, long before the movie even hit preview screens. It seems like a fair amount of people decided a long time ago that the inclusion of Larry the Cable Guy was an unforgivable offense.
I’m no fan of Larry the Cable Guy, or most of the Blue Collar Comedy tour in general. But I don’t think people have given Cars 2 a fair shake, which brings me to my main point. Since the rise of the internet, blogging, and social media in general, a mob mentality has developed which decides that based on one or two elements, a work should be written off. Obviously I’m not against forming opinions, since everybody needs some system to decide what to spend money on and what to skip. But this identification of easy targets leaves a bad taste in my mouth. For your convenience, I’ve listed a couple of the big ones below:
- The films of Michael Bay
- Superman as a character
- Taco Bell
- Nicolas Cage
I’m going to focus on Nicolas Cage, because I feel he gets the most undeserved hate. There are tons of Facebook groups, message boards and websites decrying Nicolas Cage as the worst actor who has ever lived, and which constantly post links to boycotts of his films and petitions to blacklist him in Hollywood. Make no mistake, Nicolas Cage is not my favorite actor, or someone I would nominate as one of the best out there. But Nicolas Cage has garnered Academy Awards and Nominations for his roles in films like Leaving Los Vegas and Adaptation. He’s received a lot of praise for fun summer movies like National Treasure and Matchstick Men. Roger Ebert has repeatedly listed him as (in his opinion) one of the great Hollywood actors. To quote Ebert, “He always seems so earnest. However improbable his character, he never winks at the audience. He is committed to the character with every atom and plays him as if he were him.” Calling him the worst actor of all time for things like Ghost Rider or The Wicker Man is like saying Brad Pitt is a hack for Ocean’s Twelve and MegaMind. If you don’t like Nicolas Cage, that’s fine. If you don’t want to spend money or time on his films, that’s fine. But this drum beat of “Nicolas Cage ruins all things forever” is just idiotic hyperbole.
It reminds me of the Transformers review up on ComicsAlliance. I really like most of the articles by Chris Sims, and a lot of the points that he makes are valid (and pretty funny). But he went into the movie with his mind made up that Transformers are stupid, Michael Bay is stupid, and that the movie was going to be stupid (he says as much). If you decide ahead of time that you’re going to hate something, nothing can force you to enjoy it. A personal example: if you had told ten-year old me that I would watch King of the Hill on a regular basis, I straight up wouldn’t have believed you. King of the Hill is that stupid redneck show that comes on after The Simpsons!! But after giving it a chance, I discovered it was actually a smart, well-written comedy series with relatable characters and enjoyable stories.
I guess what I’m saying here, more generally, is that knee-jerk reactions that anything is the best or worst or its kind ever are unfounded, and jumping to extreme conclusions and judging works without experiencing them or giving them a fair chance is really only hurting you in the long run. While it’s fun to hate on things (I will be the first to admit that), overuse of canned opinions like that leads you to a rut where a movie or a song or a TV series can never be more than the sum of its parts. So go see Cars 2. Go see Transformers: Dark of the Moon. They might still suck. But they also might surprise you, if you let them.